Returners & Backs Needed. Who's Out There?
Let's address the returners first.
As a disclaimer, there's a chance the Ravens don't see it as a huge need. After cutting dangerous (for good and bad reasons) Asa Jackson, the Ravens don't have a clear-cut returner. Buuuuut …
"It's possible the Ravens don't think it's as glaring and immediate a need as some others do," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "And if you think about it, how many kick return opportunities do you think they'll get next Sunday, when Broncos kicker Brandon McManus is booting the ball through the thin Denver air in relatively warm temperatures? My guess is not many."
The Ravens could use a returner-by-committee rotation. Michael Campanaro, Lardarius Webb and Steve Smith Sr. can all return punts. And "maybe" Campanaro and Buck Allen could handle kick returns, says Zrebiec.
That's because, as we've learned with Jackson, perhaps speed isn't the most important asset for a returner. Somebody with good hands and makes smart decisions is higher on the priority list.
That said, there's little doubt that GM Ozzie Newsome is keeping his options open and scouring the free-agent market, which just became a whole lot more crowded after the NFL teams cut more than 1,100 players over the last two weeks.
Here's who Zrebiec says is out there:
WR Jeremy Ross
An undrafted rookie in 2011, Ross became the return man for the Detroit Lions last year. He averaged 25.4 yards on kick returns and 8.9 yards on punt returns. He finished with 23 kick returns for 584 yards and 32 punt returns for 284 yards. He didn't return any for a touchdown, and was ranked No. 31 by Pro Football Focus (PFF) among kick returners, and No. 61 as a punt returner.
WR Trindon Holliday
Holliday (5-foot-5) is even shorter than Justin Forsett (5-foot-8), but he is explosive and did damage to the Ravens in the divisional playoff game in 2013 against the Broncos. He became the first player in NFL history with a punt return touchdown and a kick return touchdown in the same postseason game. Since that time, however, he's bounced around to four different teams and had a total of three returns last year with the San Francisco 49ers.
WR Walter PowellSelected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Powell was cut and claimed off waivers by the New York Jets last year. Powell returned 12 punts for 48 yards, and eight kicks for 233 yards. None went for touchdowns.
"The player who stuck out to me as a great candidate is [Ross]," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Yitzi Weiss. "He was edged out at the position for the Lions, with incoming rookie running back Ameer Abdullah able to handle the return duties. … The biggest issue for the Ravens would be carrying [seven] wide receivers, but Ross also has experience on the coverage units of special teams, so he could be an asset in several roles for the Ravens."
As For Running Backs...
ESPN's Jamison Hensley made it clear that he thinks the Ravens need to add a veteran back behind Forsett because Lorenzo Taliaferro will miss multiple weeks with a knee injury.
"The Ravens need to find an experienced backup," wrote Hensley. "The Ravens have to get a more proven insurance policy, especially because they're one injury away from starting Allen, who has shown no signs of being ready."
Hensley says bringing back Tampa Bay's Bobby Rainey would be ideal since he could be the backup and return kicks, but the Bucs have held onto him. Hensley also named other players that could get cut, including Jacksonville's Toby Gerhart and San Diego's Donald Brown, but they're still with their teams.
And for those hoping Terrence West might make it back to Baltimore, the former Towson star was traded by the Browns to the Titans. Fred Jackson, who the Ravens were reportedly interested in, officially agreed to a one-year deal with the Seahawks.
Former Saint Pierre Thomas, 30, may be the top back on the market, and Zrebiec names former Patriot Jonas Gray as another option after being released Saturday.
After making the initial 53-man roster, the Broncos cut 2013 second-round pick Montee Ball Sunday night. He has all the potential, but was a disappointment in Denver. Perhaps Ravens Running Backs Coach Thomas Hammock could raise Ball's game since they worked together in Wisconsin.
Finally, there's Terrence Magee, who played well in preseason action for the Ravens. Many reporters believe he will be re-signed after the Ravens place defensive end Brent Urban on the designated to return list. Even if Magee does return, Hensley still believes the Ravens need a vet.
"Baltimore has some good, promising young running backs," he wrote. "The Ravens just need to get someone who can step into the backup role right now. Given Newsome's track record, no one should be surprised if he finds one in the coming days."
Fun-Loving CB Charles James On His Way To Baltimore
If you've been watching HBO's "Hard Knocks" you likely got a huge grin on your face when you saw this.
FoxSports.com's Peter Schrager reported that fan-favorite and sock connoisseur Charles James is headed to Baltimore. James seemingly confirmed the news by tweeting "#Bmore" and retweeting a story about him heading to Charm City.
An interesting note on James' decision:
Zrebiec believes James chose Baltimore because the team only kept five corners, and James has a better chance of getting on the active roster than he does in Houston.
If reports prove true on James, that would make eight of 10 players set for the practice squad. Wide receiver Daniel Brown gave a clue as to who the ninth will be.
Former Ravens Updates
Let's take a look at what's going on with former Ravens.
First, there was a reunion of former Super Bowl wide receivers with Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones at the 49ers and Chargers' fourth preseason game. Just seeing the three of them together brings back wonderful memories.
Meanwhile here are some others …
- After offensive lineman Jah Reid was released by the Ravens, he was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Asa Jackson was claimed off waivers by the New York Giants, and the former Raven said goodbye on Instagram: "Thank you to everyone who supported me in my career in baltimore. Especially the fans, you guys made it all worth it. I'm so blessed to have this city watch me grow up and help me become the man I am today. This isn't the way I wanted to say goodbye, but there are bigger and better things ahead!! Still, thank you so much to this city, this team, the fans, and all my teammates. Love you all, always#straightup!"
- After the Ravens made a rare move of cutting a draft pick before his first season, the Indianapolis Colts claimed offensive lineman off waivers.
- The Colts placed former Raven Art Jones on injured reserve.
- The Giants released former Ravens Jameel McClain, Chykie Brown and Jeromy Miles. McClain seems to be doing just fine:
Ozzie Shows How Rich Get Richer
Newsome put on another clinic this weekend.
First he traded undrafted free agent center Nick Easton to the San Francisco 49ers for an undisclosed 2016 draft pick. Even if it's a seventh-rounder, he got another pick when he didn't have one previously. It's like draft picks materialize out of thin air for Newsome.
Then, the Denver Broncos announced they cut former Ravens center Gino Gradkowski. You'll remember that Newsome sent Gradkowski and a 2016 fifth-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for Denver's fourth-round selection in next year's draft. He moved up one round for a player that fell down the depth chart with the arrival of Jeremy Zuttah and John Urschel.
It's just another example of how the rich get richer.
"[T]his weekend offered a reminder that the Ravens used a pair of disposable centers to improve their value in next year's draft," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
"These two picks in isolation may not be the difference in winning a championship, but the Ravens value having more selections as we've seen with their accumulation of compensatory picks over the years. It's difficult to argue with the results."
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