2017 NFL Offseason: Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens (Last Year: 8-8)

2017 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Danny Woodhead, WR Jeremy Maclin, CB Brandon Carr, CB Brandon Boykin, S Tony Jefferson.
Early Draft Picks:
CB Marlon Humphrey, DE/OLB Tyus Bowser, DE/DT Chris Wormley, DE/OLB Tim Williams, G Nico Siragusa, G Jermaine Eluemunor. Ravens Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
FB Kyle Juszczyk, WR Kamar Aiken, TE Dennis Pitta, OT Ricky Wagner, G Vlad Ducasse, C Jeremy Zuttah, DE/DT Timmy Jernigan, DE/DT Lawrence Guy, DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil, ILB Zach Orr, CB Shareece Wright, CB Jerraud Powers, S Lardarius Webb, S Kendrick Lewis, S Matt Elam.

2017 Baltimore Ravens Offense:
The Ravens are going to have to make a big decision on Joe Flacco soon. The long-time Baltimore quarterback struggled this past season and is now 32. He commands an albatross of a contract, and the money Baltimore is paying him is making it difficult to add and retain talent. Flacco will be due $12 million in 2018, and then $18.5 million the year after that, so Ozzie Newsome may decide that he has to cut ties with Flacco in two or so seasons.

It would help if the Ravens were able to reach the playoffs for only the second time since 2012, but a depleted roster will make things difficult. Baltimore isn’t particularly strong anywhere on offense. This includes the front line, which lost stud right tackle Ricky Wagner to free agency this offseason. There was some speculation that the Ravens would select Cam Robinson No. 16 overall, but they passed on him. As a result, they have no viable solution at right tackle, as Alex Lewis and James Hurst are the only other options, and they are both horrible. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is at least a strong performer, as he thrived in his rookie campaign.

The Ravens also lost their center, Jeremy Zuttah, which leaves John Urschel as a replacement. Urschel has some promise, but figures to be a downgrade. As a result, Baltimore may have one positive starter in the interior. Marshal Yanda happens to be one of the top guards in the entire league, but there’s no other proven guard. Ryan Jensen and Lewis will compete for the job along with fourth-round rookie Nico Siragusa.

Baltimore lost key offensive players aside from linemen. Steve Smith is also gone, as he has retired. Smith was not the same player in 2016, but he still caught 70 passes. Without him, Baltimore didn’t have a reliable player at the position until it signed Jeremy Maclin, who recorded more than 1,300 receiving yards in 2014. He struggled last year because of injuries, but at just 29, he seems primed to rebound. Elsewhere, Mike Wallace is an inconsistent deep threat who drops tons of passes, while Breshad Perriman struggled this past season after missing his entire rookie campaign. The tight ends will have to step up as a result, but there are tons of questions there as well. Dennis Pitta was released because of injury. Ben Watson is coming off a torn Achilles. Maxx Williams, meanwhile, has not lived up to his second-round billing.

There are issues at running back as well. Kenneth Dixon is the top player at the position on the roster, but he has been suspended for four games because he violated the league’s PED policy. While he’s out, the Ravens will have to rely on the pedestrian Terrance West. Danny Woodhead was signed to replace Kyle Juszczyk as Flacco’s backfield receiving option, but he’s a 32-year-old coming off a torn ACL.

2017 Baltimore Ravens Defense:
Baltimore’s stop unit is a far cry from what it was during the Ray Lewis and Ed Reed era, so it wasn’t a surprise that Ozzie Newsome spent the first four picks in the 2017 NFL Draft on defensive talent. Despite this, the Ravens still have a lot of work to do if they want to be dominant on this side of the ball once again.

Newsome’s first order of business in the draft was to address the secondary. Cornerback was seen as a weak spot, as a starter was desperately needed across from Jimmy Smith, who missed five games this past season with an ankle injury. Marlon Humphrey will be the team’s No. 2 cornerback, though he may have to be the top option at times because of Smith’s extensive injury history. Smith has missed an average of 3.6 games per season throughout his 6-year career. Making matters worse, Tavon Young, who was impressive as a slot corner last year as a rookie, is out for the season with a torn ACL.

