Mutual Interest Between Ravens and WR Cruz; Visit Upcoming
Fans waiting for the Ravens to bring in a free-agent wide receiver may get their wish soon.
According to New York Giants beat writer Art Stapleton, former Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and the Ravens have "mutual interest" in each other and will act on that soon.
The Ravens may have some competition, however. Cruz sat on the open market with nary a peep for a while, but he'll reportedly meet with the Chicago Bears on Monday.
Stapleton also reports that Cruz will visit his old head coach, Tom Coughlan, in Jacksonville. According to the NFL Network's Kimberly Jones, Cruz's visit with the Jaguars is on May 23.
"If I'm comparing Jacksonville and Baltimore, put winning aside, I definitely think football-wise, it's a better opportunity for Cruz to step in at slot wide receiver with the Ravens than in Jacksonville," Stapleton said.
The Jaguars have an abundance of wideouts (13 on the roster), led by Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. Jacksonville also drafted wideout Dede Westbrook in the fourth round.
Cruz is likely looking for a bigger role than Jacksonville would afford. The 30-year-old former undrafted Massachusetts product started 12 games for the Giants last year, posting 39 catches for 586 yards and a touchdown. He was released on Feb. 13.
His 2014 and 2015 seasons were marred by knee and calf injuries, which have factored into why he's sat on the market for so long. Cruz played in six games in 2014 and sat out all of 2015. He returned to play in 15 games last season.
When Cruz was healthy and on the field, few produced more. Only Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall had more 100-yard receiving games than Cruz from 2011 to Week 6 of the 2014 season, when the latter tore the patellar tendon in his right knee.
During his seven seasons, Cruz has amassed 4,549 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns. He rose to stardom with his trademark salsa dance in 2011, riding it all the way to Super Bowl victory.
But is Cruz the missing piece for the Ravens?
Boldin 'Only Current Free-Agent WR Who Still Makes Sense'
This was written before news broke of Cruz's potential visit with the Ravens, but The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec isn't a big believer in the receiver options available.
The Ravens could have signed Cruz earlier this offseason. He wouldn't have counted against the compensatory pick formula because he was released.
"I'm guessing I'm in the minority on this, but I think the Ravens would be better served just using Michael Campanaro and Chris Moore in more prominent roles than signing free agents such as Victor Cruz and Vincent Jackson, who both have struggled with injuries in recent years," Zrebiec wrote.
"[Anquan] Boldin is really the only current free-agent wide receiver who still makes sense for the Ravens."
We've talked a lot about the possibility of Boldin reuniting with his former team. Boldin, however, reportedly doesn't want to sign anywhere until training camp, so the Ravens will get a good look at what they have until then. And even if Boldin wants to come to Baltimore, Zrebiec seems split on the idea.
"Boldin's average of 8.7 yards per reception was barely above what Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta* *(8.5) averaged last year," he wrote, before getting to the flip side.
"He has a rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco, and a well-earned reputation as a trusted target on third down and in the red zone. His physicality would also help the Ravens in the middle of the field."
And if you're wondering about additional receiver options in free agency, a veteran wide receiver has also hit the market, and another will remain off it.
Edwards Names Ravens As Potential Landing Spot for Kaepernick
The future of free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been a debate for months now.
But this is the first time Kaepernick has been linked to the Ravens.
ESPN's Herm Edwards listed the Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings and Ravens as potential landing spots for the former San Francisco star.
"I think the Ravens as well, when you think about his brother coaches the Ravens, Coach Harbaugh obviously with Michigan now," Edwards said. "They have a relationship, they're brothers, they know the ins and outs of it."
Kaepernick has been a hot topic because he seemed to be one of the game's best rising quarterbacks when he was on his way to facing the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. He flourished under Jim Harbaugh with the 49ers.
But Kaepernick's on-field struggles the past couple years (59 percent completion percentage and less than 200 yards passing per game), coupled with the off-field attention he got (both positive and negative) for taking a knee during the national anthem, has turned him into a lightning rod for debate.
Some media members have suggested that Kaepernick has been black-balled around the league. In March at the NFL League Meetings, Harbaugh called that assumption "intellectually lazy," and said the situation is "more nuanced."
"I absolutely think he's going to get signed. I agree with Jim. He can win games for people," said Harbaugh, who added that he thinks he can be a starter again."
So, could that be with the Ravens? It's doubtful after Baltimore signed Ryan Mallett to a reported one-year deal in March. Any quarterback who signs in Baltimore is signing on to be a backup, and Kaepernick may want more of a competition for a starting job.
The First-Round Prospect Ravens Wanted to Trade Up For
In last year's draft, General Manager Ozzie Newsome was pretty clear about who he tried to move up to get.
The Ravens wanted cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but the Dallas Cowboys wouldn't trade back from No. 4 and running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Ramsey one pick ahead of the Ravens, who were still quite happy to land tackle Ronnie Stanley.
This year, Newsome said the Ravens again wanted to move up in the first round, but he wasn't so explicit about the target.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec believes he knows the target, and it's once again a cornerback.
"It was widely believed the player was Temple linebacker Haason Reddick, who ultimately went 13th to the Arizona Cardinals," Zrebiec wrote.
"However, the top player on the board for the Ravens at the time, and the guy they were trying to move up to get, was actually Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore."
Lattimore was considered one of the elite talents in this year's draft. After injury troubles (hamstrings) early in his career, he came into his own as a redshirt sophomore this season with four interceptions and nine breakups. He has major upside and premier ball skills.
After an offensive run at the top (seven of the first 12 picks, including three quarterbacks), Lattimore came tumbling down the board. The Ravens were ready to pounce.
According to Senior Vice President of Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne, on the day before the draft Newsome called two teams ahead of the Ravens and laid out what Baltimore would offer. One team was "very willing."
"When the Draft came, a player we coveted was still there after the first picks," Newsome said. "But that team we had talked to now wanted more, and it was too much of a premium to pay."
The Ravens still got a cornerback with a lot of potential and upside in Alabama's Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey is a more physical player on the outside than Lattimore.
One thing is for sure. The Ravens wanted a cornerback, Zrebiec wrote. The aggressive hunt began last year with Ramsey and continued in this year's draft.
"The Ravens' interest in Lattimore, plus all the due diligence they did in fellow Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley and the fact that they ultimately stayed at 16 and picked Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, shows how badly the team wanted to come out of the first round with a corner," Zrebiec wrote.
Update: Mangold's Health is a Concern
Here's another update on a player we've written a lot about.
Free-agent center Nick Mangold took a free-agent visit to the Ravens in early April and fans have been asking why there's been no follow-up since Baltimore didn't draft a true center.
A main question with Mangold has been his health after he missed eight games last season because of an ankle injury. That seems to be the holdup.
"In an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, the 33-year-old called recovery from an ankle injury that prematurely ended his 2016 season a 'slow grind' and said it's taken 'a lot longer' than he'd expected," Zrebiec reported.
The Ravens went down this road with a veteran offensive lineman just last July. Baltimore was interested in signing veteran tackle Jake Long, and reports indicated he would be added to the team.
However, it later came out that the oft-injured Long declined to sign an injury waiver, and remained a free agent. He instead landed with the Minnesota Vikings and played in four games (three starts).
There's also always the question of not only availability, but effectiveness. Mangold is a seven-time Pro Bowler, but he's 33 years old.
"Mangold hasn't played that well the past two seasons and if there are ongoing concerns about his health, you can see why the Ravens have stood pat," Zrebiec wrote.