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Late for Work 8/2: Ravens Still Perceived Favorites to Sign Dez Bryant

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Ravens Still Considered Favorites to Sign Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant was released by the Dallas Cowboys on April 13. Three-and-a-half months later, he’s still a free agent.

Where the three-time Pro Bowl receiver will land is very much a question, but the Ravens are still considered the favorites – at least when you consult the Vegas odds.

According to Bookmaker.eu, as discovered by Pro Football Talk, the Ravens top the favorites at plus-350. As PFT’s Mike Florio pointed out, a $100 bet would pay out $350.

Next are the Texans and Colts (plus-400), Packers (650), Saints and 49ers (700), Bills and Redskins (800), Seahawks and Giants (1000), Jets (1,200), Patriots (2,500) and Eagles (5,000).

Why do the Ravens top the list? They still seem to be the only team to make Bryant an offer.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Baltimore offered Bryant a three-year deal for roughly $21 million in late April. Bryant supposedly turned it down because he wanted a one-year prove-it deal.

On May 15, Bryant told a fan on Twitter that he did not regret turning down Baltimore’s offer. But perhaps things have changed by now with the market still barren of suitors.

The Ravens’ situation has changed since then as well, however. Baltimore had already signed Michael Crabtree and John Brown by the time they reportedly made the offer to Bryant. Baltimore inked Willie Snead IV to a two-year offer sheet soon after.

Since then, all three free-agent additions have excelled at Ravens training camp. Crabtree is incredibly smooth and has struck up a red-zone connection with quarterback Joe Flacco. Brown was the most impressive player in camp last week with many big plays and Snead has been a reliable, often-targeted slot weapon.

The Ravens also have a lot of depth at wide receiver, as Chris Moore has been one of the offense’s most consistent performers and Breshad Perriman, rookies Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott, Janarion Grant and others have flashed.

Baltimore certainly doesn’t look like a team that needs another wide receiver, and Bryant hasn’t dispelled the perception that he’s difficult to manage with recent disparaging statements about his former teammates. Would the Ravens want to upset the apple cart?

Recent rumors pegged Bryant elsewhere in the AFC North. The Browns were rumored to be in contact with him with Josh Gordon sidelined, but Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America told PFT Live that the Browns no longer have interest in Bryant.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown wants Bryant to go to Pittsburgh, and Bryant re-tweeted his recruiting pitch. However, neither the Steelers or Browns are even listed among the teams in the Vegas odds.

Robert Griffin III Considered an Olympic Trial

When asked Tuesday how he stayed in shape during his year out of the NFL, Robert Griffin III joked that he threw footballs at palm trees. As Griffin said, he went to Orlando to train alongside his wife, Estonian heptathlete Grete Sadeiko, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

What Griffin didn’t mention was that he was also preparing for a potential run at the 2020 Olympics, per The Washington Post’s Sam Fortier.

At Baylor, Griffin ran the 400-meter hurdles all the way to the 2008 Olympic Trials semifinals. However, he decided to leave track to focus on football. When the NFL turned a cold shoulder, Griffin worked to get back in but kept his options open.

Per Fortier, Griffin chose the Orlando complex because it had a football and track and field program led by coach Brooks Johnson, who also trained Sadeiko. For about 10 weeks, four days a week, Griffin split his time between football and track workouts.

He trained alongside Olympic sprinter Justin Gatlin, who beat Usain Bolt for gold in the 100-meter dash at last year’s world championships. Griffin dropped weight to 193 pounds and spoke with Johnson about preparing for the decathlon or the 110-meter hurdles.

“He didn’t look at himself as RGIII,” Gatlin told Fortier. “He looked at himself as Robert. He was hungry, and he had another shot to get back out there.”

Gatlin said Griffin at first still ran like a football player. But both Gatlin and Johnson said that within a year, Griffin would have seriously contended for a spot at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“He is an Olympic-level talent,” Johnson said. “It didn’t take a lot to get him technically sound.”

That’s when the Ravens called and the two sides agreed to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.1 million. Griffin considered it a “message from God” and again made the full-time switch to football, the sport that has given him so much, yet dealt so many difficult blows.

“I know what God’s called me to do,” Griffin said. “He’s called me to play football at a high level, inspire men, lead men. That’s why I didn’t have any doubt in what I was doing.”

Sizing up Griffin’s Roster Chances

To stay on the topic of Griffin, his spot on the Ravens’ 53-man roster is no guarantee. The Ravens haven’t kept three quarterbacks since 2009.

Many factors will go into deciding whether Baltimore keeps Griffin, who has practiced well and impressed teammates and coaches. But The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec pointed to what he believes is the most important factor.

“Do they feel that rookie Lamar Jackson is capable of coming off the bench in a game for an injured Flacco and leading the team to a win?” Zrebiec wrote.

“That’s really what the decision comes down to and it’s why Griffin’s roster chances probably hinge more on how [Lamar] Jackson plays in the preseason than how Griffin looks.”

Griffin of course has to play well, starting tonight against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio. If he doesn’t, it could be an easy decision for Baltimore to just keep Flacco and their rookie first-round pick.

“However, if Griffin plays well and Jackson doesn’t look quite ready to play, the Ravens probably don’t have a choice but to keep the former Washington Redskin,” Zrebiec wrote.

Griffin appears to be all-in. According to the Baltimore Business Journal, Griffin has listed his Houston-area home for $2.6 million.

Under Armour Releases Sweet Ray Lewis Hall of Fame Gear

There will surely be a lot of No. 52 jerseys in Canton, Ohio this weekend (we’ve already seen some just driving through).

But Ravens fans looking to get even more Ray Lewis memorabilia to honor his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame should check out Under Armour’s special collection.

The HOF collection includes a pair of gold-accented cleats, several T-shirts and a hoodie.

Quick Hits

  • ESPN’s bold prediction for Ravens training camp is that Tim White wins the returner job and finishes in the top five in the NFL. [ESPN]
  • Zrebiec is concerned about the league’s new safety regulation regarding players hitting with their helmet. “I’m not the first reporter to say this, but you just get the feeling that this new helmet rule is going to be a disaster and decide a few games.” [The Athletic]
  • MMQB’s Conor Orr spent Tuesday at Ravens practice, and like everyone else, came away impressed with Flacco. “It looked like any changing of the guard was still beyond the horizon,” Orr wrote. “Flacco will get his run with a new set of weapons, a back who isn’t hurting and a fire under his feet. If that’s enough, the Ravens will be better stocked at quarterback than most teams in the league.”
  • The Ravens and Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg are very interested to see how their opponents and officials adjust to the new kickoff rules in preseason games. [Penn Live]

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