If Humphrey is successful as a rookie, and Smith remains healthy, the Ravens figure to have a solid secondary. Their safeties are stellar, as Tony Jefferson was acquired via free agency. Jefferson had a great season for Arizona, and he’ll join Eric Weddle, one of the top players at his position in the NFL.

The Ravens used two second-day selections on edge rushers, which was not a surprise in the slightest. Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams were added to the position, which was in some serious need of some young blood; Elvis Dumervil was released this offseason, while Terrell Suggs turns 35 in October. Bowser is an athletic player with upside, while Williams is very talented, but troubled. One of them will likely emerge as a potent threat on the edge, though it remains to be seen if either will contribute on a high level as a rookie.

The fourth defensive selection was used to bolster the trenches, as a third-round pick was spent on Chris Wormley. The Michigan product was obtained as a replacement for Timmy Jernigan, who was traded to the Eagles. If Wormley breaks into the starting lineup, he’ll play next to nose tackle Brandon Williams, who stuffs the run well, but offers nothing as a pass-rusher. The other spot is open to several players, including 2016 third-rounder Bronson Kaufusi and 2016 fourth-rounder Willie Henry, neither of whom played as rookies.

One area that needed to be addressed was inside linebacker. C.J. Mosley is a fantastic player, but the Ravens don’t have anything else around him. No one else on the roster saw significant snaps, though Kamalei Correa, chosen in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, will be asked to step up.

2017 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 56-18 as hosts since 2008, including 6-2 this past season.

Justin Tucker is arguably the top kicker in the NFL. He whiffed on one of his 39 tries in 2016, and he hit all 10 of his attempts from 50-plus. He didn’t miss an extra point either.

Sam Koch was No. 1 in net-punting average in 2014, and he almost got there in 2015, ranking second. He dropped to 18th this past season, but did a great job of pinning the opponent inside the 20.

The Ravens were sub par on returns. They beat their opponent on kickoffs, but they were outgained by a larger margin on punt returns.

Seven of Baltimore’s first nine opponents failed to make the playoffs last year, though the two exceptions are very tough opponents (Steelers, Raiders). Their schedule isn’t too difficult.

2017 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.

2017 Baltimore Ravens Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2017 Baltimore Ravens Analysis: The Ravens could win the division if the Steelers suffer some major injuries. However, they’re a huge injury-risk team themselves, given how thin they are as a result of Joe Flacco’s contract. If they fail to make the playoffs again this year, there might be some buzz around Flacco spending his final year with Baltimore in 2017. The team is just too restricted with all the money tied to him that it might be better to just begin anew. However, the AFC isn’t very deep, and it seems like a wild-card spot could be open for them.

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

2016 Projection: 9-7. 2016 Actual Result: 8-8.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2017 NFL Draft: The Ravens keep losing key personnel each offseason, as the roster continues to regress as a result of Joe Flacco’s albatross of a contract. It’s imperative for Ozzie Newsome to hit almost every single selection to keep Baltimore in playoff contention. The Ravens have holes almost everywhere, so it’s a matter of taking the best player available with each selection.

2017 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Ozzie Newsome is one of the top general managers in the NFL, and he once again proved that during the 2017 NFL Draft. Of the seven selections he made, five scored A- or higher, with the two outliers being a “B” and a “C.”

Baltimore’s initial selection was the “B.” Marlon Humphrey was a decent choice, as the team had to fill a hole at cornerback. However, there were better players available, particularly from the same school. Jonathan Allen would’ve been a better option, as taking him would have addressed a big void on the defensive line. Newsome did look into that area, however, when he selected Chris Wormley in the third round.

Newsome focused on bolstering his poor edge rush more than anything, which was a smart decision because his team struggled to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks last year. Terrell Suggs is on his last legs, while Elvis Dumervil is gone. Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams will take their place soon enough. Both are first-round talents Newsome obtained on Day 2. Bowser was a fringe first-rounder, so he provided great value at No. 47 overall. Williams, meanwhile, would have been chosen on Thursday night if he didn’t have off-the-field concerns. The risk was worth the reward at No. 78 though.

Baltimore’s highest-graded pick was No. 122, Nico Siragusa. The San Diego State blocker was a second-round talent who somehow slipped into the fourth frame. He and Jermaine Eluemunor should help a middling offensive line.

