Four Undrafted Free Agents to Keep an Eye on at Training Camp
At 11:45 a.m., the Ravens will hit the field for their first full-team training camp practice of the season. It's one of the most anticipated training camps in recent memory with a lot on the line for this 2018 squad.
While most of the attention with be focused on Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and the new cast of characters on offense, what about the undrafted free agents vying for a spot on the 53-man roster?
In each of the last 14 seasons, at least one undrafted free agent has made Baltimore's final 53-man roster – notably, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, Justin Tucker.
Baltimore Beatdown's Logan Levy takes a look at four undrafted free agents to watch:
WR Janarion Grant
"In my 90-man roster preview, Grant had the best odds to make the 53-man roster for several reasons: less competition, day one impact, and impressive college tape," Levy writes. "Grant was not a significant contributor at Rutgers on the offensive side of the ball, but he was deadly on special teams. He was a well-accomplished return man in college, and he could give Tim White a run for his money."
While at Rutgers, Grant had eight combined returns for a touchdown, including three off punts. Levy notes, "He is an agile player, who has excellent vision on returns. The returning competition could be one to keep an eye on if Grant's skill set can translate."
RB De'Lance Turner
With Alex Collins, Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon ahead of him on the Ravens' running back depth chart, earning a roster spot will be difficult for Turner.
During his senior year at Alcorn State, Turner racked up 1,357 rushing yards for 10 touchdowns and 21 receptions for 212 yards and three touchdowns.
"With two locks and one near-lock at the running back position, Turner must force Baltimore to make a difficult decision, unless there is an injury," Levy wrote. "He may not have the top-end speed for a running back, but at Alcorn State, he was a home run threat. The Ravens could desperately use a game breaker to complement Alex Collins and Javorious Allen."
LB Myles Humphrey
Out of Shepherd University, Humphrey, who is not related to Marlon Humphrey, stands at 6-foot-3, 238 pounds and may have to fight for a spot behind Matthew Judon and Tyus Bowser. Recording 13 sacks, four forced fumbles, three pass breakups and 20.5 tackles for a loss in his senior season earned Humphrey MEC Defensive Player of the Year.
"Given Baltimore's depth, Humphrey may be considered a long-shot to make the roster, but he has the talent to at least be considered," Levy says. "The Ravens list him as a defensive end, but he may be better suited as an outside linebacker."
During minicamp, the Ravens also gave Humphrey a look at inside linebacker, which is a position they have less depth at than outside linebacker. Baltimore has a history of retaining undrafted inside linebackers, including last year with Bam Bradley, who is still rehabbing a season-ending knee injury.
LB Alvin Jones
Jones is positioned behind inside linebackers C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young. Standing at 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, Jones totaled 343 total tackles, 40 tackles for a loss, 16 sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception at the University of Texas at El Paso.
"The Ravens do not necessarily have a need for another linebacker, but Jones will shock the masses during training camp and the preseason," Levy writes. "With Bam Bradley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, and Jones all fighting for what could be only one roster spot, Baltimore will have an exciting inside linebacker competition."
Linebacker Tyus Bowser Has the Ravens' Attention After Standout Offseason
After a somewhat quiet rookie year, linebacker Tyus Bowser opened eyes with a pick-six off Joe Flacco at a minicamp practice back in June, earning praise from Head Coach John Harbaugh.
Bowser, who appeared in all 16 games during the 2017 season and notched three sacks, nine tackles, one interception and three passes defended, is showing encouraging signs entering his second season.
"I've been through a lot," Bowser told The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer. "[Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale and I] had our ups and downs just trying to figure this whole thing out. Just to see where I was then to where I am now, it's been a huge jump, and that's kind of just been a main thing for us. Just continuing to work hard, continuing to get better, and big things will come for me in the future."
The Ravens projected big things for Bowser after selecting him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. And after being absent from the field on New Year's Eve as Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton found Tyler for the go-ahead touchdown on fourth-and-12, Bowser is hoping to help the Ravens finish their season the way they want to.
