By Jeff Zrebiec
The Baltimore Sun
9:33 AM EDT, March 28, 2014
From a football standpoint, I don't think the upgraded charge on running back Ray Rice changes things too much. The Ravens planned on adding at least one running back before Rice’s legal issues began and once they did, they were prepared for the possibility that even when the situation gets resolved, Rice would likely be facing some sort of NFL suspension.
However, with all that being said, they better get moving unless they are just resigned to drafting a back in the middle to late rounds. A stagnant free agent running back market has had significant movement the past couple of days with Knowshon Moreno signing with the Miami Dolphins, Maurice Jones-Drew reportedly nearing a deal with the Oakland Raiders and LeGarrette Blount in Pittsburgh visiting with Steelers’ officials, according to my colleague Aaron Wilson.
Blount is clearly the best fit but if he signs with Pittsburgh, the best remaining free agent backs are Andre Brown, Justin Forsett and Michael Bush.
** In the past couple of days, several of the top free agent backup quarterbacks have exited the open market with Shaun Hill (Maryland) signing with the St. Louis Rams, Luke McCown returning to theNew Orleans Saints and Mark Sanchez finalizing a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Ravens clearly want to add a little insurance behind Joe Flacco. Not only has Tyrod Taylor not played especially well, albeit it in the preseason and in mop-up duty, but he only has one more year remaining on his contract. Brandon Weeden would have been a decent fit, but he opted to sign with the Dallas Cowboys over the Ravens.
The top remaining free agent options are Josh Freeman,Colt McCoy, Matt Flynn, David Garrard, Kevin Kolb and Rex Grossman. That list doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence though Freeman might be an interesting reclamation project for Gary Kubiak and company.
At this point, I could see the Ravens drafting a developmental quarterback in the later rounds and giving him a year to learn behind Flacco and Taylor before he takes over the No.2 role for the 2015 season when Taylor bolts in free agency.
Or they might be better served just waiting for after the draft when one of the teams takes a young quarterback early and perhaps jettisons a veteran to make room. Take the Texans for example. They’re on record as saying that they’ll draft a quarterback, which would obviously make one of the current three on their roster – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates – expendable. With Kubiak’s familiarity with the Texans, adding a guy like Yates makes some sense for the Ravens.
** Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made it clear at the NFL owners meetings that the team isn’t going to wait on retired middle linebacker Rolando McClain or try to convince him to return.
If he’s interested in playing again and he wants to return – and that’s certainly the case if you follow his Twitter account – then McClain is going to have to convince the Ravens that he’s willing to put in the work and he’s worthy of a roster spot. That’s absolutely the right approach.
The Ravens could use a little more experience at inside linebacker and talent has never been the issue with McClain who is still just 24 years old. But McClain has been unreliable on and off the field. He’s the one with a lot to prove so it will be up to him to convince the Ravens that he deserves the chance, not the other way around.
** The reports that Eagles’ Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis is on the trade block spurred a number of questions about whether the Ravens would have interest. The Ravens are still looking for another starting offensive lineman and acquiring Mathis to pair with Marshal Yanda on the interior would give the team arguably the best guard tandem in the NFL.
They tried to sign Mathis before the 2012 season, hosting him on a free agent visit before they learned that he was re-signing with the Eagles. They also got an extra third-round compensatory pick, which could make trading their original third rounder -- Philadelphia’s reported asking price for Mathis -- a little easier to swallow. But the problem beyond giving up a valuable draft pick -- and that alone makes any deal unlikely -- is that Mathis wants a contract extension.
This offseason alone, the Ravens have invested long-term in left tackle Eugene Monroe and center Jeremy Zuttah. Mathis supposedly wants a hefty extension befitting of his status as one of the best guards in football. Even with the salary cap slated to go up even more next year, I’m just not sure how the Ravens would accommodate another huge contract along the offensive line.
** If the emails and Twitter messages I’ve gotten are any indication, the Ravens’ interest in re-signing tight end Ed Dickson and nose tackle Terrence Cody is not going over too well with fans.
I understand that neither player lived up to his billing but it’s not like the Ravens would make a significant investment in either, or even count on them to occupy major roles. Dickson would come back as either the No.2 or 3 tight end and a fixture on special teams. Cody would return as a rotational defensive lineman and backup nose tackle who probably would need a solid training camp to make the team. Neither would cost much at all.
I’m not saying that fans should be excited about the potential return of either player, but I’m not sure what the fuss is all about. Personally, I think Dickson could have a decent bounce back year under Kubiak and would represent a good value signing.
** The more you talk to Ravens people, the more it becomes clear that the “one who got away” in free agency wasn’t Arthur Jones, Michael Oher or James Ihedigbo.
It was Corey Graham, who signed with the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens recognized the cornerback as an important part of both their defense and special teams groups. He was smart, unselfish, competitive and reliable, all qualities that endeared him to the coaches and players
The Ravens really wanted to re-sign him but when it came down to it, there wasn’t much that they could do. Graham got a four-year, $16 million deal, which exceeded the Ravens’ price range, and Graham also got the opportunity to return home and play in front of family and friends in Buffalo.
But his loss still stings a little for the Ravens who now need to find another cornerback either in free agency or the draft.
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