The Ravens had a great draft overall. They still have a long way to go to fill their numerous needs, but this class will certainly provide a big boost. I think Baltimore deserves an “A.”

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

16. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: B Grade
I had the Ravens picking an Alabama player in Cam Robinson. Going into this pick, I thought they’d take a falling Alabama player in Jonathan Allen. And yet, they selected an Alabama player in Marlon Humphrey. All three would’ve made a ton of sense, though I think Baltimore could regret not taking Allen. Humphrey is a solid selection, however. He was the consensus No. 2 cornerback in this class with Gareon Conley taken off the board, and he fills a big need for the Ravens and their declining defense.

47. Tyus Bowser, DE/OLB, Houston: A- Grade
The Ravens clearly needed a pass-rusher this offseason. They struggled to get to the quarterback in 2016 for the most part, and they ended up losing Elvis Dumervil on top of that. Terrell Suggs doesn’t have much time left, but now they have Tyus Bowser to breathe some fire into a poor pass rush. Bowser broke out of his shell at the combine, and there was some discussion that he could be chosen at the end of the first round. This is good value for Baltimore.

74. Chris Wormley, DE/DT, Michigan: A Grade
I love this pick. Chris Wormley doesn’t have great upside, but he’s very versatile and has great leadership skills. The Ravens needed someone like him after trading Timmy Jernigan, and I thought he could’ve been chosen a round earlier than he ended up going. This is another solid move by Ozzie Newsome.

78. Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama: A Grade
Tim Williams was once considered a first-round prospect. However, off-the-field issues and average testing sunk his stock. Still, he’s a great prospect, and I think he’s worth the gamble in the third round. Baltimore had to obtain another edge rusher, and Williams provides great value. Despite his issues, I still thought he had a chance to be chosen in the second round.

122. Nico Siragusa, G, San Diego State: A+ Grade
This might be the best pick in the fourth round, though that award could go to the team that selects Desmond King. Siragusa could’ve been chosen in the second round. He’s a tough, smart, productive guard with some great athleticism. It would not surprise me if he makes the Pro Bowl at some point.

159. Jermaine Eluemunor, G, Texas A&M: A- Grade
Jermaine Eluemunor is physically gifted, but doesn’t have much experience playing football. He has tremendous upside though, so I like taking a chance on him in the middle of the fifth round. I think he could’ve gone a bit earlier than this, so I like this pick.

186. Chuck Clark, CB/S, Virginia Tech: C Grade
Chuck Clark was a borderline draftable prospect for me who never made an apperance in my mock draft. He’s versatile in that he can play both cornerback, safety and special teams, but he doesn’t have a true position. He’ll just be a backup and special-teamer.

Season Summary:
The Ravens suffered countless injuries once again this past season, much like they did in 2015, but they still had a chance to reach the playoffs with a victory over Pittsburgh on Christmas afternoon. It looked like they were going to win, as they had a double-digit lead over the Steelers, but their defense collapsed in the fourth quarter.

Offseason Moves:
  • Ravens sign WR Jeremy Maclin
  • Ravens cut TE Dennis Pitta
  • Eagles acquire DT Timmy Jernigan, third-round pick (No. 99) from Ravens for third-round pick (No. 74)
  • Ravens sign CB Brandon Carr
  • 49ers acquire C Jeremy Zuttah, 6th-rounder from Ravens for 6th-round picks
  • Ravens re-sign S Anthony Levine
  • Ravens cut S Lardarius Webb
  • Ravens re-sign NT Brandon Williams
  • Ravens sign RB Danny Woodhead
  • Ravens re-sign QB Ryan Mallett
  • Ravens sign S Tony Jefferson
  • Ravens cut DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil
  • Ravens cut CB Shareece Wright
  • Ravens cut S Kendrick Lewis
  • Ravens announce retirement of ILB Zach Orr

    Team Needs:
    1. Defensive End: Baltimore’s No. 1 need is bolstering the pass rush, which was non-existent down the stretch. Having players who can rattle opposing passers would’ve prevented Ben Roethlisberger from overcoming a double-digit deficit on Christmas afternoon. The Ravens need a new defensive end to go along with Timmy Jernigan.

