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

Ravens sign James Hurst to four year deal

Just hours before free agency talks can begin, The Baltimore Ravens announced that they had re-signed left guard, James Hurst to a four-year deal worth $17.5 million.

With Hurst set to hit the open market this week, the Ravens saw an opportunity to bring their left guard back on a friendly deal. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has reported that Hurst will receive $8 million guaranteed.

Due to injuries and loses in free agency, the Ravens moved Hurst from left tackle to left guard in 2017. The former undrafted free agent would end up starting all 16 games for the first time in his career while playing a new position.

Hurst is far from one of the best lineman in the league but his stability has been of great value to the Ravens so far. Since joining the league in 2014, Hurst has been available for all 64 games of his career. Despite being graded outside the top 50 at the guard position by Pro Football Focus, the Ravens could always use a durable lineman.

Fellow offensive lineman, Ryan Jensen will start receiving calls from other teams today as he prepares to hit the open market later this week. There are many needs on this Ravens team but solidifying the line is always a safe option. With no concrete depth behind Jensen the Ravens would likely try to make a serious run at retaining him but his breakout year in 2017 could command a larger payday elsewhere.

Image credit: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

Ben Watson receives Ed Block Courage Award at 40th annual gala

The 40th annual Ed Block Courage Awards were held on Saturday night at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Baltimore. Players from all 32 NFL teams were nominated by their teammates to receive this award that honors those with great courage when overcoming adversity.

Not all 32 winners could be in attendance for Saturday’s annual ceremony but those who did make the trip were welcomed by a large group of friends, family and fans for a day of celebration. Some of the days festivities included a silent auction and an autograph session with this years class of award winners.

The highlight of the evening though was when all the recipients took the stage and officially received their awards. The large audience in attendance gave many standing ovations to the players who have sacrificed so much just to be where they are today.

Ravens tight end Ben Watson is one of those players. After being signed by Baltimore in 2016, Watson was eagerly looking forward to the challenges that come with playing for a new team. The 37-year-old has been in the league for 14 years with four different teams but what he experienced in the Ravens third preseason game of 2016 would change his career in a matter of seconds.

Watson lined up with the offense for the very first snap of the Ravens preseason game against the Detroit Lions. With the pressure of trying to impress a brand new group of teammates, coaches and fans, Watson pushed off the line ready to make in impact. Instead of sprinting down the field for his route, the tight end collapsed to the turf and had to be helped off the field. During his acceptance speech on Saturday, Watson says he knew exactly what had happened as soon as he hit the ground; a torn Achilles.

“Tearing my Achilles and not being able to play the first year in Baltimore with such expectations for myself was very difficult,” said Watson. “But I am honored to be a part of this organization and for them to vote for me for this award is really humbling.”

As an aging player in a young mans league Watson was working against many forces when he made his eventual comeback but in 2017 all of that hard work paid off and the veteran tight end was able to make a big impact on the Ravens offense. Watson led the team in receptions and finished second in receiving yards while being a reliable target for quarterback Joe Flacco.

“My goal this year was to just make it on the field,” said Watson. “Then continuing to be able to contribute to the team and stay relatively healthy was definitely a blessing.”

Making that comeback in 2017 was extremely important for Watson but he will be remembered long after the game is over for his efforts off the field. Like many other players in attendance on Saturday, Watson has been a very active member of his community and continues to go above and beyond to help those around him. In 2008 Watson and his wife Kirsten started the One More Foundation, which has allowed them to help others by meeting real needs, promoting education, and providing enrichment opportunities through charitable initiatives. These efforts were recognized not long ago when Watson was named one of the finalists for the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Before joining the Ravens, Watson was known around the league as a very vocal and passionate voice. He has appeared on national news multiple times to discuss political issues that are important to him and continues to do so today. Over the past few years more professional athletes have taken a stand for a variety of issues they believe in, often sparking a debate in the process.

With phrases like “stick to sports” and “shut up and dribble” being thrown toward these players, veterans like Watson have kept their head down and continued to lead by example in a divisive climate.

“Although your occupation is to play football, that doesn’t define totally who you are,” said Watson. “These guys are husbands, fathers, voters, citizens and more importantly they are Americans.” The Ravens tight end went on to say that his fellow players all have a voice and opinions that are unique to them. “I encourage these young guys to be the best player that you can be because that is your occupation, but also find something else that you are passionate about and be willing to stand for that.”

