Ravens' Most Underpaid Player – Alex Collins
One of the (many) benefits of a player unexpectedly breaking out like running back Alex Collins last year is the Ravens get to take advantage of strong production at a cheap price.
Cheap enough for Bleacher Report to name Collins as the Ravens' most underpaid player on the roster.
Collins' cap hit last year was reportedly $508,235, and he rushed for 973 yards. That works out to $522 per yard. For an AFC North comparison, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was paid $9,388 per yard.
And while Collins may not be on Bell's level yet, the Ravens can surely celebrate their massive discount, and they can continue celebrating this year. Bell's cap hit skyrockets to a league-leading $14.5 million in 2018, per Spotrac, while Collins' cap number only slightly increases to $630,000.
That makes Collins the 109th-highest cap hit among NFL running backs.
"Collins was handcuffed by his circumstances this offseason and was forced to return on a one-year exclusive-rights free-agent deal," Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon wrote. "That makes him the ninth-lowest-paid non-rookie on the Baltimore roster, so this is a no-brainer."
Don't be surprised if Collins has the underpaid distinction again in 2019. He's scheduled to become a restricted free agent after this season, so his pay will likely coincide with the tender Baltimore places on him. This year, the tenders ranged from $1.9 to $4.2 million.
Collins is expected to be the leading running back for the Ravens again this year and he has an even higher ceiling than last season. He wants to prove he can be a three-down back by improving his pass-catching and blocking skills.
"Of the 28 running backs who recorded more than 125 carries for gains last year, Collins ranked second in yards per carry for positive rush attempts (6.2), trailing only Los Angeles' Todd Gurley," wrote Justis Mosqueda. "Unfortunately, his contributions as a pass-catcher didn't match up."
Buck Allen had twice the number of catches as Collins last year, and Kenneth Dixon will be added to the mix, hoping to carve out some catches and rushes of his own this year.
"At the moment, Baltimore strongly declares run or pass depending on which running back is in the game," Mosqueda added. "If Collins can improve as a pass-catcher, that will go a long way toward improving the Ravens' unpredictability."
What to Watch as Ravens Kick Off Mandatory Minicamp
Ravens mandatory minicamp is already underway.
The first practice began at 9:15 a.m., and the media can attend all three sessions this week scheduled for today, Wednesday and Thursday. ESPN named some things to watch:
1) Joe Flacco needs to make up for lost time: The NFL cut the Ravens final two days of OTAs after a contact violation in practice, which took away some time for Flacco and his receivers to continue building chemistry. "Among the 19 wide receivers and tight ends on the roster, 12 are in their first year with the Ravens," the website wrote. "What helps is the Ravens starting training camp a week earlier than usual. Baltimore's first full-team practice is scheduled for July 19 because the Ravens play in the Hall of Fame game."
2) Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley showing his commitment: We talked about this last week when Mosley was participating in voluntary OTAs. Mosley's agent is currently in talks with the Ravens about a long-term contract, yet he's been a constant presence at the practice facility. Meanwhile, many of Mosley's peers around the league who are seeking new contacts are absent from their teams' mandatory camps.
3) Ravens avoiding injuries – so far: "If Harbaugh buys into superstitions, he should be knocking on a lot of wood this week. The Ravens have successfully avoided any significant injuries so far this spring, which is a change from the past two seasons," writes the website.
Marshal Yanda Wins Media Day
You probably saw some of the many behind-the-scenes clips from the Ravens' media day Monday, which included the players doing individual video shoots on a Hollywood-esque set equipped with lights, fog and pyrotechnics.
It was fun to see the players' unique personalities come alive when the lights came on. As expected, Terrell Suggs and rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson were fun to watch.
But I have to give my "best media day" award to Yanda. This clip is quintessential Yanda, who's not making a big deal of all the bells and whistles surrounding him. He just stands there in a stoic, arms-folded pose as the camera circles him.
Where Does Joe Flacco and Other Current Players Rank Among All-Time Best Ravens?
When ranking the top players in Ravens franchise history, you'll obviously hear Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Ed Reed as the first names mentioned. After this season, the trio could all be in the Hall of Fame, as Reed will have his first year of eligibility.
But where do some of the current Ravens players rank among the all-time best, including Flacco, Suggs, Yanda and Justin Tucker?
NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman and Adam Rank came up with each team's top-11 players – in celebration of 2018 World Cup and all-time XI – and here's what they determined for the Ravens.
1) Ray Lewis, LB (1996-2012)
2) Ed Reed, S (2002-2012)
3) Jonathan Ogden, OT (1996-2007)
4) Terrell Suggs, LB (2003-present)
5) Joe Flacco, QB (2008-present)
6) Jamal Lewis, RB (2000-06)
7) Haloti Ngata, DT (2006-2014)
8) Marshal Yanda, OT (2007-present)
9) Peter Boulware, LB (1997-2005)
10) Justin Tucker, K (2012-present)
11) Ray Rice, RB (2008-2013)
"Baltimore's second NFL franchise has a short but storied history, one that in just 22 years of existence has produced two Super Bowl titles and a litany of turn-of-the-century icons and future Hall of Famers," wrote Bergman. "Ray Lewis is heading to Canton this summer, while Reed isn't far behind him and Ogden is already there.
"The inclusion of Flacco high on this 'elite' list will draw snickers and cheap internet jokes, but he QB'ed the Ravens to a Lombardi and is the only steady, and sometimes special, signal-caller in team history. The order of the back half is interchangeable. #PeopleForget that Jamal Lewis is one of just seven players to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. The big uglies (Ngata and Yanda) played pivotal roles on Baltimore's 2012 title team. Matt Stover is the team's all-time leading scorer, but Tucker is a pigskin-launching deus, a two-time All-Pro – and a damn good baritone. Rice's stint with the Ravens and in the NFL was cut short for serious off-the-field reasons, but the back burned brightly during his career in Baltimore."
- The schedule gods were good to the Ravens in terms of travel. Baltimore has the seventh-fewest miles (11,548) to travel among all NFL teams this year. The only teams with fewer travel miles are the New England Patriots (11,042), Buffalo Bills (10,222), New York Jets (9,358), Cincinnati Bengals (8,308), Atlanta Falcons (8,250) and Carolina Panthers (6,938). [CBS Sports]