Appreciating Genius Of Ozzie Newsome After Turning Frustration Into Fortune
The Ravens had been (unsuccessfully) trying.
They've wanted to add depth to the cornerback corps, but they were reportedly outbid for veterans like Cary Williams, Perrish Cox and Tramon Williams. Then a top corner simply didn't fall to them in the 2015 NFL Draft.
But then, the Patriots unexpectedly released Kyle Arrington, and two days later General Manager Ozzie Newsome swooped in.
He addressed the Ravens' biggest remaining need with the best corner available on the market. And he reportedly did it on the cheap.
"The Ravens' frustration turned into fortune this week," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
The details of the three-year deal with Arrington have not been released, but Spotrac says it's for a total of $7.5 million. If correct, that's an average salary of $2.5 million annually, which ranks 53rd among NFL corners. (He was scheduled to be a $4.625 million cap hit in New England this season).
It just so happens that Arrington, who won't count against the compensatory pick formula, became available shortly after the Ravens created cap room with the extension of cornerback Jimmy Smith. That move reportedly opened up $3.2 million in space.
"It's as if Arrington just landed in their laps just when they had the cap room," wrote Hensley. "Arrington will step in at nickelback and team with starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb to give Baltimore its deepest cornerback group since the 2012 Super Bowl season."
While Arrington, 28, isn't a Pro Bowl player, that isn't what the Ravens needed. They were looking for an experienced veteran who could complement starters Smith and Webb. They get that with a Super Bowl champion who excels as a slot corner and will keep the starters on the outside.
Over 86 games in seven seasons, Arrington has recorded 352 tackles, three sacks, 48 pass deflections, nine interceptions and five forced fumbles. His playing time decreased in New England last year with Darrelle Revis on the scene, but he still recorded 39 tackles, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 14 games.
The Ravens pass defense ranked 23rd in the league last year, but with Smith (foot) and Webb (back) retuning healthy, safety Will Hill re-signed, and the additions of Arrington and safety Kendrick Lewis, the Ravens are greatly improved on the back end.
In January, the Ravens' playoff run was cut short after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady orchestrated two 14-point comebacks. Baltimore's secondary just couldn't stop him as the unit was decimated by injuries and there wasn't enough depth to hold it together.
Ironically, it's the Pats who have given Baltimore the player they need to hold off the likes of Brady in the future.
"The addition of Arrington bolsters the Ravens' chances for another Lombardi Trophy," Hensley wrote. "[He] is exactly the type of corner that the Ravens wanted. He excels at playing in the slot. He's strong in run support. He's durable. He's an asset on special teams.
"Baltimore was finally able to upgrade at corner, and the Ravens strangely have their playoff nemesis, the Patriots, to thank for it."
Ravens Put In Waiver Claim On Safety D.J. Swearinger
The Ravens were one of eight teams to put a waiver claim on recently released safety D.J. Swearinger, according to ESPN's Field Yates.
Swearinger was awarded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because they were the top ranking team in the priority order for waiver claims. In fact, all seven other teams were ranked ahead of Baltimore, including the Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Ravens already have Hill, Lewis, third-year player Matt Elam and second-year player Terrence Brooks, but The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson still calls the safety unit one of the "thinnest positions" on the defense.
"Swearinger is a hard-hitting former Texans second-round draft pick from South Carolina who fell out of favor with the AFC South franchise," wrote Wilson.
Reports out of Houston indicate that the fallout with Swearinger had to do with him walking out of a special teams meeting. He apparently didn't feel that he should have to play on the unit as a second-round draft pick.
If he didn't want to play special teams, the Ravens may be better off as Head Coach John Harbaugh is a former special teams coordinator who puts a big emphasis on the unit.
The Texans reportedly tried to trade Swearinger, but couldn't find any suitors. In 22 NFL starts over two seasons, Swearinger notched 140 career tackles, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
NFL Players Vote Ngata (No. 82) and Suggs (No. 84) In Top 100
Just like quarterback Joe Flacco last week, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs took a steep fall down the board of the NFL Network's Top 100 Players list of 2015.
Suggs dropped 58 spots to No. 84, despite having more sacks, quarterback hits and tackles for loss in 2014 than the previous year. He was No. 26 last year, 46th in 2013, and 11th in 2012 after being named the Defensive Player of the Year.
While he may have dropped on the list, opponents still fear him.
Saints tight end Ben Watson admitted Suggs is the type of player he wants to see on the injury report when you play the Ravens.
"A guy that's going to do any means necessary to get to the quarterback," added Steelers guard Kelvin Beachum. "And not just get there, but try to kill him once he gets there.
And while Haloti Ngata is now with the Detroit Lions, he was ranked No. 82 after his 2014 season with the Ravens. A common word to describe him by opponents is "freak."
"He's a freak," said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"What makes Haloti good, is that he is just a freak," added Cowboys guard Ryan Miller. "He's low to the ground, plays with phenomenal leverage. Haloti can get under you, through you, around you. It's a matchup that's nearly impossible."
Biggest Key To Turning Matt Elam's Career Around
Newsome and Harbaugh have acknowledged that they are not completely satisfied with Elam after selecting him with their first-round pick in 2013.
They still have "high hopes" for him, as he was considered one the players at his position coming out of college and was known for being a hard hitter. He hasn't lost those skills, which is why Hensley pinpointed a different key for turning around his career: confidence.
"When watching Elam struggle on the field, what stood out the most was a lack of confidence," Hensley wrote. "He came to the Ravens with a reputation of being an aggressive, in-the-box safety. In his two seasons with the Ravens, Elam has not attacked the ball. He's been more reactive. Elam played like he was in an emotional funk, and he couldn't shake it as the bad plays began to snowball on him.
"Elam is trying to avoid the distinction of being the Ravens' biggest defensive bust. The Ravens drafted eight defensive players in the first round before Elam, and every one of them established themselves as quality starters by the end of their third season. Six of them went to multiple Pro Bowls."
- Ravens undrafted rookie defensive end Cory Morrissey is walking away from the game after feeling "burnt out" on football. He made the announcement on Twitter: "I have made the decision to step away from the game of football. I've truly realized that I've lost the passion to play the game. I have been hiding behind a mask comprised of what people think of me and what others want me to do but not what I truly want for myself. Being burnt out and not finding any excitement for the opportunity I've had has made a huge inner battle with myself where my anxiety has sky rocketed. This life should never be fueled by money, and I am very thankful for the opportunity. The support I've had from everyone through this process has been amazing. Thank you." [Twitter]