Ravens Rumors

Latest On NFL, COVID-19

While the NFL and NFLPA are reportedly close to agreeing to a set of gameday protocols that would nominally attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the two sides still haven’t officially worked out an accord regarding a training camp and preseason schedule. Let’s take a look at the latest as the league and the union work through a variety of health-related issues:

  • NFLPA president J.C. Tretter recently outlined the union’s stance on a number of items, including support for a NFL/NFLPA Joint Committee of doctors-recommended 48-day training camp schedule and the elimination of the preseason (the league prefers to keep two exhibition games in place). While the NFL didn’t publicly comment on Tretter’s piece, one source called the post “very disappointing and contrary to the sense of collaboration going back to the early days of mid-March,” tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.
  • The timing of training camp and the length of the preseason remain key issues. The NFL wanted players to report for camp earlier than the CBA allows in order to fit in a longer schedule, but the union has declined to do so, per Pelissero (Twitter link).
  • The aforementioned Joint Committee recommended one-to-two preseason games, but the league is still standing firm on zero exhibition games, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Appearing on WEEI, NFLPA senior director of player affairs Don Davis questioned why two preseason games would be any safer than four. A source tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that preseason contests are likely to be used a bargaining chip.
  • Amidst the ongoing pandemic, a number of clubs have proactively announced that games will feature limited capacity seating. Of course, those teams are assuming that fans will be allowed to attend contests at all, which is far from a given at this point. So far, the Packers, Chiefs, and Ravens have each announced plans for reduced capacities.

Status Of All 15 Tagged Players Prior to July 15 Extension Deadline

The clock is ticking for tagged players to sign extensions with their teams, per the league calendar.

July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.

With less than nine days remaining until the deadline, let’s take a look at where each of the 15 tagged players stand.

Already Signed Tag

*Received transition tag (vs. franchise tag)

Haven’t Signed Tag, Won’t Hold Out

Haven’t Signed Tag, Threatening Hold Out

AFC Notes: Simmons, Newton, Ravens

Broncos safety Justin Simmons has still not signed his franchise tender, and like most players seeking new contracts, Simmons’ negotiations have been impacted in a big way by the pandemic. As a result, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post believes Simmons is more likely to play out the 2020 campaign on his $12.7MM tender than land a multi-year pact. The one caveat to that would be if Simmons is willing to give Denver a hometown discount, but there have been no real indications that he is willing to do so.

However, O’Halloran does not expect the process to be an ugly one, and he fully believes Simmons will sign his tender and report to camp if there is no new deal in place by the July 15 deadline.

Let’s take a quick trip around the AFC:

  • Much has been made of the minimal guarantee and base salary that 2015 MVP Cam Newton stands to earn under his new one-year pact with the Patriots. 49ers CB Richard Sherman took to Twitter to express his outrage over the deal, calling it “disgusting” that a player like Newton would have to settle for such chump change (and ignoring the myriad injury concerns that led to the contract). But Newton himself, in his first public comments about the financial details (via Instagram), said simply “[t]his is not about money for me. It’s about respect.” A productive season in Foxborough would lead to Newton’s market rebounding in a big way in 2021, though the Pats may be inclined to use the franchise tag on him if that happens.
  • The Ravens lost future Hall-of-Fame RG Marshal Yanda to retirement this offseason, and though the club has a number of young players who could replace him, the pandemic will likely give veterans a leg up over less experienced talents. As such, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic expects D.J. Fluker to win the starting right guard gig, while 2019 left guard Bradley Bozeman is the clear favorite to reprise his role in 2020.
  • In the same piece linked above, Zrebiec notes that the Ravens, who recently cut veteran LB Jake Ryan, did so because both sides realized that Ryan — who has only played in two games since 2017 — still wasn’t healthy and wouldn’t have enough time to get healthy and learn the team’s defense.
  • In case you missed it, Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue may be prepared to sit out the entire 2020 season if he does not get traded.

This Date In Transactions History: Ravens’ Ed Reed Signs Record Deal

In his prime, few players were more fearsome than safety Ed Reed. On this date in 2006, the Ravens rewarded Reed with a six-year, $40MM contract, making him the highest-paid player at his position in league history. 

The previous league-leading deal for safeties belonged to Adam Archuleta, who inked a six-year, $30MM deal with the Redskins in March of ’06. Reed blew past him on a rocket ship, and for good reason.

Reed became a starter as a rookie in 2002 and quickly cemented himself as a key cog in Baltimore’s defense. He notched 21 interceptions in his first three seasons and led the league with nine picks in 2004. Although he was held back by an ankle injury in 2005, the Ravens saw a Reed as a multiple-time Pro Bowler who was ready to get back to his old form.

It was his time,” GM Ozzie Newsome said. “He has earned the contract.

Indeed, the Ravens were right. Reed came back in a big way in ’06 as he started in every game and tallied five picks, plus two in the postseason. He earned Pro Bowl nods in every season from 2006 through 2012 and picked up four First-Team All-Pro nods in that span.

Reed earned his first ring in the Super Bowl following the 2012 season and notched his ninth career postseason interception in the big game. Although he was still productive, Reed and the Ravens went their separate ways in the offseason. Reed signed a three-year, $15MM deal with the Texans, but that deal was terminated midway through the ’13 campaign. He reunited with Rex Ryan by signing with the Jets, but he was unable to turn back the clock. After sitting out the 2014 season, Reed signed a one-day contract with Baltimore so that he could retire a Raven.

Reed’s final season on the field was forgettable, but the extension he signed with the Ravens in 2006 proved to be a win-win for both sides. Reed cashed in and gained financial security in a violent sport, and the Ravens got elite level production out of him for the majority of the deal.

Harbaugh Optimistic On Extensions

  • The Ravens have several standouts either in contract years (Matt Judon, Ronnie Stanley), extension-eligible now (Marlon Humphrey) or set to become free to negotiate in 2021 (Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews). John Harbaugh is optimistic the team will be able to keep some key players, even as the threat of a reduced 2021 salary cap looms. “We’ll keep as many guys as we can,” Harbaugh said, via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required). “I’m very optimistic about the fact that we have a good cap situation going forward. We have not been in good cap shape for the last six years or so. Really, seven years. Every year, we’ve been behind the eight ball with the cap. That’s just the way it was. This year was a little better, and next year will be a lot better.”

Antonio Brown Off Ravens’ Radar?

After an unusually quiet Antonio Brown stretch, the high-profile free agent has begun to resurface. He expects to learn his NFL suspension outcome soon and have a new team, and the Seahawks and Ravens have been linked to the mercurial superstar.

A report Tuesday indicated the Ravens were engaging in internal discussions on the ex-Steeler standout, but veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweets that is not the case. The Ravens are not earnestly considering Brown, Anderson adds.

Antonio’s cousin, Marquise Brown, resides as Baltimore’s No. 1 wide receiver. But the team is still fairly light on wideout depth. However, that may be partially by design, with the Ravens operating the NFL’s run-heaviest attack. Hollywood Brown and Willie Snead are the defending AFC North champions’ best-known wideouts. Antonio Brown may not be an especially content performer in Baltimore’s offense, and Brown has certainly been known to voice frustration over the past year and change.

Lamar Jackson would be in favor of his team taking a gamble on Antonio Brown. The two worked out together earlier this offseason. But the four-time All-Pro will almost certainly begin the season with a suspension due to the off-field trouble in which he’s been involved. The Ravens may well end up sticking with their status quo.

The Seahawks have been the other team connected to Brown recently, and Russell Wilson has long made his pro-Brown-to-Seattle view known. For now, though, the soon-to-be 32-year-old wideout remains unattached — as he’s been since the Patriots released him after his first wave of off-field issues surfaced last September.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens To Keep All 4 Top RBs

The Ravens have an uncommonly deep group of running backs. That’s a “good problem,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman says, an indication that they won’t trade from their surplus of talent. 

I love good problems,” Roman said (video via team website). “I think I’ve learned over the years, if you got good problems, bring ’em this way. And I say that unabashedly. Talented, hardworking players that love football, bring ’em on….We’ll find ways to make it work, for sure. To have that kind of backfield is a blessing.”

The Ravens bolstered their backfield in April by selecting Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins in the second round. He’ll join Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, and Mark Ingram, who delivered his third 1,000-yard season in 2019. The 30-year-old averaged 4.5 yards per carry across eight seasons with the Saints, he took things to a new level last year offense, setting a new career watermark with 5.0 ypc. This year, he’ll look to continue the upward trend while teaching the younger Dobbins the finer points of pass blocking.

Other RB-needy teams will have to look elsewhere for help, perhaps by getting in touch with Devonta Freeman, who remains available after rejecting a one-year, $3MM deal from the Seahawks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens’ Matt Skura Ahead Of Schedule In Recovery

Center Matt Skura has made a “remarkable” recovery from his knee injury, according to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). With rave reviews for his conditioning test and other exams, Skura seems on course for the 2020 season. 

[RELATED: Ravens On Jamal Adams’ Trade List]

The Ravens haven’t put a timetable on Skura’s full recovery, but the hope is that he’ll be ready to go by the start of training camp. There, he’ll compete with last year’s fill-in Patrick Mekari and possibly Bradley Bozeman, if they try the guard out at center.

Skura suffered a devastating knee injury towards the end of season, rupturing his ACL, PCL, and MCL. Before that, the 27-year-old was extremely durable. In 2018, he never missed a game or even a single snap.

After Ryan Jensen‘s departure, Skura graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 ranked center in the league. Up until the injury, he was likely on course for a deal that would make him one of the league’s higher-paid centers. Now, he’ll have to duke it out for his first-string gig. The Ravens, meanwhile, will likely stand pat at the position now that Skura is back.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs, 49ers, Cowboys Among Teams On Jamal Adams’ Preferred Destination List

Jamal Adams has made an official trade request, and although the Jets have yet to grant it, the All-Pro safety has formed a list of teams he would be fine with joining.

Both of the Super Bowl LIV participants — the Chiefs and 49ers — headline the list. The Cowboys — who submitted an offer for Adams last October — are also included among a seven-team contingent that features the Ravens, Eagles, Texans and Seahawks, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The Cowboys are the only team on this list that did not qualify for the playoffs last season. Adams, however, is a Texas native. Dallas offered a first-rounder and a Day 3 choice for the Jets standout last year.

As of now, the Jets are not prepared to trade Adams. But the safety may be more amenable to playing the fourth year of his rookie contract with one of the seven teams on this trade wish list than he is with the Jets, who have not made the playoffs since 2010.

The Jets are taking their time on extension talks for their top player, but with Adams signed through 2021 via the fifth-year option, that is not exactly uncommon. Teams often slow-play extensions for former first-rounders because of the option, but Adams is attempting to force the issue.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Matt Judon Fine Playing On Franchise Tag

Nearly half the league used the franchise tag to keep players off the market this offseason. Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon was among the players tagged, but does not appear to be embroiled in a contentious negotiation with his team. While the tag often causes conflict, with teams restricting players from hitting the market, Judon is not sweating the designation. 

I’m pleased to be tagged,” Judon said, via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required). “I feel like only a few players get to go through this in their lifetime. As much as I want stability in the future, I’m proud of where I’m at and where I came from. … I’m pleased with how my career has been going.”

The 27-year-old defender signed his franchise tender late last month. Unless Judon files a grievance to be tagged as a defensive end, he is set to earn $15.8MM on the tag. The former fifth-round pick may well have commanded more on the market, but Judon seems content with his situation.

The Ravens have gone through some changes at linebacker over the last two years. They let edge defenders Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith walk in free agency last year, when they also did not match the Jets’ offer for C.J. Mosley. This year, Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes left Baltimore via free agency. Judon represents the constant, and the Ravens — once linked to tag-and-trade scenarios involving Judon — are not expected to deal their top edge rusher.

Judon has racked up 24.5 sacks since moving into a starting role in 2017. His 33 QB hits last season ranked fourth and were a Ravens-most since the NFL began tracking this stat in 2006. GM Eric DeCosta confirmed extension talks have begun, but details are scarce about how they’re unfolding thus far. Judon joins Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey as big-ticket Ravens extension candidates — a group Lamar Jackson will headline when he becomes eligible for an extension next year.

We’ve got 30 more days to work out a long-term contract. We’re just going to see how it goes from there,” Judon said. “I can’t speak for the organization, but as far as me, I’m happy to be a Raven. I’ve got my (Ravens) shorts on right now. I want to stay here for as long as I play, but I understand that it’s a business.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.