Player Development 'Huge' For Ravens

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It's become an annual tradition that free agency takes a heavy toll on the Ravens roster.

With the NFL's current salary-cap structure, Baltimore simply can't afford to keep many of its emerging players. For example, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams were all groomed by the Ravens and left for bigger paydays.

Thus, if the Ravens want to continue being competitive on a budget, they have to develop young talent. And to develop those players, Baltimore must have the necessary coaches.

That's why the Ravens have added a former NFL head coach and coordinator to their staff over the past few months.

Last week, they hired Steve Spagnuolo, who spent three years as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2009 to 2011. In January, Baltimore brought on Run Game Coordinator Juan Castillo, a former defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The additions bring even more firepower to a Ravens coaching staff that didn't lose any members from last year's Super Bowl winning group. And it speaks to Head Coach John Harbaugh's commitment to developing players.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome brought it up during a recent podcast with ESPN's John Clayton.

"Player development was one of the things that was huge when we interviewed John," Newsome said. "The way the league is structured right now, you've got to develop players. He told us he was going to put together a staff that was going to spend time with the young guys."

Harbaugh has a background as a special teams coach, which means he worked primarily with younger players trying to make a name for themselves in the NFL. Those players are the ones who need the most grooming, as the team prepares them to step into offensive or defensive positions.

Adding talented coaches on both sides of the ball helps with that development.

Castillo is widely known as a skilled offensive line coach after spending 16 years molding the Philadelphia Eagles linemen. He started working with the Ravens linemen during their playoff push last year, and picked up where he left off in last week's workouts.

"He just seems to know what he is talking about," second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele said. "He's been doing it for a very long time, and he's a really good teacher and he knows how to explain things and kind of break it down. So, that's what I've learned so far, just technique and how important that is."

Even veteran offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie expressed his excitement to work with Castillo.

"Juan wants to teach me some things that he thinks will make my job a little easier," McKinnie said.

Spagnuolo will "assist where needed" on the defense, and can work with any position group. He was a defensive backs and linebackers coach in Philadelphia and became a defensive coordinator known for his pressure schemes with the New York Giants.

The players have not yet gotten much of a feel for Spagnuolo, who was hired just last Friday, but they will as organized team activities and minicamp roll around.

"I think it adds to an already very strong staff and just makes us that much better," Harbaugh said of Spagnuolo's addition, which gave the Ravens 21 coaches on staff. "The more great coaches and great players that we can build into what we are doing, the better we are going to be."

Spagnuolo recognizes the kind of operation he has joined in Baltimore.

"The staff you have here, whew, it's pretty blue chip," he said. "You start looking at the coaches and what they've done, it's a big-time bonus to be associated with that."

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