Ravens Rumors

Cyrus Jones Dealing With Undisclosed Issue

  • Ravens cornerback/return man Cyrus Jones has been dealing with a non-disclosed health issue, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes. Jones missed Baltimore’s offseason program, but it sounds like he will be back in time for the Ravens’ preseason slate. If so, Zreibec expects the former Patriots second-rounder to keep his job as Ravens punt returner. Jones averaged a career-best 14.4 yards per return with Baltimore last season, including a 70-yard touchdown sprint.
  • Kenneth Dixon does not appear to have as strong a chance to keep a roster spot. The fourth-year Ravens running back is behind Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill, and Zreibec is not certain the Ravens will carry four running backs this season. Even if Baltimore does keep four backs, the injury- and suspension-limited Dixon does not appear to be a lock to beat out former Texan Tyler Ervin or second-year UDFA De’Lance Turner.

Ravens Sign Miles Boykin

The Ravens’ rookies report for training camp on Wednesday and Miles Boykin will be among those in attendance. Per a club announcement, the Ravens have signed the third-round wide receiver to his rookie deal, putting a bow on their 2019 draft class. 

Boykin was dealing with a hamstring strain earlier this summer, but the hope is that he’ll be healed up for camp. The 6’4″ Notre Dame product offers tremendous size and and athleticism for the position and big things could be in store for him as one of Lamar Jackson‘s targets. Last year, Boykin set new collegiate career highs with 59 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns.

Here’s the full recap of the Ravens’ draft class, via PFR’s tracker:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Release Candidate: Ravens’ Brandon Williams

At 337 pounds, Brandon Williams has been a force on the interior for the Ravens. However, with a $14.1MM scheduled cap hit in 2019 and other options, the Ravens could consider releasing the veteran before the start of the season.

[POLL: Which 2018 Playoff Team Will Miss The Postseason?]

Williams was once among the best defensive tackles in football, but his production has slipped in recent years. Last season, Williams graded out as just the No. 33 ranked interior defender in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, a major drop off from his 2014 and 2015 form.

Moving on from Williams could open up more opportunities for Michael Pierce, who is four years younger at the age of 26. Pierce is a quality pass rusher, a stronger defender against the run, and finished out as PFF’s No. 5 ranked DT in 2018. There’s also fifth-round rookie Daylon Mack to consider. The Texas A&M product is undeniably green, but he has a lot of potential as a run stuffing nose tackle.

Historically, the Ravens haven’t been big on using the post June 1 designation for release, but employing that with Williams would save them $6.25MM for the coming season.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Matt Judon's Contract Year

  • The contract Ravens outside ‘backer Matt Judon will likely focus on most in terms of establishing his value is likely Za’Darius Smith‘s Packers deal, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Judon’s 19 sacks in three seasons are more than Smith’s 18.5-sack total in four, the the latter parlayed his impressive contract year into a four-year, $66MM deal. It is not yet known if the Ravens and Judon have begun extension discussions, but both he and third-year inside linebacker starter Patrick Onwuasor are due for 2020 free agency.

NFL Supplemental Draft Order

The NFL’s Supplemental Draft order does not go by the inverted win/loss records of clubs. Instead, the order is dictated by a weighted lottery that uses a team’s win percentage as just part of the equation. Here, via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) is the complete order of the supplemental draft:

1. Lions
2. Broncos
3. Jets
4. Cardinals
5. Giants
6. Bills
7. Raiders
8. 49ers
9. Jaguars
10. Packers
11. Bengals
12. Bucs
13. Falcons
14. Vikings
15. Redskins
16. Titans
17. Dolphins
18. Steelers
19. Panthers
20. Browns
21. Ravens
22. Patriots
23.Cowboys
24. Seahawks
25. Eagles
26. Texans
27. Bears
28. Colts
29. Saints
30. Chiefs
31. Chargers
32. Rams

The supplemental draft is conducted via email. If multiple teams submit a pick for the same player in the same round, this order dictates which club gets the player. Of course, any team picking a player in the supplemental draft will sacrifice the corresponding pick in the 2020 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which 2018 Playoff Team Will Miss The Postseason?

It happens every year. A handful of top-tier teams will inevitably miss the playoffs. In 2018, a staggering seven teams who made the postseason in 2017 missed it the following season. So which of the 2018 playoff squads will underperform and miss the tournament in 2019?

The Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl champions, haven’t missed the postseason since 2008, when Tom Brady missed most of the season with an injury. The team has also produced double-digit wins in every campaign since 2002. Though they seem like a lock to extend that streak, the aforementioned Brady isn’t getting any younger, Rob Gronkowski retired following 2018 and the team’s defensive coaching staff is being headed by head coach Bill Belichick after the departure of Brian Flores to Miami and a deal with Greg Schiano fell through. Though the AFC East is perennially one of the worst in football, the Bills, Dolphins and Jets all have young quarterbacks who could take the next step and challenge New England in 2019. 

The Ravens surprised in 2018, using an opportunistic defense and an unorthodox rookie signal-caller in Lamar Jackson to roll to a 10-6 record and a spot in the postseason. With an offseason to build the offense around its young quarterback, the Ravens could take another step in 2019. Or they could take a step back as opposing defenses catch onto the team’s run-heavy schemes. The Steelers are also due for a bounce back and the Browns have overhauled their roster in recent years to make a push not only for the playoffs, but for a Super Bowl run.

The Texans, the AFC South division champions, and the Colts, a Wild Card squad, have squads loaded with young talent. Houston boasts a loaded offense behind Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, and a strong defensive unit led by J.J. Watt. The Colts caught fire down the stretch, winning nine of their final 10 games to advance to the postseason. The team also fields the reigning Comeback Player of the Year (Andrew Luck) and Defensive Rookie of the Year (Darius Leonard). Though both teams should be strong again in 2019, only one can win the division, leaving the other to compete for one of the two Wild Card spots.

A pair of Super Bowl favorites, the Chiefs and Chargers both won 12 games in 2018 and are stacked with talent to inflate that number in 2019. Though the field the league’s MVP in Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have had a tumultuous last few months that has seen the departure of running back Kareem Hunt and legal troubles for Tyreek Hill. Though stacked on both sides of the ball, the Chargers have posted just one double-digit win season since 2009. Again, only one squad can win the division.

In the NFC, both the Cowboys and Eagles appear to be the class of the East, with solid quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott leading the charge. Both squads field excellent defenses and have plenty of talent at the skill positions. The question in Philly, however, is if Wentz can stay healthy. An MVP candidate when on the field, Wentz has missed eight regular season games and every postseason outing in the last two seasons. Though a strong unit in 2018, the Cowboys defensive front is not a deep one after Demarcus Lawrence and could be the weak link in 2019.

The Bears improved from a 5-11 squad in 2017 to a 12-win team in 2018. With a young quarterback at the helm and a loaded defense, Chicago is in good position for another division crown. However, how much will the team miss defensive coordinator Vic Fangio? The new Broncos head coach oversaw a unit that allowed the fewest points and third-fewest yards in the NFL. Chicago also plays in a strong division that features a Vikings squad poised to bounce back and an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team.

In 2017, the NFC South placed three teams in the playoffs. In 2018, only the Saints escaped the tough division. Atlanta and Carolina look ready to challenge for a postseason berth and a Bruce Arians-led Bucs squad could surprise. New Orleans is sure to be a Super Bowl favorite, but a tough division could see them underperform a hair and miss the tournament.

The NFC representatives in Super Bowl LIII, the Rams are still led by Sean McVay, a high-powered offense and a stout defensive front. The question with Los Angeles is an easy one, however, how will Todd Gurley fare in 2019? The NFL leader in touchdowns in each of the past two season, Gurley was a non-factor in the postseason and his health is a mystery. The Seahawks returned to the postseason following a one-year hiatus but can they do it again in 2019? The teams has to replace Russell Wilson‘s top target in Doug Baldwin, who retired in the offseason. How quickly DK Metcalf assimilates into that offense could determine Seattle’s postseason fate.

If you had to plant your flag on one of these teams missing the 2019 playoffs, which one would it be? Vote in the poll and give us your reasoning in the comments.

Revisiting The 2018 Free Agent WR Class

The 2018 free agent class of wide receivers reshaped the market in a number of ways and set the table for lucrative extensions for players like Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs. But even allowing for the premium that teams often have to pay in the first wave of free agency, the size of the contracts that the 2018 FA wideouts landed raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the league. As we look ahead to Year 2 of some of those contracts, let’s examine the early returns.

Sammy Watkins‘ three-year, $48MM deal with the Chiefs topped the class in terms of total value, average annual value, and guaranteed money at signing ($30MM). And while his talent certainly merited that type of payday, his injury history was a concern, as he had missed 10 games over the prior three seasons. He ended up missing six games during his first year in Kansas City due to a foot injury, though he did manage to suit up for both of the club’s postseason contests. His raw numbers obviously don’t look too impressive as a result of the missed time, but he did rank fifth among all qualified wideouts in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, meaning he was very valuable on a per-play basis. He also tallied 10 catches for 176 yards during the Chiefs’ two playoff games, and while injury problems may always plague him, he continues to be a factor whenever he’s on the field. KC is likely not regretting Watkins’ deal at this point.

The Bears doubled up at wide receiver by signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel last March, which allowed them to part ways with Cameron Meredith. Chicago brought in Robinson on a three-year, $42MM pact, even though he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 season and had only posted one elite season in his career (which came back in 2015). And after his first year with the Bears, Robinson is still looking for his second 1,000-yard campaign.

There is some reason to hope that he can get there, especially with a fully-healthy offseason and a year of building chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky under his belt. A-Rob played in just 13 regular season games last season but was targeted 94 times, and he was brilliant in the Bears’ lone playoff game, posting 10 catches for 143 yards and a score. Football Outsiders’ metrics didn’t love him, but Pro Football Focus assigned him an above-average grade that made him the 28th-best WR in the league. He may not have quite lived up to expectations, but there is still time for him to get there.

Chicago signed Gabriel to a four-year, $26MM deal in the hopes that he could become a big-play threat for Trubisky. But while Gabriel played in all 16 games for the club and saw 93 targets, he managed a fairly modest 10.3 yards-per-reception and two touchdowns. Advanced metrics weren’t overly fond of his work either, and he will be hoping for a bounce-back year in 2019.

It’s still too early to evaluate some of the other significant contracts given to 2018 wide receivers, because the signees saw their seasons derailed by injury. Marqise Lee, who re-upped with the Jaguars on a four-year, $34MM deal, missed the entire 2018 season due to a preseason knee injury, and he is not expected to be back until the end of this year’s training camp. The Dolphins were thinking highly of their three-year, $24MM accord with Albert Wilson, who was performing well for Miami until he landed on IR in October with a serious hip injury. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 regular season, but he may not see the field until then.

Likewise, Paul Richardson showed flashes in the first year of the five-year, $40MM contract he signed with the Redskins last March, but he landed on IR in November with a shoulder injury.

But at least the aforementioned players are still on their respective teams. Michael Crabtree signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Ravens after being cut by the Raiders, but he disappeared from Baltimore’s offense when Lamar Jackson became the starter, and Baltimore sent him packing in February (as of this writing, there has been no reported interest in his services). And Donte Moncrief signed a one-year contract for a surprising $9.6MM with the Jaguars, but his mostly disappointing performance in Jacksonville had him searching for a new team this offseason. He ultimately caught on with the Steelers.

All in all, then, the 2018 class of free agent wideouts was a mixed bag. None of the contracts those players signed look like a home run at this point, and while that could change in 2019, those who were surprised by the amount of money thrown at WRs last March were right to be a little skeptical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Marcus Simms Works Out For Teams

Former West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms worked out for half of the NFL’s teams on Monday, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com. The Jaguars, Saints, Seahawks, Colts, Jets, Redskins, Chiefs, Browns, Eagles, Lions, Packers, 49ers, Vikings, Ravens, Raiders, and Falcons.

[RELATED: The 2019 NFL Supplemental Draft, So Far]

The 49ers and Vikings both sent directors of scouting while the Ravens had their personnel director on hand. The Raiders, meanwhile, had general manager Mike Mayock on hand, which may be an indicator of strong interest.

Simms’ 40-yard-dash times of 4.49, 4.45 and 4.40 seconds were strong, while his 36 inch vertical showed decent hops for the position. While he’s not considered to be as strong of a pro prospect as Washington State safety Jalen Thompson, Simms has a chance at being selected when the NFL Supplemental Draft takes place later this month.

Ravens TE Hayden Hurst Ready For Training Camp

After a June 25 post on Rotoworld.com indicated that Ravens TE Hayden Hurst was questionable for training camp due to lingering hamstring issues, NBC Sports Washington published a post of its own relaying that message. Hurst succinctly tweeted that he is not, in fact, questionable for training camp, and NBC Sports Washington updated its previous post to say that Hurst will be ready to go when the team reconvenes next month.

That is obviously welcome news for Ravens fans. Much of the attention on the Ravens’ offseason has focused upon the departure of some key defensive players, the development of second-year QB Lamar Jackson, and whether the club will regret relying so heavily on two rookies (Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin) at wide receiver. But for all of those concerns, the club could boast the best TE corps in the league — which would obviously help Jackson’s progress and take some pressure off the rookie wideouts — if Hurst can remain healthy.

Still, that’s a big “if.” Last August, Hurst underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot that cost him the first quarter of the 2018 season, and he conceded during a recent interview on 105.7 The Fan that he never felt quite right the rest of the year. Hurst was Baltimore’s first of two first-round draft choices last year, but he was decidedly overshadowed by 2018 third-rounder Mark Andrews, who enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign and who is one of the main sources of optimism for the Ravens’ offense.

Hurst also tweaked his hamstring earlier this month and was held out of an OTA as a result — which gave rise to the apparently erroneous Rotoworld post — but he was a full participant in minicamp and expects to make a big jump in Year 2. In addition to being a smooth route runner with excellent hands, Hurst is a strong blocker, which will be essential to the Ravens’ run-heavy attack. He says he has added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, which should bolster his blocking abilities without detracting from his receiving talents.

In 2018, the former Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand caught just 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore will be counting on a major improvement on those numbers in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens’ Tony Jefferson On Eric Weddle’s Departure, Earl Thomas’ Arrival

Tony Jefferson joined up with the Ravens on a four-year, $34MM contract in 2017, making him one of the league’s highest-paid safeties at the time. While he’s been solid for Baltimore, he has yet to reprise the 2016 performance in which he finished out as the No. 5 ranked safety in the NFL, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. 

This week, Jefferson sat down with Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic to discuss what’s in store for him and the new-look Ravens defense. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

On whether the Ravens have yet to see the best of him:

Oh, yeah, 100 percent. I’ve yet to play my best ball. I think it’s ahead of me, and I believe in my heart that this year will be one of the better years of my career. I’m comfortable and in a system I believe in. Obviously, I had some learning curves my first year here. The more comfortable I get, the faster I can play, the more I can be myself. … I’ve gotten an opportunity to learn from Eric Weddle for two years. Understanding concepts and things like that. I think it’s going to allow me to play faster.

On his reaction when Weddle told him he was being let go:

It still hurts to this day. I miss him each and every day. I don’t think we’ve gone a day without talking. That’s my brother right there. I’m used to being with him in the mornings every day working out, being the first ones here. Just me being around him, I’ve just carried on that tradition. That’s leadership on its own, just doing simple stuff like that. I’ve learned a lot from him. I just soaked it in.

On his early impressions of Earl Thomas:

He’s cool, a very instinctive guy on the field. I’ve gotten to talk ball with him a little bit. We both have been kind of doing the same thing. He’s still not taking it 100 percent because he’s still recovering. We’ve been in the training room together a little bit, so we’ve gotten to chitchat. He’s a very smart, instinctive football player. We’re going to play to each other’s strengths. I think we both kind of play the same. We go 100 miles an hour: react and go. That’s kind of our deal. But like I said, I think his instincts are what separates him from a lot of players, being able to dissect plays and stuff like that.

On his approach to recruiting free agents to the Ravens:

I’ve been doing this recruiting thing for a while….I’ve always been a kid who keeps it real with them. And it is what it is from there. I don’t try to sugarcoat anything.

The first thing I tell them is that it’s a family here. Like right now, I have my son here with me. It’s really like that. If you need anything, they are here for you, at your disposal. For any player, I think the first thing you want to hear is people around the building are real with you. That’s just how it is. That was the first thing that jumped out when I first got here. Everybody is welcoming, from the cafeteria to upstairs to wherever. That’s the first thing I always tried to tell people.

As far as the community, that speaks for itself, too. It’s Charm City. People are loving around here. They are accepting, and they love Ravens football. If you’re really into it, if you really love football, if you really want to play real defense, I think it speaks for itself. You know where to go. That’s really all I say. If you don’t choose it, you’re probably looking for more money, or you’re looking for something else.

But if you want to play real football and real defense, especially in December and in this division, you look at no other place but here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.