    2. Rush Linebacker: Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil were once great rush linebackers, but they both declined in 2016 – and understandably so, given that they’re both well into their 30s. Some young blood is needed at outside linebacker, and given all of the pass-rushing talent in the 2017 NFL Draft, Baltimore should be able to solve this issue in the early rounds.

    3. Center: The Ravens traded away Jeremy Zuttah, so a big need has opened up at center.

    4. Wide Receiver: Steve Smith has retired, while Mike Wallace was a predictable bust signing. The Ravens still have Breshad Perriman, who should improve, but they lack a No. 1 receiver at the moment.

    5. Cornerback: Jimmy Smith is a decent No. 1 corner, while Tavon Young was excellent in the slot last year despite being a rookie. However, the Ravens need a third cornerback to go along with those two. Signed Brandon Carr

    6. Guard: The Ravens really missed Kelechi Osemele this season, as his absence bogged down the offense. It’ll be difficult to replace the All-Pro guard, but Ozzie Newsome will have to figure something out.

    7. Two Offensive Tackles: Make it one if the Ravens re-sign Ricky Wagner. Ronnie Stanley and Wagner were solid last year, but there was no depth behind them. Baltimore can do better than James Hurst.

    8. Nose Tackle: Ozzie Newsome called Brandon Williams one of the top nose tackles in the NFL. The problem is that Williams has an expiring contract in March. Re-signed Brandon Williams

    9. Inside Linebacker: Zach Orr has announced his retirement, so a replacement next to C.J. Mosley is needed.

    10. Running Back: Kenneth Dixon was much better than Terrance West, though that easily could’ve just been by default. The Ravens should look into adding another running back to share the workload with Dixon. Signed Danny Woodhead

    11. Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk is one of the NFL’s top fullbacks, but he also happens to be an impending free agent.

    12. Backup Quarterback: It seemed like the Ravens were grooming Ryan Mallett to be their No. 2 quarterback, but he’s now a free agent, so we’ll see if that continues. Re-signed Ryan Mallett

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2017 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Tony Jefferson, S, Cardinals. Age: 25.
      Signed with Ravens

      Tony Jefferson evolved into one of the better safeties in the NFL last season. Given that, as well as the fact that he turns just 25 at the end of January, Jefferson could be offered a huge contract this offseason. The only thing I’d worry about is that Jefferson is a bit of a one-year wonder.

    2. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs. Age: 29.
      Signed with Ravens (2 years)

      Jeremy Maclin’s release from Kansas City on Friday night was surprising, to say the least. Maclin struggled in 2016 – he caught 44 balls for 536 yards and two touchdowns – but did so while injured. Maclin snatched 87 receptions for 1,088 yards the year before, and this was despite being paired with the pedestrian Alex Smith. Maclin hauled in 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia in 2014, so this is the sort of potential he has, if healthy. All indications are that he’s close to 100 percent. Maclin, just 29, is still a passable No. 1 receiver and an extremely strong No. 2 option. Teams that make the most sense for Maclin are the Redskins, Cowboys, Ravens and Bills. All four teams have solid quarterbacks and are in need of receiving help.

    3. Brandon Carr, CB, Cowboys. Age: 31.
      Signed with Ravens

      Brandon Carr was once a very skilled cornerback, but his play has declined the past couple of seasons. He had a bit of a bounce-back year in 2016, but he turns 31 in May, so his best days are obviously behind him.

    4. Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers. Age: 32.
      Signed with Ravens

      Danny Woodhead had a fantastic year for the Patriots. Wait, sorry, for a second I thought I was Jeff Fisher and not paying attention to the NFL at all. Woodhead logged 120 total yards and a touchdown in the opener against the Chiefs, but went down with a torn ACL the following week. Woodhead is now 32, so his days of being a nifty receiver out of the backfield appear to be coming to an end, though he may have one more quality season left in the tank.

    Baltimore Ravens Free Agents:

    Salary Cap Space: $18.2M.
    1. Kyle Juszczyk, FB, Ravens. Age: 26.
      Signed with 49ers

      Kyle Juszczyk is one of the top fullbacks in the NFL. He does everything you’d want a fullback to do; he blocks extremely well, and he’s an effective receiver out of the backfield. He’ll only be 26 in April, so he’ll be highly productive for at least five more years.

