Podcast: WBAL’s Pete Gilbert breaks down the latest Orioles & Ravens tidbits

Welcome to the latest edition of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On today’s episode, WBAL TV & Radio Sportscaster Pete Gilbert joins Jake McDonnell for a mid-June discussion on the Orioles and Ravens.

The Orioles just took two of three from the Cardinals over the weekend, and are getting ready to face the defending American League Champions, the Cleveland Indians, in a four-game series this week at Camden Yards. What does the J.J. Hardy injury mean for the team? Will the pitching improve? What’s going on with the Yankees?

After some baseball talk, the conversation shifts over to football, as the Ravens wrapped up mandatory mini-camp last week. With training camp a month away, how will the Ravens address the offensive line? What needs to happen on offense for the team to compete in 2017? Who will win the middle linebacker and slot cornerback spots on defense? All of this and more on this episode.

Be sure to check out Pete’s work at WBAL, and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or SoundCloud. Thanks for listening!

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin signs two-year deal with Ravens

If you’re a Baltimore sports fan, this past weekend was not the most enjoyable.  The Orioles were swept by the Yankees and the Ravens were waiting on the edge of their seat to hear if they had landed a deal with Jeremy Maclin.

Some good news finally came on Monday as Maclin announced he had signed a two-year deal with the Ravens. Maclin received interest from multiple teams, but only the Ravens and the Buffalo Bills made serious efforts to sign him over the past few weeks.

Early last week, the receiver visited the Buffalo Bills organization before heading to Owings Mills to visit the Ravens. Many fans became worried that Maclin was more interested in Buffalo since he spent an extra day with them, and he has former teammates in the organization. Despite all of that, Maclin made his visit to Baltimore and multiple sources reported that the meeting went very well.

If there was one thing keeping fans’ hopes alive, it’s the Ravens track record with free agents. Baltimore’s free agency recruiting has become notorious in the past few seasons after landing deals with players like Steve Smith, Eric Weddle, Mike Wallace, and Tony Jefferson. It came as no surprise that all of these players helped recruit Maclin just as much as Ozzie Newsome and the front office.

Baltimore had many needs coming into this offseason and were able to address a handful of them in the early stages of free agency as well as the draft. However, the wide receiver position remained neglected. With Dennis Pitta going down with another hip injury last week, the Ravens were even more desperate for a reliable receiver as the season approaches.

It appears that they have gotten just that and possibly much more with Maclin. In seven seasons in the NFL, Maclin has accumulated 46 touchdowns and 6395 yards while playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. The 29-year-old veteran has played with a handful of quarterbacks in his career, but it should be safe to say that Joe Flacco will be the one with the strongest arm and definitely the one with the most postseason success.

Maclin joins a receiving core with very few notable names. Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman are the only two standouts, so Maclin’s presence is very exciting for fans.  In addition to reporting the Maclin signing, a few writers noted that the Ravens could still be interested in pursuing a trade with the New York Jets for Eric Decker. Former Raven Anquan Boldin has also had his name thrown around in the free agency conversation.

One thing that needs to be said is that this receiving core is still average at best. Maclin does not do anything to fix the lack of depth and there is still a level of uncertainty when it comes to the tight ends. This is definitely great news, but the Ravens would be wise to keep their eyes on the wide receiver market.

Ravens release tight end Dennis Pitta

OWINGS MILLS, MD — Dennis Pitta’s career as a Raven, and likely in the NFL, is over.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Ravens released the tight end with an injury waiver. This comes just five days after the 31-year-old suffered a third hip dislocation in four years. The injury was non-contact, and occurred in an OTA practice that was closed to the media.

No one, including Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, has addressed the media since Pitta’s injury, but after practice on Friday, General Manager Ozzie Newsome released a statement going over the sad details of Pitta’s injury:

Pitta re-negotiated his contract with the Ravens early this offseason, which included an injury waiver and a $2.5 million pay-cut over the next two seasons. By releasing Pitta with the waiver included, the Ravens will save about $2 million in cap space. No roster moved have been made since Pitta’s release, but that $2 million could help the Ravens’ chances in signing free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, or possibly Eric Decker, who the New York Jets are looking to trade or release.

Pitta came back last season after missing the entire 2015 season and the majority of the 2014 season. Despite missing all that time, he led all tight ends in the NFL with 86 receptions. He was the only tight end on the Ravens’ roster to start all 16 games, and set career highs in receptions and reception yards (729). He proved to be Joe Flacco’s favorite receiving target, finishing the season with two touchdowns and 121 targets, more than any player in Baltimore’s passing game.

