Ozzie Newsome Getting Praise For Latest Training Camp Signing
General Manager Ozzie Newsome is at it again.
He's filling needs with bargain deals on the eve of training camp, and he's getting praise for his latest (pending) move.
According to multiple reports, if four-time Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long passes a physical and conditioning test today, the Ravens will sign him to become the veteran presence they've needed since releasing Eugene Monroe. It's a deal the team has apparently been toying with off and on since March.
The agreement has received a collective thumbs-up from media … and running back Justin Forsett is dancing.
WBAL's Gerry Sandusky called it a "potentially big" move.
"A great signing in my opinion," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Kyle Barber.
"This is a smart and likely very low risk one-year deal for the Ravens," added Russell Street Reports' Ryan Jones.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote, "The Baltimore Ravens solidified one area of weakness just before the start of training camp."
Let's count the ways this is a smart signing:
1) Long provides a solid "insurance policy" just in case first-rounder Ronnie Stanley struggles or is injured as a rookie starter at left tackle, says Hensley.
2) As a former first-round pick that was also thrown into the fire his rookie season, Long can provide guidance and mentorship to Stanley as he takes on the mantle of responsibility to protect the Ravens' $126 million investment in quarterback Joe Flacco.
3) Long is viewed by many as an upgrade over other Ravens backup tackles, including James Hurst, "who has struggled as a part-time starter," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
4) Long will likely come at a low cost with a big upside. Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland predicts a veteran minimum deal of $885,000 with some playing time incentives.
5) Long was the No. 1 overall pick in 2008. How often do you get a talented No. 1 pick on your team? WJZ's Mark Viviano pointed out that it's only the second time for the Ravens with the other being quarterback Vinny Testaverde.
Of course, anytime a team makes a signing this close to training camp, there are going to be downsides that kept the free agent on the market for so long. With Long, the biggest question is his health. He suffered season-ending injuries to the same ACL in back-to-back seasons (2013-14), making October 26, 2014 the last time he started in a game. He played in just four games for the Atlanta Falcons last year.
The Ravens hope that was just a string of bad breaks for Long, who has already proven he can be very durable. Long only missed a handful of games over his first six seasons in the league, starting 89 games over that span. And, his recent time on the sideline over the last year has given him time to heal.
"I'm finally healthy," Long told ESPN in late-June. "This is the healthiest and best I've felt in probably about five, six years. My knee's back."
Given Long's recent injury history, the expected starters across the offensive line remain the same: Stanley (LT), John Urschel (LG), Jeremy Zuttah (C), Marshal Yanda (RG) and Rick Wagner (RT). But, if Long proves he is healthy during Ravens training camp, you can't rule out the possibility of him pushing for more than a backup role.
"The signing doesn't figure to change the Ravens' plans along the offensive line," wrote Zrebiec. "However, that's hardly set in stone. Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo have always said they'll play the team’s top five offensive linemen."
So excited to be a part of the Ravens organization!! Back to football and a lot to prove. Time to get to work!! — Jake Long (@JakeLong77) July 26, 2016
For Bubble Wide Receivers, Returning Punts Could Be The Key
The Ravens have a heap of wide receivers vying for one or two roster spots.
Zrebiec thinks the Ravens will keep six or seven, with five "locks" if they're healthy: Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore.
The final decision for the remaining one or two spots could come down to who returns punts the best in training camp.
"Keenan Reynolds, Michael Campanaro, and Kaelin Clay should all get reps returning punts," wrote CSNMidatlantic.com's Clifton Brown. "All three of those wide receivers are on the roster bubble, making their contributions on special teams even more important."
Reynolds is an intriguing option as he converts from quarterback to receiver/returner, and Clay posted an 82-yard touchdown return last year. But if Campanaro can stay healthy, Brown thinks he may have the edge because he can also contribute the most on offense immediately.
Assuming the third-year player holds up, that may leave just one more spot, and Zrebiec said it would be "foolish" to count any of the remaining players out.
"That likely leaves Reynolds, Butler, Matthews and Clay competing for one or two spots," he wrote. "Reynolds, a sixth-round pick who starred on and off the field at Navy, is the sentimental favorite, but he's going to need to prove he can contribute and be trusted with return duties.
"Butler had 31 catches last year and several members of the organization believe he has a bright future. Ditto for Matthews, who has the type of size and physicality that could make him a potential red-zone threat."
Five Young Pass Rushers To Watch With Terrell Suggs And Elvis Dumervil On PUP
When the Ravens step foot on the field for their first full-team practice tomorrow morning, veteran outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil won't be able to join their teammates.
Both players will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list as they continue to rehab lingering injuries. While they are in the training room, younger pass rushers will have the chance to prove themselves.
Here are five to watch during camp, per Brown:
Kamalei Correa"Correa might see more time at inside linebacker as a rookie, because the Ravens are looking for a starting inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley. However, Correa's skills as a pass-rushing outside linebacker at Boise St. convinced the Ravens he was worthy of being a second-round pick. If Correa is getting pressure on quarterbacks, the Ravens will find consistent snaps for him."
"He led the nation in sacks last season with 20 at Grand Valley State. As a fifth-round pick, Judon is making a major leap to the NFL and he is raw. But he also has size (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) and athleticism. Judon could earn an immediate role as a situational pass rusher."
"He's huge (6-foot-6, 285 pounds). He's mature, already 25 years old after completing a two-year Mormon mission before attending BYU. And he's athletic, good enough to spend one season on BYU's basketball team before focusing on football. The Ravens' third-round pick, Kaufusi could also earn a role as a situational pass rusher."
"Ochi (6-foot-1, 245 pounds) has a body build like Dumervil – powerful with a low center of gravity. The Ravens have had at least one undrafted rookie make their roster for 12 straight years. Ochi could extend that streak. He was hoping to be the first player from Stony Brook ever drafted. Now he's hoping to prove he should have been drafted."
"Smith finished strong as a rookie. Of his 5 ½ sacks, 3 ½ came over the final three games. According to Smith, Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants 10 sacks from Smith this season. If Smith becomes a double-digit sack artist, the Ravens' pass rush will take a major leap."