    2. Brandon Williams, NT, Ravens. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Ravens (5 years)

      Ozzie Newsome recently said that Brandon Williams is one of the best nose tackles in the NFL. Williams has played like it at times, though he had a bit of a down year in 2016. Still, he’s a terrific, run-stuffing nose tackle.

    3. Ricky Wagner, OT, Ravens. Age: 27.
      Signed with Lions

      Ricky Wagner looked lost when taking over for Michael Oher in the 2013 premiere. He’s come a long way since then. The former fifth-round pick played very well at right tackle this past season and should be able to obtain a substantial contract as a result.

    4. Elvis Dumervil, DE/OLB, Ravens. Age: 33.
      Signed with 49ers

      Elvis Dumervil was once one of the NFL’s top edge rushers, racking up 17 sacks in a season twice in his career. He hit 17 sacks back in 2014, but has regressed lately. He had just six sacks in 2015, and played only eight games this past season because of a foot injury. Dumervil just turned 33, so he’ll never be the same player, but he could be an effective pass-rusher for a team as long as his snap count is reduced.

    5. Zach Orr, ILB, Ravens. Age: 25.
      Announced retirement

      Zach Orr led the Ravens in tackles with 132 despite being a first-year starter in 2016. He was highly impressive in coverage. Orr is undersized – 6-0, 225 – and thus struggled against the run, but he’s only 25 in June, so he has plenty of time to improve his game.

    6. Lardarius Webb, S, Ravens. Age: 31.
      A former cornerback, Lardarius Webb transitioned to safety last year and did well at his new position. However, Webb became expendable when the Ravens signed Tony Jefferson to pair with Eric Weddle. Webb can still be a solid starter, but he turns 32 in October, so his best days are behind him.

    7. Kamar Aiken, WR, Ravens. Age: 28.
      Signed with Colts

      Kamar Aiken was one of the few silver linings for the Ravens in their disastrous 2015 campaign. He proved that he can be a quality No. 2 receiver. However, he took a back seat to other healthy players in 2016, so he had just 29 receptions on the year.

    8. Lawrence Guy, DE/DT, Ravens. Age: 27.
      Signed with Patriots (4 years, $20 million)

      Lawrence Guy has been a solid, two-down run defender for the Ravens the past couple of years. He’s only 27 in March and should continue to serve the same sort of role. Guy will appeal to most teams because he can play both the 4-3 and the 3-4.

    9. Shareece Wright, CB, Ravens. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bills

      Shareece Wright has missed nine games in the past two seasons and was just average (or maybe slightly worse) when on the field. Wright turns 30 in April, so his best days are behind him.

    10. Kendrick Lewis, S, Ravens. Age: 29.
      Kendrick Lewis has dealt with numerous leg injuries over the past two years, but when he’s healthy, he can play somewhat well.

    11. Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens. Age: 32.
      Dennis Pitta probably should be listed as a 1.5-star free agent because of his injuries, but I thought I’d give him one final write-up. Pitta suffered what could be a career-ending hip injury five days ago. Perhaps he’ll come back eventually, but not this year. That is unlikely however, as he turns 32 in June and has an extensive injury history.

    12. Ryan Jensen (RFA), G, Ravens. Age: 26.
    13. Jerraud Powers, CB, Ravens. Age: 30. — Announced retirement
    14. Terrance West (RFA), RB, Ravens. Age: 26. — Tendered by Ravens (original)
    15. Matt Elam, S, Ravens. Age: 26.
    16. John Urschel, G, Ravens. Age: 26.
    17. Ryan Mallett, QB, Ravens. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Ravens
    18. Vladimir Ducasse, G, Ravens. Age: 29. — Signed with Bills
    19. Brent Urbin, DE/DT, Ravens. Age: 26.
    20. Anthony Levine, S, Ravens. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Ravens
    21. James Hurst (RFA), OT, Ravens. Age: 25.
    22. Michael Campanaro, WR/KR, Ravens. Age: 26. — Tendered by Ravens
    23. Chris Lewis-Harris (RFA), CB, Ravens. Age: 28.
    24. Chris Matthews, WR, Ravens. Age: 27.
    25. Sheldon Price (RFA), CB, Ravens. Age: 26.
    26. Jumal Rolle (RFA), CB, Ravens. Age: 27.


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