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Late For Work 5/9: Sign LeGarrette Blount? Ravens Aren't Best Fits For Boldin, Mangold? Cruz?


Round 2 of NFL free agency is about to open, and it may be time for General Manager Ozzie Newsome to go shopping.

The Ravens still have some holes at wide receiver, offensive line and inside linebacker. Newsome said after the draft ended that he was still hunting for players, but he hasn't pulled the trigger on any yet.

That may quickly change. Free agents signed today or after do not count against the NFL's compensatory pick formula.

The Ravens have bided their time to pounce on lingering free agents before, such as cornerback Jerraud Powers last year and inside linebacker Daryl Smith in 2013.

So who could it be this year? Media pundits are buzzing about some popular names:

Should Ravens Lure Blount To Baltimore?

The Ravens have stockpiled defensive talent, evoking memories to the days when defense ruled the roost in Baltimore. But, as my colleague John Eisenberg wrote, there's another half to the “old school” equation. It's running the ball with power and effectiveness.

ESPN's Jamison Hensley says the Ravens should continue their old-school offseason by signing running back LeGarrette Blount.

"He's the hard-hitting, battering-ram big back who can return the punch to Baltimore's running game," Hensley wrote. "The New York Giants and Detroit Lions have been the teams most frequently linked to Blount. The best fit, however, is Baltimore."

Blount had the best season of his career last year in New England. He set career highs in rushing yards (1,161), attempts (299) and touchdowns (18). That touchdown total led the NFL.

So why has Blount sat on the market for so long?

He turned 30 in December, which some around the NFL consider to be a curse for running back, especially one that takes (and delivers) as many hits as Blount. While he posted good overall numbers, Blount rushed for 3.9 yards per carry, which is his lowest single-season mark since 2012.

Still, there's little doubt that Blount has a unique skillset to offer the Ravens. Hensley points out that the Giants drafted a running back in the fourth round and the Lions declared Ameer Abdullah their starter. The Patriots recently signed restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

"There's more opportunity for Blount in Baltimore, where running back is an underrated need," Hensley wrote. "While there has been more focus on wide receiver and the offensive line, the Ravens have arguably the worst running back group in the AFC North."

Hensley said that's the reason why the Ravens set a franchise record last season for the fewest rushing attempts (367).

"Blount would represent an upgrade at running back and a renewed commitment to the ground game. He's a rugged runner who can break tackles, crash into the end zone and protect the ball," Hensley wrote.

"This offseason, it's been all about defense, defense, defense. The best way to complement that is to add a 6-foot, 250-pound back who brings the same amount of toughness on offense."

Not everyone is so convinced it's the right move, however …

Best Free-Agent Fit Isn't Boldin Or Mangold?

There seems to be a prevailing thought out there that the Ravens have been waiting to sign wide receiver Anquan Boldin and/or center Nick Mangold.

The Ravens have the aforementioned need at wide receiver. Harbaugh has said he's in favor of bringing Boldin back to Baltimore, where he starred for three years and helped the team win Super Bowl XLVII.

Baltimore drafted two offensive linemen in the middle rounds, but neither are centers (though fourth rounder Nico Siragusa may get a look there). Mangold, a seven-time Pro Bowler, reportedly visited the Ravens in early April, but left without a contract. The status of his injured ankle, which forced him to miss eight games last season, is unknown to the media.

But when pairing the top free agents remaining with the best fits, ESPN's Dan Graziano sent neither Boldin or Mangold to Baltimore. Graziano says the Carolina Panthers are best for Boldin and the Los Angeles Rams are a fit for Mangold.

Instead, Graziano thinks former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz makes the most sense in Baltimore. Here's his take:

Cruz: "Cruz basically lost two whole seasons to injury before coming back and performing at a decent level for the Giants in 2016. He's not the star-caliber player he used to be, but he makes sense for some team looking to add depth."

Why Ravens? "They have Breshad PerrimanMike Wallace and ... seriously. Who? They didn't even draft one. Maybe they bring back this next guy."

Boldin: "He turns 37 in October, but no one trains harder, and he still would want to keep playing if someone would have him. Boldin relishes the role of mentor to young receivers who work out with him in Miami in the offseason, and that role could be part of his sales pitch to an interested team."

Why Panthers? "Word on Boldin is that he doesn't want to be too far from home [Florida], so this would be on the outer radius of teams that would interest him. He just seems like the kind of guy who could help an inaccurate Cam Newton."

Mangold: "His only offers so far have been from teams that want him to switch positions and play guard. At 33, who wants to do that? You wonder if he'll follow former teammate D'Brickashaw Ferguson into retirement a year later."

Why Rams? "They already added one veteran offensive lineman (Andrew Whitworth) in free agency, and they have an opening in the middle of their line. And the weather out there is fantastic."

Comp Pick 'Kings' Expected To Get Just One Next Year

You know why the Ravens have been so patient in waiting to sign any more free agents?

