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Late For Work 5/19: Ravens Get Graded on 2017 Offseason


Ravens Get Graded on 2017 Offseason

The heavy lifting of the offseason is done.

The best free agents are off the market and the draft is over. For the most part, teams have their rosters in place that they'll take into the regular season.

ESPN's Bill Barnwell is grading every team in the league for their offseason moves, and he just released his report card for the AFC North. Here's his rundown on the division:

Baltimore Ravens: B-
Pittsburgh Steelers: B
Cincinnati Bengals: C+
Cleveland Browns: B

In looking at Baltimore's offseason, Barnwell immediately pointed to the moves in the secondary as something that went right. Baltimore signed safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr, and drafted first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey to bolster a group that needed reinforcements.

"The Ravens are suddenly deep in the secondary," Barnwell wrote. "After years of trying to cycle players around and plug holes on the cheap, Ozzie Newsome made solving the secondary a priority this offseason.

"In combination with Eric Weddle, Jefferson gives the Ravens a pair of versatile safeties capable of both lining up in coverage, dropping into center field and attacking the line of scrimmage. That flexibility should make it easier for the Ravens to disguise their pre-snap intentions."

On the offensive side, Barnwell is a fan of the Danny Woodhead signing. The veteran running back gives Baltimore a new element to the offense as a shifty ball carrier who can also catch passes out of the backfield.

"Frequently underrated, Woodhead should, at the bare minimum, represent an upgrade on checkdowns and screen passes compared to what Kyle Juszczyk offered last year," Barnwell wrote. "Health is perpetually a concern with the 32-year-old Woodhead, but he has proved to be a get-out-of-jail-free card for teams and always seems to end up carving out a meaningful role on effective offenses."

Barnwell's biggest critique of the Ravens' offseason is that they didn't add a receiver in the draft or free agency. Wide receiver has been a huge talking point among local media, and Barnwell also believes the Ravens need to bring another pass catcher to town.

"Baltimore is at least one wideout short of a full pack," he wrote.

Receivers are certainly on Newsome's radar, and he stressed after the draft that he would continue to look for a complementary pass catcher up until the season opener in Cincinnati. The Ravens reportedly have interest in veterans Anquan Boldin and Victor Cruz, and they could also look to trade for a wideout.

"We're still out there hunting," Newsome said last month.

Another Running Back Who Could Fit the Ravens

The Ravens may also have their eye out for a running back, and The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec believes a veteran may hit the market who would be a good fit in Baltimore.

The Philadelphia Eagles just signed running back LeGarrette Blount this week, which could make Ryan Mathews expendable. Mathews is currently recovering from neck surgery, but multiple reports have said he is likely to get released when healthy.

"In 13 games last season, Mathews rushed for 661 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 13 passes, including one for a score," Zrebiec wrote. "He ran all over the Ravens in December, gaining 128 yards on 20 carries, and scoring a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. The Ravens came away impressed."

Mathews has talent, but he's also dealt with injuries throughout his career. The Ravens would have to decide if he's an upgrade over the young players on the roster like Javorius Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro.

Zrebiec believes Mathews "could be a decent insurance policy, especially early in the regular season when [Kenneth] Dixon will be serving a four-game suspension."

Moving Waller Again 'Doesn't Make a Lot of Sense'

With Baltimore's logjam at tight end and perceived void at receiver, third-year pass catcher Darren Waller has become a bit of a talking point as a possible solution. The 2015 sixth-round pick was drafted as a receiver, but transitioned to tight end last season.

Some fans and media members have questioned whether it would make sense to move Waller back to receiver, but Zrebiec doesn’t like the idea.

"Count me among those who don't think such a move makes a lot of sense," Zrebiec wrote. "Yes, Waller ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash before the draft, but that was more than two years ago and he's since bulked up to 255 pounds to adapt to tight end."

Waller, 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, transformed his body last year to become a tight end. He packed on pounds to better handle himself as a blocker, and he would have to cut much of that weight to go back to playing receiver.

"Why not continue to let him develop at tight end? Benjamin Watson and Crockett Gillmore are free agents after the 2017 season, and Dennis Pitta could be entering his final season with the team as well," Zrebiec wrote. "If Waller doesn't have a big role in 2017, he certainly could the following season."

Ravens Won't Play in New L.A. Stadium in 2019

Hold off on booking your trip to Los Angeles to see the Ravens play in the shiny Inglewood stadium in 2019.

The Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, who will both play in the new stadium, announced Thursday that the stadium opening has been delayed until 2020. Significant rainfall hit the region this winter, which delayed the project.

The Ravens were set to be one of the first teams to play in the ritzy new stadium, but now they will take on the Rams at their temporary home of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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