2014 NFL Offseason: Baltimore Ravens


Baltimore Ravens (Last Year: 8-8)



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2014 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Justin Forsett, WR Steve Smith, TE Owen Daniels, C Jeremy Zuttah, S Darian Stewart.
Early Draft Picks:
ILB C.J. Mosley, NT Timmy Jernigan, S Terrence Brooks, TE Crockett Gilmore, DE/DT Brent Urban, RB Lorenzo Taliaferro. Ravens Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
FB Vonta Leach, WR Tandon Smith, TE Ed Dickson, OT Michael Oher, DE/DT Arthur Jones, ILB Jameel McClain, CB Corey Graham, S James Ihedigbo.

2014 Baltimore Ravens Offense:
The Ravens were a complete mess offensively this past season, scoring 19 or fewer points in eight games. They managed to post more than 22 points only four times, and one occasion was the opener in which they got some garbage touchdowns in the fourth quarter. There were a number of reasons why Baltimore struggled to light up the scoreboard, and there’s not much cause for optimism that the team will get those issues fixed.

Ray Rice was atrocious this past season. He has been a terrific player for a number of seasons, even helping the franchise claim its second Super Bowl, but he saw his yards-per-carry average drop from 4.4 to 3.1. He didn’t have much help from the offensive line, but his yards-per-reception figure was also down from 7.8 to 5.5, so Rice was mostly responsible for his own sluggishness. He just seemed to lack burst, probably because he shouldered such a great workload from 2009 to 2012. Unfortunately for Baltimore, it’s not looking like he’ll rebound, given that he’ll be suspended for that infamous video that captured him dragging his wife through a hotel.

Bernard Pierce will be more involved on offense, but his numbers were down last year for a couple of reasons. First, he had a nagging shoulder injury that hampered him in 2013, but he’s still dealing with it. He won’t be available for any of the OTAs, though there’s a chance he’ll be ready for the preseason. Second, the offensive line simply couldn’t block for him. It was expected that Baltimore would make a couple of upgrades up front, but that didn’t exactly happen.

The one positive move the Ravens pulled off was signing Jeremy Zuttah away from Tampa Bay. Zuttah is a pretty average blocker, but he’ll be much better than what Baltimore had at center this past season. Gino Gradkowski was horrific at the position, so Zuttah will be a massive upgrade. He’ll be flanked by Marshal Yanda, one of the better guards in the NFL, and Kelechi Osemele, who missed the second half of the 2013 campaign with a back injury.

While Zuttah has been welcomed in, the Ravens let right tackle Michael Oher walk. Oher began his career well, but never improved. He actually got a bit worse, as he wasn’t very good the past couple of seasons. However, the dropoff between him and Ricky Wagner was quite apparent when Oher was knocked out of the opener. The game completely changed when Wagner proved completely incapable of blocking Shaun Phillips. Wagner was just a fifth-round rookie seeing the field for the first time, so perhaps he’ll improve. Regardless, he won’t be nearly as good as left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is an exceptional blocker.

In total, the offensive line will probably be about the same as it was in 2013, which is not good news for Joe Flacco, who is coming off the worst season of his career. He posted his lowest YPA ever (6.4) and threw more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time. He’ll be better in 2014, but a major improvement shouldn’t be expected because the Ravens still have the same issues. Rice lacks burst, while the offensive line is pretty pedestrian as a whole. Also, the receiving corps is pretty weak. Flacco really missed Anquan Boldin this past season, so it’s puzzling as to why Baltimore failed to obtain a big receiver this spring. Instead, all the Ravens did to find a potential upgrade across from Torrey Smith was sign Steve Smith over from Carolina. The latter Smith was completely done in 2013, so he’s unlikely to contribute much. Marlon Brown may have to keep running as the No. 2 wideout.