Because they may only have one compensatory pick next year, and they want to protect it.

As stated above, any free agent signed on or after May 9 does not factor into the formula for determining compensatory picks. Thus, the window for determining comp picks is now closed.

"Baltimore is expected to get just one compensatory pick in the 2018 draft, according to Over The Cap," Hensley reports. "The Ravens are in line to be awarded a third-round pick for losing offensive tackle Rick Wagner, who signed a five-year contract with the Detroit Lions that averages $9.5 million per year."

If that's the case, it would mark the second straight year that the Ravens received just one compensatory pick, although they did get a high third rounder this year.

It's a change from Baltimore's history. The Ravens have become the league's "experts in compiling compensatory picks," Hensley wrote, with an NFL-best 48 since the system began in 1994. But getting just one for the second straight year would tie their fewest received.

The Ravens have been more aggressive on the free-agent market the past two years. This year, they lost five unrestricted free agents (Wagner, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, defensive end Lawrence Guy, wide receiver Kamar Aiken and guard Vladimir Ducasse) and signed three (safety Tony Jefferson, running back Danny Woodhead and cornerback Brandon Carr).

That means Baltimore is plus-two, but Ducasse's contract average of $1.16 million per year isn't big enough to qualify for one of the 32 comp picks awarded.

Still, a third-round pick would be a welcomed haul, and it's a pick the Ravens guarded tightly. And turning a fifth-round selection in 2013 (Wagner) into a third-round selection in 2018, plus getting four good years of production out of Wagner, is a good flip.

Ravens Added The Most Defensive Talent – By Far

We all know the Ravens upgraded their defense in the draft by using their first four selections to grab cornerback Marlon Humphrey, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, defensive end Chris Wormley and outside linebacker Tim Williams, respectively.

But did we all appreciate that the Ravens added the most defensive talent in the NFL – by far?

NFL Media's Chase Goodbread took senior analyst Gil Brandt's Hot 150 and assigned points to each draftee based on where they were ranked.

Each of the Ravens' top four picks were in Brandt's top 150 players, and they totaled 398 points. The next closest team was the Cleveland Browns, who had five defenders in the top 150, but an overall score of 361 points.

No. 43: Marlon Humphrey (108 points) 
No. 47: Tim Williams (104) 
No. 48: Chris Wormley (103) 
No. 68: Tyus Bowser (83)

The Ravens have totally transformed their defensive backfield with the signings of Jefferson and Carr, and by drafting Humphrey, leading ESPN to declare the Ravens secondary the most improved defensive unit in the league.

Baltimore Slides In Post-Draft Power Rankings

Just as Ravens fans have been split in their reaction to the draft (many are excited by the defensive talent while others are concerned about the offense), the media also doesn't seem to agree.

As noted above, the Ravens added the most defensive talent in the league. NFL Media's Lance Zierlein also ranked Baltimore’s draft class at No. 5 in his power rankings.

"There is a 'boom-or-bust' theme to the Ravens draft," Zierlein wrote. "I like the overall potential of their draft class, as they almost certainly added at least five future starters."

With that said, ESPN isn't digging the Ravens' draft class as much. In their post-draft power rankings, the Ravens fell five spots to No. 16 overall.

"Baltimore is another team that used its first four picks on defense," Graziano wrote. "Which is fine, when you have to play the Steelers twice a season. But man, are they seeing something in this wide receiver corps that the rest of us aren't?"

As Graziano noted in talking about free agents above, however, teams can still change and the Ravens could still add offensive weapons.

The Ravens are still the highest-ranked team among those that didn't have a winning record last season. Baltimore is ninth among AFC teams, trailing the Patriots (No. 1), Steelers (4), Raiders (7), Chiefs (8), Broncos (10), Texans (11), Titans (12) and Dolphins (13).

Flacco Is Best QB Traded Up For Over The Past Decade

Three teams traded up in the first round of this year's draft to get a quarterback.

Those trades may certainly work out, but the track record isn't good. The one exception? Joe Flacco.

As Hensley pointed out, there have been 12 quarterbacks taken in the first round after a team traded up for them. Only one – Flacco – has won a Super Bowl.

"The rest are either in a competition for a starting job (Paxton Lynch), a backup (Mark Sanchez), a free agent (Robert Griffin III and Blaine Gabbert), injured (Teddy Bridgewater) or out of the league (Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, Josh Freeman and Brady Quinn)," Hensley wrote.

The Ravens first moved from No. 8 to No. 26 before moving back up to No. 18 to grab Flacco. As Hensley recalls, Owner Steve Bisciotti got "antsy" that Flacco wouldn't be there at No. 26, and the Ravens traded a third-round pick and sixth-round pick to move up eight spots and get their man.

Four years later, Bisciotti and Flacco hoisted the Super Bowl XLVII trophy. Good move, guys.

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