- The Ravens have some depth along their offensive line, part of which is last year’s fourth-round pick, Nico Siragusa. Siragusa suffered a brutal injury last August, as he tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL. Of course, that ended his rookie campaign before it began, but as Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun writes, Siragusa was able to fully participate in last week’s minicamp. He will compete for a backup role this year and could soon become a starting guard or center if he can remain healthy. Alex Lewis, who also missed the entire 2017 season, is expected to start somewhere along the O-line this year — either at left guard, center, or right tackle — but he was held out of minicamp due to back spasms. Head coach John Harbaugh said Lewis should be ready for training camp, but the Nebraska product’s injury history will be cause for concern until he can manage to stay out of the training room for an extended period of time.
As soon as the Ravens took Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick in this year’s draft, many assumed the Joe Flacco-era in Baltimore was coming to an end. Although Flacco has reportedly shown well in OTAs and minicamp thus far and Jackson doesn’t appear to be a threat for the starting job in 2018, the Ravens are still thrilled with their rookie. All the reports this offseason indicate the Ravens have been very impressed by Jackson’s development.
With Flacco still in line to take all the snaps at quarterback, the team is now looking for alternative ways to get Jackson on the field. Jackson will certainly be active on game days, and will be used in a variety of unique packages which feature him and Flacco at the same time, according to Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun. Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh sounded very excited about the prospect of having “two quarterbacks on the field at the same time.” The Ravens may use the packages as an opportunity to see how Jackson responds to being thrown into a real live NFL game. If he shows well, the team could decide to move on from Flacco after this season and still be alright financially despite Flacco’s hefty contract.
Terrell Suggs appears set to go after Ray Lewis‘ mark for most years in a Ravens uniform. Should the outside linebacker make it through all 16 games this season, he’ll surpass the Hall of Fame-bound Lewis’ games-played mark of 228. Suggs sits on 213, but this being his 16th season, he’ll need to play through the 2019 slate with the franchise to match Lewis’ 17 years of Ravens service. He doesn’t see that being a problem. Suggs said in May he envisions multiple additional seasons, despite entering his age-35 campaign, and ensured he wasn’t planning to make this one his last. At least, he won’t be making any announcements about 2018 being his final season beforehand. Per Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link), Suggs is on a year-to-year setup at this point. But the Ravens’ all-time sack leader said “I really couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.” Suggs rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 17 edge defender last season.
Over the past week we’ve asked you which AFC West and NFC West team had the best offseason. Another division with a lively past few months has been the AFC North. All four teams drafted quarterbacks, and all four teams changed one of their coordinators. Here’s a quick recap:
The Browns had the most high profile offseason. Holding the number one and four overall picks, the Browns and their draft plans were the topics of endless offseason discussion. When the draft finally came, they ended up taking quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward with those picks. They made a string of splashy trades, acquiring Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, and Damarious Randall. They were also very active in free agency, signing Carlos Hyde, Chris Hubbard, E.J. Gaines, and Drew Stanton among others. Cleveland did have some significant departures with Joe Thomas retiring, Isaiah Crowell signing with the Jets, and DeShone Kizer traded for Randall. They also added an offensive coordinator for the first time under coach Hue Jackson, hiring Todd Haley after he was not retained by the Steelers. It’s been a long time since there was a competitive Browns team, but with all the offseason moves GM John Dorsey has made, this should be the most talented Browns team in recent memory.
The Ravens joined the Browns in drafting a quarterback in the first round, taking Lamar Jackson 32nd overall. Joe Flacco remains the starter for now, but it won’t be long before Jackson is pushing him. After Dean Pees retired, the team promoted Don Martindale to replace him as defensive coordinator. The team released Jeremy Maclin and signed Michael Crabtree to replace him, also adding John Brown and Willie Snead to further bolster their receiving corp. They also signed Robert Griffin III, who will be fighting for a roster spot this summer. Other than that, they were mostly quiet during free agency, and didn’t make many trades. It will be virtually the same Ravens team taking the field in 2018 as they seek to build on their 9-7 record from last season when they just barely missed the playoffs due to tiebreakers.