"He really wants to know it, he wants to master it, and you can see it in the way he practices — every rep is 100 percent," Linebackers Coach Mike Macdonald said during minicamp. "He's been probably our most productive 'backer, in terms of just sacks and interceptions and that sort of thing. I'm really happy in how he's coming along."
As Training Camp Begins, Ravens Continue Efforts to Connect With Fans
While the Ravens front office spent much of the offseason trying to fix the team's needs on offense, they were also trying to reconnect with the fans, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic wrote.
"We've made thousands of phone calls in the last six months. Literally thousands of phone calls," said Ravens President Dick Cass. "I've made a lot of phone calls — the ticketing department, the fan experience department, marketing has been involved. It's been all hands-on deck at various points. We tried to reach out to the fans who sent us an email or called us or just communicated their unhappiness in one form or another. We're not done with that."
The Ravens have sold out every game in franchise history, but when you looked into the stands during several of the Ravens' regular-season games last year, purple seats looked back at you. As Zrebiec wrote, the Ravens front office has become "borderline obsessed" with repairing that relationship.
"The Ravens studied what other professional sports teams were doing," Zrebiec wrote. "They had a third-party lead focus groups where fans were invited to the team facility and encouraged to speak freely. Team officials made phone calls by day and dropped in on fan club meetings at night."
The organization realized it was going to have to revitalize the fan base after missing the playoffs for the third straight year, and to do so, staffers talked directly to the sources.
"We definitely anticipated a lot of the feedback we got, but we learned some things, too," Ravens Vice President of Marketing Brad Downs told Zrebiec. "Just the appreciation of making that connection was a big takeaway for us. We're going to utilize the information and findings and the phone calls and the surveys into what we do moving forward from a marketing, a branding, a fan engagement standpoint."
So far this season, the organization has hosted fans to its team facility to observe offseason practices, allowed them to ask questions to Ravens executives at a pre-draft press conference and even held a conference call with Terrell Suggs and Lamar Jackson.
In addition, concession prices have been lowered by an average of 33 percent, a new and improved audio system has been added, they've upgraded the Wi-Fi and added renovations to the scoreboards and escalators at M&T Bank Stadium. The organization is also prepared to host nearly 2,000 fans to each of their training camp practices at the Under Armour Performance Center starting today.
At the end of the day, Cass points to the team's success on the field as the biggest factor. Baltimore has missed the playoffs three years in a row. Now the Ravens are hoping an improved offense that's more interesting to watch can lead them back into the postseason.
"I still think we have to win our fans back in a sense," Cass said. "We've always enjoyed this intense fan interest in everything we do, and we still have that, but not as many people have the intense interest as used to be the case. That's because of not going to the playoffs."
- Over the last year, the value of the Ravens franchise has risen by 9 percent to $2.5 billion, according to a new Forbes analysis. The Ravens are estimated as the 27th most valuable franchise in the world, tied with the NBA's Boston Celtics. The Ravens rank slightly ahead of the Atlanta Falcons ($2.475 billion) and just behind the Green Bay Packers ($2.55 billion). Twenty-nine of the NFL's 32 franchises made Forbes' list of the 50 most valuable franchises in the world.
- Lamar Jackson ranked 10th in CHARGE's 25 athletes under 25 with the strongest brands. The marketing agency that helps build exposure, engagement and revenue for businesses researched 969 young athletes across 48 sports to see how they make their voices heard. Brand strength was analyzed across different channels and applied to a proprietary formula to determine which athletes make their marks on both fans and the general public. "While he doesn't stand out in one particular area, Jackson has above-average performance in both social media and search interest," according to the Top 25 list. Jackson ranked above fellow NFL rookies Baker Mayfield (21) and Saquon Barkley (19).
- Former Raven Lardarius Webb hasn't given up hope on playing during the 2018 season. After nine seasons, Webb was released from the team to create cap space and has yet to find a new home. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting that Webb plans to continue playing and has been weighing a few offers.