Pitta finishes his career with 224 receptions for 2,098 yards and 13 touchdowns. He caught seven touchdowns in the 2012 season, and was one of the biggest weapons on the Super Bowl 47-winning offense.

With his release, Pitta is technically a free agent, but will be undergoing yet another hip surgery and long rehab process. No announcements have been made about his football career, but all are assuming that Pitta will retire after a third injury to the same hip.

Ravens add more secondary depth with Brandon Boykin signing

The Raves didn’t waste any time finding a replacement for the recently injured Tavon Young.  On Monday afternoon it was announced that Baltimore had signed two new corner backs, Brandon Boykin and Al-Hajj Shabazz.

Boykin entered the league in 2012 after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. He would end up playing just three seasons there before traveling across Pennsylvania and joining the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015. During training camp in 2016, Boykin suffered a torn pectoral muscle and was sidelined for the entire season.

The 26-year-old corner has racked up 118 tackles and eight interceptions in his career while proving himself useful in the slot. This is exactly where the Ravens would like to use Boykin after the loss of Tavon Young.

The Shabazz signing was more of a depth move as the young corner was an undrafted free agent in 2015. Since then he has bounced around multiple practice squads. While playing for the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers, Shabazz also found himself contributing on special teams but has only recorded one career tackle.

In addition to the signing of Boykin and Shabazz, the Ravens also announced that they had released corner back Kyle Arrington. The 30-year-old has had a rough time finding a role in the Ravens secondary since joining the team a few years back. After a tough 2015 campaign, Arrington suffered a concussion during a preseason game against Carolina and spent the entirety of 2016 on injured reserve. His release will create $2.1 million in cap space.

Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta re-injures hip during Friday practice

For the second straight day a Ravens player has been injured during organized team practice. This time Dennis Pitta was the one being helped off the field after suffering his third hip injury.

Pitta’s history with hip injuries is extensive and spans the course of the past four years. The tight end injured his right hip for the first time during training camp before the 2013 season. What was described as a “freak accident,” ended up sidelining Pitta for the entire season.

In 2014, Pitta was able to make a comeback but ultimately re-injured the hip during a game against the Cleveland Browns. After catching a quick check down pass from Joe Flacco, Pitta attempted to turn up field but stumbled to the ground and injured his hip without any contact.

Many people, including Pitta himself, thought that this would be the end of the tight end’s career. However, a bunch of sacrifices were made by Pitta and he was able to return to the field once again in 2016.  Not only did he start all 16 games for the first time since 2012, but Pitta also finished with a career high 86 receptions and 729 yards.

While the severity of the injury is still unknown, fans are assuming the worst. Pitta will be undergoing tests to determine the specifics. General Manager Ozzie Newsome made a statement today about the injury and expressed a great deal of sympathy for Pitta.

Whatever Pitta chooses to do from here, he will certainly have the support of fans everywhere. The 31-year-old has had to make more sacrifices than the average player just to get back on the playing field. There will always be “what if?” questions regarding his time missed in the past but Pitta has still cemented himself as one of the most memorable and important Ravens of all time. His role in the 2012 super bowl victory stands out along with his exceptional comeback performance last season.

Tavon Young expected to miss 2017 season after tearing ACL

Ravens second-year cornerback Tavon Young tore his ACL on Thursday according to team officials.

Midway through Thursday’s practice, Young intercepted a pass before bumping into a fellow defensive player and then collapsing on the field. Team trainers helped Young off the field as he avoided putting weight on the injured leg.

“There wasn’t much contact at all,” said head coach John Harbaugh during a press conference Thursday afternoon. With that being said, fans have seen a handful of Ravens players tear their ACL over the past few seasons, many occurring without much contact. Harbaugh and others were not quick to comment on the severity of the injury but Young’s recent tweet suggests that he will be missing significant time.

Despite making a good amount of additions to the secondary this offseason, The Ravens will definitely miss Young’s presence. The cornerback really stepped up for his rookie season last year, notching 41 tackles and two interceptions in 11 games. Going into this season Young was expected to step into a more permanent role at nickleback but the ravens will now have to replace him. Lardarius Webb and Maurice Canady are two names that come up next in the depth chart.

 

Podcast: Luke Jones of WNST.net on the Orioles recent struggles and Ravens OTA’s

On the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch podcast, Orioles and Ravens beat writer Luke Jones of WNST.net joins Jake to talk about the recent struggles of the Orioles, as well as the Ravens’ organized team activities.

How much of a concern is the Orioles’ pitching staff? What can we make of Chris Davis’s several strikeouts, and the struggles of Manny Machado? What will the Ravens do to address their offensive line and wide receiving core? All of this and more on this episode of the podcast.

Be sure to follow Luke on Twitter and check out his work at WNST.net.

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