The Steelers also drafted their potential quarterback of the future, taking Mason Rudolph in the third round. They notably let Haley walk due to years of disagreements with Ben Roethlisberger, replacing him by promoting quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner. They used their first round pick on safety Terrell Edmunds and took wide receiver James Washington in the second. Other than that, they were mostly quiet, not signing any well-known free agents other than linebacker Jon Bostic. The Steelers elected mostly to return the same team that has dominated the division in recent years.
The Bengals had the most low profile spring. They signed defensive tackle Chris Baker and signed Matt Barkley to replace A.J. McCarron as Andy Dalton‘s backup. They swapped first round picks with the Bills to acquire offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, who the team hopes will help shore up the offensive line deficiencies they’ve faced the last couple of seasons. They took center Billy Price in the first round, and lost their defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to the Raiders. They hired Teryl Austin away from the Lions to replace him. The Bengals will have to hope that Dalton can have a career renaissance and bring them back to being the team that made the playoffs five straight years not too long ago. They’re currently projected by many to finish last in the AFC North, but have the talent to potentially make some noise.
Which team do you think had the best offseason in the AFC North? Vote in PFR’s poll below and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!
- The NFL announced it has fined the Ravens and head coach John Harbaugh, and docked the club its final two organized team activity sessions, following a “violation of offseason workout rules.” While the infraction is unclear, it’s possible — based both on Baltimore’s history and the club’s statement — that players were either asked to hit or practice for too long a duration, violating the collective bargaining agreement.
Lamar Jackson is officially in the flock. On Tuesday, the Ravens announced that Jackson has signed his rookie contract.
Heading into the draft, no one was quite sure where the quarterback would land. Some projected that he would wind up as a first round selection while others said he could slide all the way to the third round. With the final pick in the draft, the Ravens made Jackson a first rounder by trading their 52nd and 125th picks and a 2019 second-round selection to the Eagles for the No. 32 and No. 132 selections.
In Baltimore, the athletic QB will back up Joe Flacco. In time, the Ravens hope that he can blossom into their next starting signal caller. Already, the Louisville product has impressed teammates in practice.
“He’s been great. Obviously you know why we took him,” safety Eric Weddle told NFL Network recently. “He’s as talented of a player that I’ve seen coming into my 12th year. He’s got a live arm, he can sling it. Obviously, his ability to run and shake guys — you see it in team drills where things break down, he gets out on the perimeter and guys aren’t even close to him.”
Per the terms of his draft slot, Jackson will earn $9.471MM over the course of his four-year deal. And, because he was a first-round choice, the Ravens can control him through 2022 via the fifth-year option.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Optimism exists around Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, who saw a strong season end early in 2017 because of a torn Achilles, but Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun notes the veteran may not be ready for the start of training camp. The career-long Raven is going into his age-30 season.
- Additional Ravens’ timelines are coming into focus as well. Defensive lineman Carl Davis, who started nine games last season, underwent surgery to repair a tear in his shoulder earlier this offseason, Zreibec reports. The former third-round pick is questionable to participate in minicamp. Offensive lineman Nico Siragusa also had an operation this offseason. The 2017 fourth-round pick missed all of last season because of ACL, MCL and PCL tears and required an additional knee surgery this year. Zreibec reports the goal for him is a training camp return. As for Alex Lewis, Baltimore’s projected guard starter opposite Marshal Yanda, he’s fully recovered from the shoulder injury that nixed all of his 2017 season, Zreibec notes.
- The Ravens added quarterback Robert Griffin III earlier this offseason, and they subsequently drafted signal-caller Lamar Jackson. While the rookie will surely provide the 28-year-old with some competition for backup reps, Griffin told Mike Jones of USA Today that the draft selection wasn’t a slight at himself or Joe Flacco. “When they drafted Lamar, I didn’t look at it as a shot at me or a shot at Joe,” Griffin said. “It was ‘OK, Lamar is coming in here, and it’s our job to help him learn the offense and help him compete.’ So, for me, my job is to show them that I’m an asset to the team and not a detriment. … One (reporter) asked me if I was trying to showcase for other teams. No, my focus is, ‘I’m a Baltimore Raven. I’m showcasing to them that this is where I’m supposed to be.’ ”