Mink: According to Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland, the Ravens are expected to have just under $13 million in cap space after terminating Earl Thomas' contract. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said Sunday that star pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney "hasn't budged" on his $17 million asking price. Clowney has reportedly received offers, including from the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans. So, according to my math, it still doesn't add up.
Downing: I could take the low-hanging fruit here and point out that first-round pick Patrick Queen has been impressive stepping into the starting linebacker job. He's certainly looked good. But I'll dig a little deeper and point to two other rookie defenders – third-round picks Justin Madubuike and Malik Harrison. Madubuike, the defensive lineman from Texas A&M, is soaking up knowledge from the veteran Calais Campbell. Wherever Campbell goes, Madubuike is close by, and he seems to be a quick study. The 6-foot-3, 293-pound defender has great athleticism for an interior defensive lineman, and he's used that to force his way into the backfield on plenty of occasions this camp. Madubuike looks ready to step into a rotational role on the defensive front.
Harrison also looks ready to play a rotational role right away. He may not be the starter – veteran linebacker L.J. Fort seems more likely to win that job to open the season – but Harrison will find his way onto the field. The 247-pound linebacker can stand up running backs in the backfield, and he showed off that ability during goal line drills over the weekend. Harrison twice blew up plays during the live 11-on-11 drills at the goal line, and he's sure lived up to his reputation as a hard-hitting linebacker.
Mink: Tyler Huntley has flashed at times, but he's still an undrafted rookie learning the ropes. He had a nice practice at M&T Bank Stadium, showing his wheels a few times and finding Jerell Adams open for a touchdown to end practice. He's still got a lot of competition from second-year quarterback Trace McSorley.
There's a lot of chatter about Jimmy Smith moving into the opening at free safety. Long story short, it isn't happening. That's not his strong suit. Smith is a big-bodied press corner, so playing a centerfielder role in open space would be a big adjustment. When the Ravens talk about Smith playing more safety, it's really means more of a hybrid role than a true free safety.
Mink: I'll take this one too since I'm already talking safety. Yes, the Ravens are going to stick with DeShon Elliott. Head Coach John Harbaugh was quite clear about that Sunday, hours after the team released Thomas. Harbaugh said it's Elliott's time. The Ravens have been eager to see more of their confident, playmaking third-year safety. He's healthy and finally has an avenue to the field, so the front office isn't going to block that.
The Ravens could potentially add some depth at safety, but it's not an absolute must. They already have five safeties on the roster with starters Elliott and Chuck Clark, veteran special teams ace Jordan Richards, seventh-round rookie Geno Stone and undrafted rookie Nigel Warrior. That's not even including another special teams anchor in defensive back/linebacker Anthony Levine Sr., who can play anywhere. So I don't think depth is really a concern at this point.
Downing: Now we're getting to the tough questions. The Ravens have plenty of candidates – Brandon Williams, Mark Ingram, Matthew Judon – and this question always sets off a spirited debate in the locker room. I'll go with Brandon. He definitely has the most reps, and there's something to be said for frequency on this one. Plus, he was the resounding choice for the most likely to dance in the middle of the practice, so that's got to count for something.