You can listen to the full audio of our interview with Ben Watson here: 

Image Credit: Nolan McGraw / Charm City Bird Watch

Ravens re-sign defensive end Brent Urban to one-year deal

OWINGS MILLS, MD — On Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens got a head start to the free agency period when they reached an agreement with defensive tackle Brent Urban on a new one-year contract worth up to $2.35 million, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

Urban, a 2014 fourth-round pick out of Virginia, was the only original starter from the 2017 Ravens’ defense that was scheduled to enter free agency at the start of the new league year. During the Ravens’ week 3 defeat against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, Urban suffered a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury that abruptly ended a promising year. Urban flashed throughout the 2017 preseason and solidified a starting spot to take over for Lawrence Guy, now with the Patriots.

In his first four NFL seasons, Urban has suffered a torn ACL, a torn biceps, and the Lisfranc injury. The ailments have forced Urban to miss 39 combined games, more than the amount of contests Urban has actually played in to-date, 25. In that limited action, Urban recorded 16 tackles, three sacks, and three passes defensed. He also blocked two field goals, including one against Cleveland in 2015 that turned into a game-winning return by safety Will Hill.

It’s hard to determine how significant of a signing this is, because the Ravens have not gotten any significant production out of Urban since the team drafted him. However, when healthy, Urban proved his ability to make plays and force defenses to game-plan around him. This is a cheap “prove it” signing that awards Urban another chance to prove himself before potentially hitting the market in 2019. The Ravens knew that due to Urban’s injury history, there would not be a lot of demand for him. Now they have a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing if Urban can stay on the field.

After the news broke, Urban took to Twitter to express his gratitude for another opportunity with the team that brought him into the NFL.

Image Credit: NFL.com

Maryland bounced from Big Ten tournament early after 59-54 loss to Wisconsin

Coming off of an embarrassing loss to Michigan on senior day, the Maryland Terrapins were tasked with winning four games in four consecutive days if they wanted to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the fourth year in a row.

As the #9 seed in the Big Ten, Maryland was set to face off against Wisconsin on Thursday. When these teams met earlier in the year, the Terps were able to walk away with a 68-63 win. The Terps looked to do the same on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Mark Turgeon’s team played with a lot of energy and speed for almost the entire forty minutes but in the end, the Badgers picked up the crucial baskets in crunch time to secure a 59-54 win and a date with Michigan State on Friday.

Depth concerns have circled around Maryland for months now. In that time, a lot of close games have been lost by the Terps and changes clearly needed to be made if they were going to turn things around. The teams scoring leaders, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, helped with this by stepping out of the spotlight in a few games down the stretch. However, with their season on the line, the two knew they had to show up on Thursday in order to get the Terps into the next round.

Cowan and Huerter jump started the Terps offense by being involved in the teams first 16 points. Through the first 12 minutes of play, the sophomore duo either scored or assisted every Maryland basket. As the game continued the two would not shy away from their leadership roles. Cowan scored 16 and was dominate in transition, helping to keep the Terps on pace with the Badgers. Huerter led the team with 20 points while shooting 8-15 from the field.

To give you an idea of what kind of game this was, consider this. Both teams combined to make just five three pointers in the entire game but didn’t seem too concerned with that. Transition play and rebounding were the real keys to each teams success. As expected, Ethan Happ gave Maryland some trouble under the basket. The junior forward led the Badgers with 14 points and seven rebounds.

After holding a 28-26 advantage at halftime, the Badgers were able to hold on to their lead by getting to the foul line. Wisconsin went 20-24 at the line while the Terps only had nine opportunities for free points. Throw in a 12-7 turnover disadvantage and you can see what led to the Terps downfall.

Despite this, Maryland was right in the game right up until the final seconds expired off the clock. With under 10 seconds to play, Huerter tried driving to the rim for the tying score but ended up getting fouled in the process. The Terps needed him to sink two but an extended stoppage in play before the shot attempts seemed to bother Huerter as he missed the front half of the free throws.

The Badgers spent a lot of time changing player positions in the paint prior to the free throw attempts and the refs allowed them to do so while Huerter was forced to stand their and wait. Before taking the first shot, cameras showed the sophomore clapping and asking the ref for the ball with a frustrated look on his face.

After this miss, the Badgers were able to sink their free throws and take a three-point lead before forcing a turnover and putting the game on ice. This marks the fourth time in the past eight years that the Terps have missed the NCAA tournament. They have also only made the NIT once under Mark Turgeon. Their future is still up in the air after failing to finish above .500 in conference play and then making an early exit from the Big Ten tourney.

We will be here for any potential games left this season for the Maryland Terrapins. Thank you for reading and following the team with us. Lets hope for a more exciting and injury free season in 2018-19.

Image credit: Mary Altaffer / AP