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

Facing depth concerns on offensive line, Ravens bring back Jeremy Zuttah

OWINGS MILLS, MD — Since the beginning of training camp, three Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman got lost for the season either due to injury (Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa) or retirement (John Urschel). On Friday, the team made up for some of those losses by signing free agent center Jeremy Zuttah.

The deal, according to NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport, spans over two years for $6 million.

Zuttah, 31, played the last three seasons with the Ravens, starting at center when healthy. Following a disappointing season, the Ravens traded Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers in March for a sixth-round pick. That draft pick got used on Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark. On Aug. 9, two days before their first preseason game, the 49ers released Zuttah. He reportedly drew interest from both the Ravens and Colts. Ultimately, the Ravens won the bid and helped an offensive line that faces serious depth concerns.

Zuttah made his first Pro Bowl in nine seasons in 2016, but that transpired after several offensive lineman elected not to play in the game. 2016 was not a solid season for Zuttah. He committed multiple holding penalties in critical spots against the Raiders and Cowboys last season. He also allowed three sacks.

The Ravens traded Zuttah before the draft, and waited until the fourth round to address the offensive line. Baltimore feels good about 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen to take over the starting job at center. If the coaching staff sticks to that plan, Zuttah will either back up Jensen or play left guard. The coaches could also elect for Zuttah and Jensen to play their natural positions; Jensen at left guard and Zuttah at center.

This move needed to occur. 2016 first round pick Ronnie Stanley missed practice this week with an undisclosed injury. Marshal Yanda has yet to play in a preseason game after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. Austin Howard got some playing time on Thursday night against the Dolphins, but he still needs time to get acclimated with the offense after getting signed two weeks ago.

In the second preseason game against the Dolphins, the Ravens’ starting offensive line featured three undrafted players – James Hurst, Matt Skura and Jarrod Pughsley. Starting running backs Terrance West and Danny Woodhead combined for zero yards from scrimmage on seven carries. Not good.

Hearing Zuttah’s name may cause some Ravens fans to sigh, but his addition brings an upgrade to what the team currently possesses along the offensive line. Head Coach John Harbaugh provided no timetable for Stanley’s return to practice. The coaching staff is bringing Yanda along slowly. Not to mention that quarterback Joe Flacco has yet to practice in training camp due to a back injury. No one knows when Flacco will return.

The Ravens need to protect their franchise quarterback now more than ever. Losing three offensive lineman in training camp so far makes for a scary situation. Zuttah may not provide a long-term answer, but he owns 117 career starts. Zuttah knows the Ravens’ offense. The addition of senior offensive assistant Greg Roman brings a learning curve for Zuttah, but the regular season does not start for another three weeks.

The Ravens cannot afford any more injuries on the offensive line. However, if more injuries occur, the depth at the position upgraded with the addition of Zuttah.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun