Michael Crabtree lands three-year deal with Baltimore Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, MD — The Baltimore Ravens have been making a lot of moves this week to try to bolster their wide receiver core. John Brown and Ryan Grant were both signed as soon as free agency opened, but the team backed out of their deal with Grant after seeing something pop up on his physical.

By voiding their contract with Grant, the Ravens gave themselves more money to pursue other free agents but also took a step back in their pursuit of building a complete offense. Their fortunes would change on Friday though, when recently-released Oakland Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree came to Owings Mills for a visit and left with a new three-year contract worth $21 million.

The 30-year-old receiver enters his tenth professional season in 2018. After being drafted by the 49ers, Crabtree spent six years in San Francisco. For the past three seasons he has put up some of the best numbers of his career while playing for the Oakland Raiders.

Crabtree averaged 77 receptions, 847 yards and eight touchdowns per season in his time with Oakland. After missing out on players like Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson, the Ravens finally found themselves a true veteran receiver to build around.

It’s hard to say where the Ravens will go from here. Mike Wallace has been a reliable target in Baltimore for the past two seasons, but there is some uncertainty as to whether he will receive a larger payday with another team. Bringing him back would surely do a lot to solidify a receiving core that was on life support just a week ago. Unfortunately, receivers are not the only need the Ravens have on their roster, so the front office’s attention could turn to another position before the draft.

Image credit: Cary Edmondson – USA Today Sports


Ravens void Grant’s contract after failed physical, Crabtree to visit Friday

OWINGS MILLS, MD — Pump the breaks, Ryan Grant may not become a Baltimore Raven anymore.

Late Thursday afternoon, when John Brown and Grant were both visiting the Ravens’ facilities in Owings Mills, something was revealed during Grant’s physical that concerned the Ravens enough to take their four-year, $29 million ($14.5 million guaranteed) off the table. According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, an ankle problem is what costed Grant his contract with Baltimore.

Perhaps the voided contract is a blessing in disguise for Baltimore. Despite four seasons in the NFL, Grant remains an unproven player with less than 1,000 career receiving yards to his name. Nevertheless, the Ravens still offered him the second-largest receiver contract in franchise history. This brought all sorts of criticism from fans, who are probably relived that the Ravens are not throwing $14.5 million Grant’s way anymore.

While Grant may be heading back to the free agent pool, a contract with the Ravens could still happen. What exactly the Ravens saw with his ankle is unclear, but perhaps the Ravens eventually offer Grant a cheaper deal. Either way, signing a wide receiver who has yet to post 90 yards in a game was a puzzling move, and it’s probably for the best that the money originally intended for Grant goes to other areas of need for the Ravens.

Crabtree to visit Owings Mills: Around the same time that the Grant news came out on Thursday, reports also surfaced that free agent wide receiver Michael Crabtree will visit the Ravens on Friday. The Oakland Raiders parted ways with Crabtree after agreeing to a two-year contract with Jordy Nelson.

Crabtree, the 10th-overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, spent the last three seasons in Oakland after his first six NFL seasons with the San Fransisco 49ers. Crabtree was on the Niners team that the Ravens defeated in Super Bowl 47.

In nine seasons, Crabtree has caught 579 passes for 6,870 yards and 51 touchdowns. He may not qualify as a true #1 receiver, but he fits the veteran free agent receiver mold that the Ravens have built a reputation on. After cutting Jeremy Maclin on Wednesday, the Ravens lack an established veteran receiver who can lead that position. As the case always is with the salary cap-troubled Ravens, the ability to bring Crabtree to Baltimore will ride on one thing: the price tag.

Image Credit: USA Today, Chat Sports



Ravens release Jeremy Maclin

OWINGS MILLS, MD — Less than a day after signing two free agent wide receivers in the forms of John Brown and Ryan Grant, the Baltimore Ravens released veteran wideout Jeremy Maclin after just one season with the team. The move creates $5 million in cap space for the Ravens.

Following the retirement of Steve Smith Sr. and the departure of Kamar Aiken, the Ravens signed Maclin to a two-year deal worth up to $11 million last summer. This occurred after the Kansas City Chiefs cut Maclin following a season hindered by a lingering groin injury. Maclin’s injury problems continued in Baltimore, as he dealt with ailments to his back, shoulder, and knee. Maclin’s 2017 season saw him finish with career-lows in receptions (40) and receiving yards (440) in 12 games.

The entire Maclin experiment in Baltimore can only be described as a disaster. Not only was he beat up all season, but he never got to establish a repertoire with Joe Flacco as the quarterback missed all of training camp with a herniated disk in his back. There was some thought that Maclin’s previous experience in a Marty Mornhinweg-led offense would bode well, but Maclin never clicked on or off the field for the Ravens.

Tuesday headlines: Woodhead, Howard out, Carr to stay

Since the 2017 season ended, rumors have been swirling about Maclin’s release. After the Ravens’ front office gave their receiving corps two veteran names who both held better stats than Maclin did last season, the Ravens now appear comfortable letting Maclin go. After two injury-riddled seasons and appearing to not mesh with the Ravens’ locker room, paying Maclin $5 million in 2018 made no sense.

