Ravens Will Try To Re-Sign Upcoming Free Agents
Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson and Arthur Jones are all heading into the final year of their contracts with the Ravens.
But Baltimore could look to get them signed long-term before the start of the season.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome was asked about those three players during Tuesday's pre-draft press conference, and he indicated that the Ravens would like to keep them in Baltimore for the long haul.
"We always look to get ahead," Newsome said. "We tried that with Joe [Flacco] a year ago. So, will we try to sign some of our guys that will be [undrafted free agents]? Yes, we will try."
Pitta, Jones and Dickson are all restricted free agents. Pitta and Jones were given second-round tender offers, while Dickson was given an original-round tender. Jones has signed his tender offer, while Pitta and Dickson have both yet to officially sign.
If the Ravens don't work out long-term deals with them before the season, then they will be scheduled to hit the open market next offseason.
"It's a little bit more difficult in the last year, because they get the opportunity to start to smell free agency, and they see what happens to their peers that get into free agency and the market that they command," Newsome said. "But we will attempt to probably try to sign some of those guys."
McPhee To Play Rush OLB
Pernell McPhee is hoping to rebound after a frustrating, injury-riddled 2012 season.
He has shown tremendous promise as a pass rusher over the last two years, and the Ravens will look to utilize those skills by lining him up at rush outside linebacker.
"We're going to emphasize Pernell a little bit more at outside linebacker, in Terrell Suggs' spot, and see how he does out there," Harbaugh said.
McPhee put on weight and played defensive end last year. He's about 10 pounds lighter than last season, and the position tweak could help him get back to the form he showed in 2011.
"He's an outside linebacker that can play defensive end and he'll be a defensive end pass rusher in our even fronts, in our pass-rush scheme," Harbaugh said.
Gradkowski Has Edge On Center Job
Last year's fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski spent most of the season watching from the sidelines and learning behind veteran center Matt Birk.
Now that Birk has retired after a 15-year career, Gradkowskki is poised to take the starting center job and the Ravens are confident in the former Delaware Blue Hen.
"He's our center," Harbaugh said. "He's at the pole position right now, he's got probably the edge there, but if we bring in somebody to compete with him if it works out that way, that'd be great."* *
While Birk started every game of the season, Gradkowski did get the chance to play in the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. He went up against defensive tackle Geno Atkins and held his own against the Pro Bowler.
That performance helped give coaches confidence that Gradkowski is ready to step into a starting role.
"Gino did a nice job last year; he played really well in the Bengals game, we felt like that was a big test for him," Harbaugh said. "We had an opportunity to see him against a really good defensive line, and he held up. He's a little more physical and stout than he may look, and he's got great feet, he's a smart guy and it matters to him."
Jones Will Have A 'Pitch Count'
Jacoby Jones showed his big-play ability in both the returning and receiving game last year.
He earned a Pro Bowl nod for his efforts as the kick and punt returner, and was also a downfield threat as the team's No. 3 receiver.
Now that last year's top receiver Anquan Boldin is gone, the Ravens may end up counting on Jones more on offense, which could impact his role in the return game.
"We'll definitely be doing a pitch count for [him]," Harbaugh said. "We'll have to wait and see how that plays out. That goes for every position, the more guys play in one area, the more it probably lessens their time in other areas, just because you can only get so much time on the field."
The Ravens also have Deonte Thompson, David Reed, Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams who are competing for time at wide receiver. If they emerge as viable options in the passing game, then the Ravens may be able to limit Jones' snaps on offense.
"We'll just have to see how it plays out, how some of the young guys do," Harbaugh said. "We've got some young returner options, who are pretty talented, so, we'll just see how it goes."
Expect a Safety To Get Drafted
By the time the NFL Draft wraps up next weekend, expect at least one new safety on the roster.
Newsome indicated that the Ravens will take a safety at some point next week.
"There's a safety in every round that he we like," Newsome said.
The Ravens have a need at safety now that Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, the starters for the last two seasons, are both gone. The safeties currently on the roster are Michael Huff, James Ihedigbo, Omar Brown and Christian Thompson. Adding another safety at some point could give the Ravens another player to compete for the starting role, or at least to provide depth and special teams contribution.