Flacco will at least have better tight end play this year. Dennis Pitta was out for the first 12 games of the 2013 campaign, but he was a big contributor when he returned, posting 20 receptions in four contests. Flacco will have Pitta all season, as well as Owen Daniels, who was brought over from Houston. Daniels is constantly hurt, but he’ll be an upgrade over Ed Dickson as the second tight end when he’s actually on the field.





2014 Baltimore Ravens Defense:
It was expected that Baltimore’s defense would decline severely in the wake of Ray Lewis retiring and Ed Reed leaving for Houston. It was actually the offense that fell off. The defense, on the other hand, surrendered just 0.4 points per game more than in it did in 2012. The reason for this is because general manager Ozzie Newsome did a great job of finding pieces to make sure his defense remained a strong unit.

Newsome signed over Daryl Smith from Jacksonville to be Lewis’ replacement. Smith has always been relatively unknown because he played in such a small market, but he has been one of the better 4-3 linebackers in the NFL. He transitioned into the 3-4 exceptionally. The Ravens didn’t have much next to him, however, so they used the No. 17 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. That was perceived as a good pick by the national media, but multiple teams that needed linebackers revealed that they wouldn’t have touched Mosley until the second round because they believed him to be “damaged goods.” Mosley will likely miss extensive action most seasons, but when he’s on the field, he’ll be a big upgrade over Jameel McClain.

Baltimore also brought in a pass-rusher to mitigate the loss of Paul Kruger, who signed with the Browns. Elvis Dumervil was released because of a fax error, and Newsome pounced on him quickly. It paid off, as Dumervil registered 9.5 sacks across from Terrell Suggs, who mustered 10. Suggs was awarded with a 5-year, $28.5 million contract this offseason. The problem is that Suggs will turn 32 in October, so Baltimore is paying on past performance more than anything.

The Ravens only lost one decent starter on defense this spring. That would be defensive end Arthur Jones, who signed with the Colts. Jones was a tremendous run-stuffer, so Baltimore’s rush defense will worsen unless second-rounder Timmy Jernigan can step in right away. Jernigan was fantastic in the national championship, dominating the line of scrimmage, so it’s puzzling why he fell to the second round. Regardless, he’s expected to start along with Chris Canty and Haloti Ngata, both of whom excel against the run as well.

Baltimore used its third-round selection on safety Terrence Brooks, who will replace the Detroit-bound James Ihedigbo. The current Lion performed well for the Ravens this past season, so he’ll be missed unless Brooks can shine right away. That, or Matt Elam must improve. Elam, chosen in the first round in 2013, had a disappointing rookie campaign.

Perhaps Elam can follow Jimmy Smith’s example. Smith, a 2011 first-rounder, struggled early in his career, but finally lived up to expectations this past season. He was solid across from Lardarius Webb, who is coming off an exceptional campaign. Depth, however, is lacking at corner because Baltimore lost Corey Graham to the Bills in free agency.





2014 Baltimore Ravens Schedule and Intangibles:
John Harbaugh has done a terrific job of maintaining a dominant homefield advantage during his tenure as Baltimore’s head coach. The Ravens are an outstanding 41-9 as hosts since 2008, including a perfect 9-0 back in 2011.

Justin Tucker is one of the top kickers in the NFL. He was 38-of-41 this past season, including 6-of-7 from 50-plus. Most importantly, Tucker was very clutch.

Sam Koch tied for seventh in net-punting average in 2012, but he dropped to 22nd in that department this past season. He ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of attempts placed inside the 20.

Thanks to Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss, the Ravens scored two special-teams touchdowns compared to none for their opponents.

Baltimore has a pretty easy schedule. It has just two very difficult games: Saints and Colts, both on the road. Playing at Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will also be tough. However, the Ravens get to beat up on the likes of Carolina, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Miami, Jacksonville, Houston and Cleveland twice.



2014 Baltimore Ravens Rookies:
Go here for the Ravens Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.



2014 Baltimore Ravens Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Quarterbacks
Offensive Line
Secondary
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams
Receivers
Linebackers
Coaching


2014 Baltimore Ravens Analysis: The Ravens have a decent chance to bounce back and reclaim the AFC North. However, they’ll need a few things to happen. For example, the offensive line needs to improve, and one of the young safeties has to play up to potential. Having Steve Smith and Ray Rice be not completely useless like they were in 2013 would also help.

Projection: 9-7 (2nd in AFC North)


2014 Fantasy Football Rankings


More 2014 NFL Season Previews

Follow @walterfootball for updates.



NFL Draft Individual Grades: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Ravens are 15 months removed from winning the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a lot of work to do. They have to find a new weapon for Joe Flacco, upgrade the offensive line and obtain some help for the secondary. They also need to acquire at least one new running back in the wake of Ray Rice’s off-the-field issues.

2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Ozzie Newsome typically dominates the draft, but that wasn’t the case this year. Several of his picks were questionable, including the first two. C.J. Mosley is damaged goods. We spoke to multiple teams that expected him to drop into Round 2. He didn’t even fill much of a need either. Baltimore then took Timmy Jernigan in the second round despite the fact that the other players who tested positive at the Combine slipped. Jernigan didn’t, and once again, he didn’t fill much of a need.

The Ravens then took a couple of players too early: Crockett Gilmore and Lorenzo Taliaferro. I liked some of Baltimore’s other choices, including Terrence Brooks, but where was the offensive line help? Why wasn’t a receiver drafted before the seventh round?

I’m used to Baltimore drafting well, so giving them a grade like this seems strange. Perhaps Newsome will prove me wrong, but this seems on par with the atrocious Steve Smith signing in free agency.

17. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: C Grade
I hate to question Ozzie Newsome, but I’m not a fan of this pick. Trusted sources who wouldn’t smokescreen us told us that they had C.J. Mosley in the second round because C.J. Mosley was damaged goods. We actually spoke to two teams that thought Mosley would be available in the second round. The pick makes sense for need purposes, and Mosley could pan out, but this selection has a very high bust rate.

48. Timmy Jernigan, NT, Florida State: C+ Grade
Timmy Jernigan is apparently going to play nose tackle because he makes no sense as a five-technique in Baltimore. The Ravens actually wanted to add a nose tackle to challenge Terrence Cody so they could move Haloti Ngata outside, so this does make sense as a scheme fit, despite what Todd McShay said during ESPN’s telecast. It just wasn’t expected – and I thought Jernigan would drop because of his failed drug test. We spoke to a couple of teams that took Jernigan, Zach Mettenberger and the other players who tested positive off their board. Baltimore may have been able to obtain Jernigan in the third round.

79. Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State: A- Grade
The Ravens were considering Calvin Pryor in Round 1, but passed on him. They liked Jimmie Ward, but couldn’t get him in Round 2. They finally found their safety in Round 3. Terrence Brooks could have gone toward the end of the second frame, so Baltimore is getting pretty good value while filling a need. Very good pick.

99. Crockett Gilmore, TE, Colorado State: C Grade
The Ravens would have drafted Eric Ebron if he fell to them at No. 17. I could understand that, given Ebron’s talent level. This makes less sense, however, as Crockett Gilmore could be the third tight end on the roster for a while. I know Gary Kubiak loves his tight ends, but I wish Baltimore went in a different direction. I don’t hate this pick though, as Crockett Gilmore fits the range and could see some playing time if the fragile Owen Daniels gets hurt.

134. Brent Urban, DE/DT, Virginia: B Grade
I heard that the Ravens wanted to fix their defensive line in the draft, so I’m not surprised that they’ve taken two players up front. Brent Urban was considered to be a fourth-round prospect, so he is a logical pick at this juncture.

138. Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina: C+ Grade
This is a bit earlier than I thought Lorenzo Taliaferro would go, and there are better running backs available. The Ravens are at least filling a huge need in the wake of Ray Rice’s issues.

175. John Urschel, G, Penn State: B+ Grade
The Ravens are set at guard, but they needed some depth at the position. John Urschel fits the range as a fifth-round prospect, so this is another logical choice by Ozzie Newsome.

194. Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State: B Grade
Keith Wenning was expected to go somewhere in the final two rounds. The Ravens were also expected to find a backup quarterback at some point. This is a logical choice.

218. Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest: B+ Grade
How did the Ravens not choose a receiver until this point? It was one of their biggest needs, and this was a great wideout class, yet they ignored the position. Better late than never, and I like Michael Campanaro at this point, but still.





Season Summary:
The Ravens’ post-Super Bowl season didn’t go as planned. They lost one too many veterans from their championship squad, while many players who returned were either injured or suffered through some regression. Still, Baltimore was in the playoff hunt and was just one victory away from becoming the AFC’s sixth seed.




Offseason Moves:
  • Ravens sign CB Aaron Ross
  • Panthers sign TE Ed Dickson
  • Ravens re-sign NT Terrence Cody
  • Ravens sign RB Justin Forsett
  • Ravens sign TE Owen Daniels
  • Lions sign S James Ihedigbo
  • Ravens acquire C Jeremy Zuttah from Buccaneers for 2015 late-rounder
  • Ravens sign S Darian Stewart
  • Jaguars sign WR Tandon Doss
  • Ravens sign WR Steve Smith
  • Titans sign OT Michael Oher
  • Ravens re-sign ILB Daryl Smith
  • Giants sign ILB Jameel McClain
  • Ravens re-sign S Jeromy Miles
  • Bills sign CB Corey Graham
  • Ravens re-sign WR/KR Jacoby Jones
  • Ravens re-sign OT Eugene Monroe
  • Colts sign DE/DT Arthur Jones
  • Ravens re-sign ILB Albert McClellan
  • Ravens re-sign TE Dennis Pitta
  • Ravens cut ILB Jameel McClain
  • Ravens cut FB Vonta Leach




    Team Needs:
    1. Center: Baltimore struggled mightily to run the ball in between the tackles. The primary reason for this was that Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley stunk it up at center. Jim Harbaugh definitely wished he still had Matt Birk snapping the ball. Traded for Jeremy Zuttah

    2. Wide Receiver: Anquan Boldin was another veteran who was missed. Joe Flacco struggled without his big possession receiver, so Baltimore may draft a wideout in the first couple of rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Signed Steve Smith

    3. Two Offensive Tackles: Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher are both impending free agents. Monroe will certainly be retained, but Oher was unreliable. The Ravens could spend an early draft choice on a new right tackle. Re-signed Eugene Monroe

    4. Safety: The Ravens had some issues on the back end of their stop unit. The safeties must play better next year. James Ihedigbo, an impending free agent, was a liability in coverage. Rookie Matt Elam disappointed, but he’ll just have to improve. Signed Darian Stewart

    5. Running Back: The Ravens need to add a running back because of Ray Rice’s declining skill set and legal issues. Signed Justin Forsett



    6. Inside Linebacker: Daryl Smith was great for the Ravens last year, but he’s a free agent. Jameel McClain was just released. Re-signed Daryl Smith

    7. Defensive End: Baltimore’s top defensive free agent is Arthur Jones, who is a force up front. If Ozzie Newsome can’t re-sign him, he’ll have a gaping hole on the defensive line.

    8. Tight End: Joe Flacco will want his front office to retain Dennis Pitta, who happens to be a free agent. Re-signed Dennis Pitta; signed Owen Daniels

    9. Cornerback Depth: Corey Graham will be hitting the market, so another corner should be added. Signed Aaron Ross

    10. Outside Linebacker Depth: Courtney Upshaw hasn’t progressed like the team had hoped. The Ravens may want to bring in another pass-rusher just in case either Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil goes down.

    11. Punter: Sam Koch was in the bottom 10 of net punting this past season.


      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.




    2014 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Owen Daniels, TE, Texans. Age: 31.
      Signed with Ravens

      Owen Daniels just can’t stay healthy. He has missed 26 games in the past five seasons. Given that he turns 32 in November, his career probably won’t last much longer.

    2. Aaron Ross, CB, Giants. Age: 31.
      Signed with Ravens

      Aaron Ross played just four games in 2013 because of a back injury.

    3. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers. Age: 35.
      Signed with Ravens

      Steve Smith is easily a 1.5-star player at this point in his career, but I’ll give him a write-up because he’s a big name. Simply put, Smith is done. He’ll turn 35 this spring, and he has lost his speed. He had just 745 receiving yards in 2013, failing to top 69 yards in any contest. He can also be a distraction in the locker room.

    4. Darian Stewart, S, Rams. Age: 26. — Signed with Ravens
    5. Justin Forsett, RB, Jaguars. Age: 28. — Signed with Ravens
    6. Dominique Franks, CB, Falcons. Age: 26. — Signed with Ravens



    Baltimore Ravens Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Eugene Monroe, OT, Ravens. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Ravens (5 years, $37.5 million)

      I still don’t understand why Jacksonville traded Eugene Monroe for mere fourth- and fifth-round picks. Monroe is one of the top left tackles in the NFL; he transitioned perfectly to Baltimore’s offense upon being dealt in early October. He’ll definitely be the recipient of a big contract.

    2. Arthur Jones, DE/DT, Ravens. Age: 28.
      Signed with Colts (5 years, $33 million)

      Arthur Jones is coming off an excellent 2013 campaign in which he happened to be one of the league’s best 3-4 defensive ends. He’s a monstrous run-stuffer and applies decent pressure on the quarterback.

    3. Daryl Smith, ILB, Ravens. Age: 32.
      Signed with Ravens (4 years, $16.1 million)

      Daryl Smith has always been one of the better linebackers in the NFL, but no one knew about him because he played in Jacksonville. Smith made a name for himself this year with 123 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions. The only downside with him is his age (32 in March).

    4. Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Ravens (5 years)

      Think Joe Flacco missed Dennis Pitta for most of the 2013 season? Pitta came back from a hip injury and caught 20 balls for 169 yards and a touchdown in just four games.

    5. Corey Graham, CB, Ravens. Age: 29.
      Signed with Bills (4 years, $16 million)

      Corey Graham has been solid for the Ravens the past year and a half. He should be viewed as an average starter going forward.

    6. Michael Oher, OT, Ravens. Age: 28.
      Signed with Titans (4 years, $20 million)

      Michael Oher can be a very good blocker when focused, but he often has mental lapses, hurting his team with penalties and surrendered sacks.

    7. James Ihedigbo, S, Ravens. Age: 30.
      Signed with Lions (3 years)

      James Ihedigbo, beat out rookie Matt Elam for one of the safety spots to open the 2013 season, but struggled in coverage to close out the year. He’s great in run support.

    8. Jacoby Jones, KR, Ravens. Age: 30.
      Re-signed with Ravens (4 years, $14 million)

      Jacoby Jones is an outstanding return specialist, but he proved himself incapable of being a No. 2 receiver. He’ll turn 30 in July, so that’s a negative.

    9. Terrence Cody, NT, Ravens. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Ravens

      Terrence Cody has never lived up to expectations, thanks in part to injuries. He dealt with hip and knee problems in 2013. He could always emerge to be the player most expected him to become when he came out of Alabama, but time is going to run out soon.

    10. Jameel McClain, ILB, Ravens. Age: 29. — Signed with Giants
    11. Albert McClellan (RFA), ILB, Ravens. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Ravens (2 years)
    12. Ed Dickson, TE, Ravens. Age: 27. — Signed with Panthers (1 year)
    13. Vonta Leach, FB, Ravens. Age: 32.
    14. Tandon Doss (RFA), PR, Ravens. Age: 24. — Signed with Jaguars
    15. Dallas Clark, TE, Ravens. Age: 35.
    16. Bernard Scott, RB, Ravens. Age: 30.
    17. Jeromy Miles, S, Ravens. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Ravens


    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors


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