The Ravens still have work to do at the wide receiver position. Brown is very injury-prone and a #2 receiver at-best, and Grant has never been anything more than a #3 wideout. Chris Moore is certainly not a elite wide receiver, and Breshad Perriman may not even make the 2018 roster. At 33, Jordy Nelson fits the mold of several veteran wideouts the Ravens have signed in the past, but his price tag will not be cheap. No matter if the Ravens sign another wide receiver or not, drafting at least two wideouts should still be a top priority.

Image Credit: ClutchPoints


Ryan Grant to sign four year deal with Ravens

Not long after news broke of the Ravens reaching a deal with former Cardinals receiver John Brown, another signing came through the free agency pipeline. Baltimore has also reached a deal with former Washington Redskins receiver, Ryan Grant.

Grant was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft but has only started 15 games in his four-year career. It has been reported that the Ravens will be giving Grant a four-year deal worth $29 million. A contract of this size is a puzzling to say the least considering how little play time Grant has seen. To his credit, Grant has remained healthy so far in his career and is coming off his best season.

In 2017 the 27-year-old receiver accumulated 573 yards and four touchdowns on 45 receptions. All of these were career-highs as Grant started in seven of the Redskins’ 16 games.

After being heavily criticized by fans all week, it appears the Ravens’ front office has been quietly working on filling the teams needs. The quality of both of these signings will surely be debated, but we all know that both Brown and Grant are role players and not number one wide receivers. The success of both of these signings will depend heavily on who else they can ink this offseason to round out the receiving core.

Image credit: USA Today Sports

Ravens expected to sign wide receiver John Brown

While the deal is not yet official, it has been reported that the Ravens have reached a deal with former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown.

This will mark the Ravens’ first dip into the free agency pond for the 2018 season. With many big names in the receiver market, like Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins, quickly finding new homes, the Ravens have had to look elsewhere a little faster than they may have expected.

Drafted in 2014, Brown has never started all 16 games in a season and has dealt with some injuries. Despite this, Brown has managed to be a solid contributor in his time on the field. In just five starts last season, Brown posted just under 300 yards on 21 catches.

His speed is considered his greatest asset and with the Ravens still very much in need of receivers, it’s hard to say Brown doesn’t fit. Free agency is just getting started but if the Ravens play their cards right and continue to build a receiving core, this deal could be looked back on very fondly.

Injuries will be a big concern though. Brown suffered from lingering hamstring problems in 2016 and then battled some back and toe issues in 2017. If he can stay healthy, Brown is certainly capable of putting up some great numbers, as seen in 2015 when he racked up over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in just 11 starts. Even his numbers in the past two injury-plagued seasons indicate that Brown makes the most of his time on the field. This looks like a low risk, high reward deal for the Ravens.

Image credit: Associated Press

Ravens Free Agency: Woodhead released, Howard’s option declined, Carr’s picked up

OWINGS MILLS, MD — A day before NFL Free Agency officially opens up, the Baltimore Ravens made a number of roster moves all involving veterans with at least eight years of experience in the NFL.

Before noon on Tuesday, the Ravens lost two players on offense; running back Danny Woodhead was released from his three-year, $8.8 million contract, signed last offseason, and tackle Austin Howard‘s 2018 option was declined. However, the Ravens picked up cornerback Brandon Carr‘s option, keeping him in Baltimore. Below is a breakdown of each move along with Jake’s hot take.

1. Danny Woodhead released

Woodhead’s release from his three-year contract saves the Ravens $2.55 million in cap space. Woodhead finished 2017 with 14 rush attempts, a career-low. He totaled just 56 yards on the ground, and caught 33 passes for 200 yards. Woodhead failed to score a touchdown for the third time in his career, and played in just eight games because of a lingering hamstring injury. Woodhead has played in just 10 games over the past two seasons.

Jake’s Hot Take: Not a shocking move at all. I was very skeptical of the Ravens giving a three-year deal to a 32-year-old oft-injured running back (now 33), and I was right. I understand that the Ravens could not have predicted the emergence of Alex Collins, but Woodhead’s role only diminished when Buck Allen became a threat in both the passing attack and the running game. Both Collins and Allen will return next season, along with Kenneth Dixon. John Harbaugh was non-committal about any of these running backs starting next season, so with potentially another young running back coming into the fold, keeping Woodhead around at his cap number did not make sense.

2. Austin Howard’s 2018 option declined

Last offseason the Ravens inked Howard, 30, to a three-year, $16 million contract with team options for each year. Howard started all 16 games for the Ravens last season and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 18th-best right tackle in the NFL. By not picking up the option, the Ravens saved $3 million in cap space. The move comes a day after the Ravens signed James Hurst to a four-year contract.

Jake’s Take: Howard was rumored to be a cap casualty this offseason, but I’m surprised that the Ravens are letting him walk. Sure, both Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda will return from injury next season, but both of them missed time with injuries in 2016, too. Howard had a shoulder ailment at the beginning of last season, but he battled through it and did a respectable job at right tackle.

