Ravens Rumors

Ravens, Colts Interested In Jadeveon Clowney

The Ravens and Colts have been keeping tabs on free agent edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler). Meanwhile, the Browns have been the most aggressive of the bunch and they’re currently the clubhouse leaders to land him.

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta is not expected to sign an edge rusher until after May 3, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. That’s the point when UFA signings no longer impact the compensatory pick formula. With that in mind, the Ravens are more likely to draft an edge rusher and add a free agent sometime in May. Clowney, who has played the waiting game before, would probably prefer to wrap up the process sooner with the Browns.

The Browns presented Clowney with the best multi-year offer of any team last year, but he chose a one-year, $13MM pact with the Titans instead. This time around, the interest is mutual, even though Clowney’s eight-game, zero-sack performance left much to be desired. With the Browns, Clowney would replace Olivier Vernon to play opposite of Myles Garrett.

Before they circled back to Clowney, the Browns also pursued J.J. Watt in free agency. They lost out on Watt, but they did add former first-round pick Takkarist McKinley as well as Malik Jackson though Jackson is expected to play more on the interior.

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NFL Distributes Performance-Based Payouts

Since 2002, the NFL’s performance-based pay system has rewarded low-salary players who exceed their expected playing time. This year, due to the pandemic, the league and the players’ union negotiated a gradual payout schedule, one that will meter out the money between now and 2024.

All in all, the league divested $8.5MM per club. This year’s top earner is Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa, a 2018 third-round pick who played every single snap for the eventual champs. Cappa will now receive an extra $622K on top of his $750K base salary for 2021. Per the union’s records, 25 other players also topped $500K, including Cardinals tackle Kelvin Beachum ($604K), Bills cornerback Taron Johnson ($579K), Rams guard Austin Corbett ($573K), Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye ($572K), Bears tackle Germain Ifedi ($571K), Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor ($568K), Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier ($561K), Ravens safety DeShon Elliott ($557K) and Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead ($555K).

The full list, going team-by-team, can be found here, courtesy of the NFLPA.

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Chiefs Finished Second For JuJu Smith-Schuster; Ravens’ Scheme Became Factor

The Ravens submitted JuJu Smith-Schuster a better offer than the Steelers did, but the former Pro Bowl wide receiver opted to stay in Pittsburgh. Baltimore was not his second choice, either.

Had Smith-Schuster not ultimately decided to stay with the Steelers, he would have joined the Chiefs. Andy Reid continued to text images of the Vince Lombardi trophy to the 24-year-old wideout, and Smith-Schuster confirmed Kansas City was his second choice.

I think, just seeing K.C. and bro, Andy Reid was just calling me and he was sending me Lombardi Trophy pictures like constantly. We had a good talk, so it would’ve been K.C. after the Steelers,” Smith-Schuster said during an appearance on the Michael Irvin Podcast (via NFL.com).

Smith-Schuster would have replaced Sammy Watkins alongside Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in the Chiefs’ historically loaded pass offense. Watkins ended up signing with the Ravens, who had issues convincing acclaimed receivers to sign this offseason. The Ravens also offered T.Y. Hilton more money than the Colts did, but the veteran wideout stayed in Indianapolis. Smith-Schuster indicated Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson-centered run scheme became an issue as he considered a possible intra-AFC North jump.

[Playing for a rival], too, and I’m curious to see how they’re going to be this year having Sammy Watkins and how they’re going to use him and throwing the ball and stuff like that,” Smith-Schuster said of the Ravens. “Lamar’s a really, a heavy run offense with the backs that he has. I just point being facts. His No. 1 target was [Mark] Andrews, who’s a tight end.”

New Ravens receivers coach Tee Martin, who coached Smith-Schuster at USC, began Baltimore’s recruitment. Jackson and John Harbaugh contacted Smith-Schuster as well. The Ravens are believed to have offered Smith-Schuster a $9MM salary with $4MM in incentives. He re-signed with the Steelers on a one-year, $8MM deal.

Tee Martin was a coach at USC who coached me, he ended up going to the Ravens and he reached out and that’s how that process started. Lamar reached out, the head coach called, Marlon Humphrey‘s hitting me up,” Smith-Schuster said. “It starts getting serious when the players start texting you and hit you up like, ‘Yo, what’s up, bro? What we doing? Come win.’ All respect to them, and it was cool. But I think with me it’s more so staying home, staying loyal. In my situation, we have a new OC, Ben’s coming back, my relationship with my receiver coach, Ike Hilliard, is amazing. You can’t beat that.”

Reprising his role in an increasingly pass-heavy Steelers offense, Smith-Schuster will have a chance to re-enter free agency in 2022. The Chiefs, who also finished second in the Trent Williams sweepstakes, are likely still on the hunt for a receiver to replace Watkins.

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Ravens To Meet With Justin Houston, Planning Other Pass Rusher Visits

Justin Houston stands as one of the best free agents left unsigned. A door still appears open for Houston to return to the Colts, but they now have competition. The Ravens are set to meet with the veteran edge rusher next week, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets.

It sounds like the Ravens will take an in-depth look at this need area. They plan to bring in more pass rushers on visits soon, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (on Twitter). The market also features the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Ryan Kerrigan, Melvin Ingram, Aldon Smith and Everson Griffen. Some of these unsigned talents may be on track for Ravens visits.

The Ravens taking a long look here certainly adds up. They lost their top two edge players last month, with Matt Judon signing with the Patriots and Yannick Ngakoue joining the Raiders. Baltimore did re-sign Pernell McPhee yet again, and the team also kept Tyus Bowser. While former mid-major sack standout Jaylon Ferguson also remains on the Ravens’ roster, it is possible the team is looking for multiple starters.

Houston, 32, spent the past two seasons in Indianapolis. The former Chiefs Pro Bowler managed to both stay healthy and serve as the Colts’ top outside rusher, compiling 19 sacks in two Indy seasons. A recent report indicated the Colts have remained in contact with Houston. They have company now. While Houston dealt with injuries for much of his second Chiefs contract, he did not miss a game as a Colt. The 10-year veteran has four double-digit sack seasons on his resume, which is topped by the virtuoso 22-sack effort from 2014.

The market remains fairly deep at this position, at least among older vets seeking third contracts. Kerrigan played out his second Washington deal, doing so after seeing the team draft edges with its two most recent first-round picks. Ingram’s push for a third Chargers deal did not come to fruition. Ingram visited the Chiefs recently, while the Bengals brought in Kerrigan. After seeing Montez Sweat and Chase Young relegate him to a bench role for much of last season, Washington’s all-time sack leader wants to be a starter again in 2021.

Clowney emerged on the Ravens’ radar last year, but with free agents unable to visit teams throughout the 2020 offseason, he ended up taking a one-year Titans deal late last summer. After struggling in Tennessee and dealing with more injury trouble, Clowney’s price tag has dropped. The former No. 1 overall pick has visited the Browns and is expecting to be cleared for full football work this month.

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Ravens To Re-Sign Anthony Levine

The Ravens are keeping a key piece of their locker room in the fold. Baltimore has agreed to terms with safety Anthony Levine on a new deal, his agent Dan Saffron announced on Twitter.

It’s a one-year contract, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets. Levine is one of the longest-tenured members of the organization as well as a team captain, so he’s an important piece even though he doesn’t play much on defense. Levine has been with the team since originally signing to their practice squad back in 2012. He got his start in the league as an UDFA with the Packers in 2010.

A Tennessee State product, Levine played only a few percent of the defensive snaps last year, but is a core special teamer. As recently as 2019 though he played a sizable role on defense, logging 17 percent of the defensive snaps that season. He got $1.812MM on the one-year deal he signed in March of last year, so we can probably assume this new contract is worth somewhere around there. He turned 34 last month.ant

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This Date In Transactions History: Falcons Acquire Eric Metcalf

The Falcons assembled their premier receiving corps when Julio Jones joined Roddy White in 2011, and their Jones-Calvin Ridley duo currently resides as one of the NFL’s best. However, the franchise did piece together an intriguing cadre of aerial weapons during the mid-1990s. That crew achieved a rare NFL feat.

Atlanta rounded out that receiving corps on April 6, 1995. Twenty-six years ago, the Falcons finalized a trade that brought Eric Metcalf over from the Browns. The then-Bill Belichick-coached team agreed to a high-profile pick-swap deal, a well Belichick has gone to frequently with the Patriots, to send the all-purpose threat to Atlanta. The Falcons sent the No. 10 overall pick to the Browns for Metcalf and No. 26. This trade ended up impacting the NFL into the 2010s; the ultimate winner of this deal did not yet exist when the transaction was finalized.

While Metcalf was technically a running back in Cleveland, the Browns used him in several capacities. The 1989 first-round pick made an impact out of the backfield, as an outlet option and, perhaps most significantly, as a lethal return specialist in six Browns seasons. But Cleveland opted to part with its athletic chess piece to move up 16 draft slots.

Atlanta moved Metcalf to wide receiver, teaming him with 1994 free agent acquisition Terance Mathis and homegrown talent Bert Emanuel. Although the Falcons’ Jeff George trade did not end up working out, the strong-armed quarterback helped the Metcalf-Mathis-Emanuel group become the NFL’s second wide receiver trio that saw each of its members surpass 1,000 yards in a season. While the Air Coryell Chargers were the first to have three 1,000-yard pass catchers, Kellen Winslow was a tight end. Only four wideout trios have gone 1,000-1,000-1,000 — 1989 Washington, the ’95 Falcons, the 2004 Colts and ’08 Cardinals.

Metcalf enjoyed by far his most productive receiving season in 1995, catching 104 passes for 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns. Despite having never played the position full-time as a pro, Metcalf led his new team in receiving. That Falcon edition made the playoffs at 9-7, losing to the Packers in the first round. June Jones‘ pass-heavy offense was not as productive in 1996, when the Falcons released George in-season and went 3-13, and Metcalf joined the Chargers in free agency the following year. Metcalf earned first-team All-Pro honors as a returner in his lone San Diego season and played until 2002.

As for the draft choices exchanged, the Browns — in their final draft before morphing into the Ravens — traded out of No. 10, moving down to No. 30. The 49ers climbed up to draft wide receiver J.J. Stokes. With the Browns relocating to Baltimore in 1996, they did not reap this trade’s primary benefit. In their first draft, the Ravens used the additional Browns-obtained first-rounder (No. 26 in 1996) to draft Ray Lewis. With its No. 30 overall pick in ’95, Cleveland selected linebacker Craig Powell. The Falcons chose safety Devin Bush 26th in 1995. Bush played four Falcons seasons, with his final Atlanta game being Super Bowl XXXIII; his son became a Steelers first-round pick in 2019.

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Ravens To Re-Sign L.J. Fort

L.J. Fort isn’t going anywhere. The Ravens will be keeping the inside linebacker in the fold with a new contract, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets.

Financial terms weren’t immediately released, but Zrebiec reports it’s a one-year deal for Fort. Fort played a significant role in Baltimore’s defense last year, appearing in 14 games and starting eight. He finished with 53 tackles, two passes defended, and two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) while playing less than half the snaps in a rotational role.

Fort has had an interesting career path, as he originally entered the league as an UDFA with the Browns back in 2012. He made the team and played in all 16 games for Cleveland as a rookie, then appeared in only one more regular season game after that until 2016.

After bouncing around a few practice squads he eventually found a home with the Steelers. He signed with the Ravens early in the 2019 season, and started eight games for them. He was handed a two-year, $5.5MM extension in November of that year, but at the beginning of 2020 the team declined his 2021 option which made him a free agent this spring.

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Ravens To Sign WR Sammy Watkins

After making multiple offers to big-name wide receivers, the Ravens will soon have one under contract. Sammy Watkins agreed to terms with the Ravens on Friday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The former Bills, Rams and Chiefs wideout will sign a one-year deal worth $6MM, with Adam Schefter of ESPN.com noting (via Twitter) the deal will include $5MM fully guaranteed. This will signal a major shift for Watkins, earnings- and scheme-wise.

Baltimore has been hunting high-profile wideouts for a bit now. The Ravens offered more money to JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.Y. Hilton, only to see those players opt to re-sign with the Steelers and Colts, respectively. Kenny Golladay also landed on the Ravens’ radar, but the ex-Lions target received a big-ticket offer from the Giants and committed to New York. The Ravens hosted Watkins on a visit, and the talented but injury-prone pass catcher will head to Baltimore to join an offense in need of aerial help.

Watkins will pair with Marquise Brown on the NFL’s run-heaviest offense. It will certainly represent a change for the former No. 4 overall pick, who operated as the No. 2 receiver on one of the most explosive passing attacks in NFL history. The Chiefs were interested in keeping Watkins, but it did not sound like re-signing him was a must for the two-time reigning AFC champions. Watkins signed a monster accord with the Chiefs in 2018 — a three-year, $48MM deal that affected the NFL’s wideout market — and delivered in spurts, even though he did not end up living up to that lofty contract.

The Chiefs received some crucial Watkins contributions in the playoffs, with the former Clemson star surpassing 75 receiving yards in four of the six postseason games he played with Kansas City. However, Watkins also missed time due to injury in each of his three seasons in Missouri, sitting out 14 regular-season games as a Chief. He missed two playoff games this past season as well and has not topped 700 receiving yards in a season since 2015, when he compiled a career-high 1,047 — in a Bills run-heavy offense featuring Tyrod Taylor.

Still, Watkins is only heading into his age-28 season and will provide a high-end talent for a Ravens offense that has been limited at receiver since Lamar Jackson took the reins in 2018. It should not be ruled out Baltimore will further address the position in the draft, but after the team struck out on acquiring veteran starters, Watkins will lessen the burden on the front office to land a proven receiver.

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Ravens Offered T.Y. Hilton More Than Colts

After a report emerged indicating the Ravens out-offered the Steelers for JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes the team also submitted T.Y. Hilton a better offer than the Colts did (video link).

Hilton agreed to stay with the Colts on a one-year, $8MM pact. All $8MM is guaranteed, with the Colts including $2MM in incentives. The 31-year-old wide receiver has spent his entire career in Indianapolis and will now team with a fourth starting quarterback in four years, agreeing to become perhaps the centerpiece target of a Carson Wentz-led attack.

The four-time Pro Bowler said he was on the cusp of becoming a Raven, being dissatisfied with a Colts offer as late as Wednesday afternoon. A Jim Irsay call helped influence Hilton to stay in Indianapolis.

I was almost gone. Five seconds away, man. That was it,” Hilton said during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show of his prospects of joining the Ravens (via Fox 59’s Mike Chappell). “I’ve been talking to (the Ravens) the whole time. They came in and made a great push at the end and they wanted to get it done.”

Baltimore’s offer may have exceeded Indy’s by a notable amount, with Hilton saying he would have “made more money the day I signed (with the Ravens) than my whole contract with Indy.” Hilton committed to picking a destination Wednesday and said he was set to move on after hearing what may have been the Colts’ penultimate offer.

I’ve been texting Chris Ballard the while time,” Hilton said. “By 2:30, I’m like, ‘By 3:00, I’m signing somewhere. Wherever it’s at, I’m signing.’ Then 2:55 I got off the phone with Chris and I’m like, ‘Are we going to get this thing done? How can we get this done?

… I’m like, ‘It’s all right. I guess it’s good for me to go to this next team. As soon as I close his message, Irsay texted me.”

It is unclear how big the gap between the Baltimore and Indianapolis offers was, but Hilton’s decision represents a win for a Colts team that featured a void at receiver. As a result of the Colts’ 11th-hour push to keep their nine-year weapon, the Ravens’ receiver deficiency remains.

The Ravens were not expected to be aggressive for a No. 1 wide receiver, but their actions have shown they want a veteran to join their Marquise Brown-led group. They pursued Kenny Golladay and offered Smith-Schuster $9MM, with $4MM through incentives. That offer topped Pittsburgh’s. Both players committed elsewhere. Sammy Watkins is also on Baltimore’s radar, having visited last week. Watkins also visited the Colts but remains a free agent.

Baltimore has missed out on most of the big-name targets. It should not be considered a surprise that veteran receivers are not especially eager to become part of the NFL’s run-heaviest offense. John Harbaugh said in January the Ravens would love to add at this position but indicated the team’s winning culture, not its propensity (or lack thereof) for helping receivers to big numbers, would be what drove wideouts to Baltimore. So far, this year’s top available wideouts have been unwilling to sign on.

Since the Ravens retooled their offense around Lamar Jackson, they have made the playoffs three times and re-established themselves as an AFC power. However, their passing attack ranked last in 2020 and 27th in 2019. While Brown did improve in his second season, compiling 769 receiving yards, the team has sought bigger-name players to join him. The Ravens, as they did when they acquired Brown and Miles Boykin, may need to look to the draft to upgrade at receiver. In addition to Watkins, Golden Tate, Adam Humphries and Dede Westbrook are some of the names available. Antonio Brown, Marquise’s cousin that was connected to the Ravens last year, is still unsigned as well.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 3/23/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans

  • Re-Signed: LS Jon Weeks
  • Released: LS Anthony Kukwa

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Football Team