Perhaps this means that the Ravens plan on having either Lewis or Hurst shift to right tackle. Maybe it means that the Ravens plan to make a run at Ryan Jensen, set to hit free agency on Wednesday. Even so, Hurst has struggled while playing either tackle position in the past. Lewis, like mentioned, has yet to start more than 10 games in a season because of injuries. The Ravens can address the right tackle position in the draft, but that would take away from several pressing needs on offense.

Last year, the Ravens waited until training camp to fill their right tackle slot, and I could see a similar scenario this summer.

3. Ravens pick up Brandon Carr’s 2018 option

Last year, the Ravens brought in Brandon Carr on a one-year contract with a series of options over four seasons. The Ravens could have saved $4 million by cutting Carr. Now, the 31-year-old cornerback will make $4.5 million in 2018 with a $1.5 million roster bonus. Carr finished the 2017 season with 50 tackles, four interceptions, and 12 passes defensed. He started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2017, and has not missed a start in his 10-year career. Yesterday, the Ravens parted ways with long-time defensive back Lardarius Webb. A day later, they retain a starter who could still have a heavy presence in the Ravens’ 2018 secondary.

Jake’s Hot Take: At those numbers, I think the Ravens are paying Carr too much money, but I understand why they elected to keep him. Jimmy Smith cannot stay on the field, and with Smith coming off a torn Achilles suffered in December, he may not be ready for the start of the season. Not to mention that Tavon Young is coming off a torn ACL, and Maurice Canady has been plagued by knee problems in his first two NFL seasons.

Thin secondaries have costed the Ravens playoff games and trips to the playoffs in recent seasons, and this move shows that the Ravens don’t want to see that happen again.

What to expect next? It will be very interesting to see what happens with Jeremy Maclin. Maclin finished 2017 with career-lows in catches (40), reception yards (440), and yards-per-reception (11). The Ravens can save $5 million by cutting Maclin before the June 1 deadline, but Baltimore is very thin at receiver. Mike Wallace will test free agency, and made it clear that he wants to sign with a contender.

This morning, Allen Robinson agreed to a deal with the Bears, and Sammy Watkins signed with the Chiefs. The Ravens have been linked to names like Donte Moncrief and Tavon Austin, but both receivers finished 2017 with totals lower than Maclin’s. The Ravens are backed into a corner at receiver. Maclin’s year in Baltimore was a dud, but the Ravens may be feeling the pressure to hold onto him.

Image Credits: Russell Street Report, Baltimore Ravens, Ravens Wire

Ravens release Lardarius Webb

OWINGS MILLS — Just minutes after the Baltimore Ravens signed offensive lineman James Hurst to a four-year contract, it was announced that longtime defensive back Lardarius Webb had been cut from the team. Before the news had even been revealed to members of the media, Webb tweeted a goodbye message thanking Baltimore.

The Ravens, among the teams with the least amount of cap space in the NFL, saved $1.75 million in by cutting Webb, with $800,000 in dead money. This marks the second year in a row that the Ravens released Webb; last offseason the Ravens cut and eventually brought Webb back on a three-year, $10.5 million deal.

Prior to his release, Webb was one of the longest-tenured Ravens on Baltimore’s roster. A 2009 third-round pick, Webb started 85 games for the Ravens in nine seasons. In 127 games, Webb totaled 409 tackles, 15 interceptions (one pick-six), five sacks, and five fumble recoveries. He also played a key role on special teams as a punt and kick returner. He ran back 85 punts and 38 kicks, including one touchdown in both categories.

In 2017, Webb’s production dipped after returning to the Ravens on his new deal. He only started three games, opposed to starting all 16 games in 2016. He did see an increase in interceptions and sacks (two each in 2017 and one each in 2016), but his playing time diminished and he finished with 35 tackles after notching 59 in 2016.

Webb will be remembered as a versatile leader who overcame a lot of adversity in his career. In nine seasons, Webb suffered two ACL tears, one of which forced him to miss the entire 2012 playoff run including Super Bowl 47. Webb also sustained injuries to his back and hamstring, as well as multiple concussions. When Webb came into the NFL, his first few seasons were spent playing outside corner. Following some injuries, Webb thrived in the slot. After the 2015 season, Webb made the transition to safety and played alongside Eric Weddle. After the addition of Tony Jefferson last offseason, Webb’s time at safety declined and he served a lesser role as a slot cornerback.

Bringing Webb back last offseason was understandable, but it’s unlikely that he will return again in 2018. Webb is 32 and the Ravens possess several young corners that played over Webb in 2017, like Marlon Humphrey and Maurice Canady. Not to mention that Tavon Young will return from a torn ACL, and the Ravens will likely keep Brandon Carr after Ozzie Newsome’s comments at the NFL combine. Even with Jimmy Smith’s season-ending Achillies injury last season, Humphrey, Carr, and Canady all played over Webb, and Young’s return will only bump Webb down more. Webb is on the last legs of his career, and his cap number did not justify keeping him on a roster that has several pressing needs on offense.

Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens