Ravens Rumors

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Steelers, Browns

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters last week that slot cornerback Tavon Young could miss the 2019 season after suffering a serious neck injury, but the club hasn’t been given an update on the status of the 25-year-old defensive back. “Nothing definitive,” Harbaugh said, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). “It’s in the opinions of the doctors. I’m sure there are different ways of looking at it, so they’ll probably see how it goes in the next week or two or three, and see what the progress is.” If Young is sidelined for the upcoming campaign, Baltimore will likely deploy Brandon Carr in the slot, while Cyrus Jones is also a candidate to see work inside.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • John Ross will finally make his 2019 practice debut early next week, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor told reporters, including Ben Baby of ESPN.com (Twitter link). A hamstring injury has forced Ross to sit out of practice sessions thus far, but if the former ninth overall pick gets in two weeks of work, Taylor believes he’ll be ready for the season opener against the Seahawks. Cincinnati will already be without A.J. Green for the first few weeks of the season after the veteran pass-catcher suffered an ankle injury in July, so getting Ross on the field would be a boon to the club’s offense. Ross, 24, posted only 21 receptions a year ago but did haul in seven touchdowns.
  • More from Cincinnati, where receiver depth isn’t the only roster issue: Cordy Glenn has been diagnosed with a concussion, meaning the left tackle may not be ready for Week 1, tweets Jay Morrison of The Athletic. As a result, the Bengals — who have already lost rookie left tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder injury) and left guard Clint Boling (retirement), may be forced to use Andre Smith as Andy Dalton‘s blindside protector, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Smith, now in his fourth stint with the Bengals, does have some experience at left tackle, but the overwhelming majority of his NFL time has been spent on the right side.
  • Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton has posted a “tremendous” preseason and could have a significant role on Pittsburgh’s defense, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. Sutton has played so well that he could potentially overtake Mike Hilton as the team’s slot corner. At worst, Sutton is likely to serve as the Steelers’ third outside corner behind Joe Haden and Steven Nelson and play as a dime linebacker in six-defensive back looks. Sutton, a third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2017, played 113 defensive snaps during his rookie campaign and 240 last season.
  • The Browns now have three candidates to replace Kevin Zeitler at right guard, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Veteran Eric Kush was thought to be leading the competition against 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett, but rookie sixth-rounder Drew Forbes has also entered the mix. Per head coach Freddie Kitchens, the battle is still wide open. Corbett, though, hasn’t practiced at right guard in weeks, and is instead working as Cleveland’s backup center.

More Minor NFL Transactions: 8/21/19

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

  • Claimed off waivers: S Montrel Meander
  • Placed on injured reserve: WR D.J. Montgomery

Denver Broncos

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Latest On Tavon Young, Marshal Yanda

  • Ravens slot corner Tavon Young may miss the entire 2019 campaign due to a serious neck injury, but Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic says Young is still weighing his options with respect to surgery (Twitter link). Initial reports suggested that Baltimore believes Young should get surgery, which would likely allow him to return at full-strength for the 2020 season, but Young remains undecided. If he doesn’t get surgery and allows the injury to heal on its own, he could potentially return in 2019, but if the injury doesn’t heal, he may miss some of 2020. Either way, he will almost certainly open this season on IR.
  • Ravens guard Marshal Yanda is dealing with an ankle/foot injury and will not play in either of the club’s remaining preseason games, as Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets. However, HC John Harbaugh expects the seven-time Pro Bowler to be ready to go for Week 1.

Ravens Sign Kicker/Punter Cameron Nizialek

The Ravens have signed kicker Cameron Nizialek, according to the team’s Twitter feed. According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link), Nizialek was brought in to ease the reps on Justin Tucker, so he doesn’t appear to be any threat to Tucker’s roster spot.

Nizialek, who is from Virginia, most recently played in the American Football Alliance before the league shut down. He can serve as both a kicker and punter, as he did the latter during his time at the University of Georgia. Baltimore waived punter Sean Smith earlier this week, so it’s possible Nizialek could make the team in that capacity.

Prior to his stop in Georgia where he was a graduate student, Nizialek spent four years at Columbia University. During his time in the Ivy League, he handled both kicking and punting duties.

McSorley Wrapping Up Roster Spot?

  • Ravens rookie quarterback Trace McSorley is doing everything he can to make the team, and it seems to be working. Baltimore indicated as soon as they drafted him in the sixth round out of Penn State that they planned to use him on special teams and perhaps as a returner, in a similar role as Taysom Hill with the Saints. McSorley “has shown Ravens enough to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster,” even after Robert Griffin III returns from his injury, writes Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Hensley points out that McSorley will give the Ravens necessary depth “in an offense where QBs will take hits running the ball.”
  • In case you missed it, it looks like Ravens slot corner Tavon Young will miss the entire 2019 season after suffering a “serious” neck injury in practice.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/16/19

Today’s minor moves will be posted here:

Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans

  • Claimed off waivers from Steelers: CB Jermaine Ponder
  • Waived/injured: CB Jermaine Kelly Jr.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Waived: CB Jay Liggins

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

  • Signed: LB Josh Smith
  • Waived: LB James Folston

Ravens CB Tavon Young Could Miss Season

Ravens slot corner Tavon Young could miss the entire 2019 season after suffering a “serious” neck injury in practice, head coach John Harbuagh told reporters, including Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link).

“Tavon has a more serious issue than we thought. He has a neck issue. It’s a disc issue. That’s a serious injury. He could be out for the remainder of the season. We’ll know soon. But it doesn’t look good for Tavon,” Harbaugh said, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

“There is an outside chance that you’d opt to try to see if it’ll heal. But I don’t think we’re recommending that right now. If he gets the procedure done, he’ll be fine and good to go. That’s probably the best thing to do.”

Any neck injury is inherently ominous, and the Ravens obviously view Young’s long-term health as a priority. But it doesn’t sound like the issue is a potential career-ender. Indeed, Harbaugh said that even if Young undergoes the surgery, he should be ready to play in 2020 (Twitter link via Hensley). If Young misses the 2020 campaign, he will have been sidelined in two of his four professional years — a torn ACL during summer workouts ended his 2017 season before it began.

When he has been healthy, however, Young has played like one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the NFL. The 2016 fourth-round pick has seen action on more than 1,400 snaps with the Ravens, managing two interceptions during that time. Among 22 qualifying slot corners, Young in 2018 ranked fifth in Pro Football Focus’ coverage snaps per reception. Meanwhile, the Ravens ranked eighth in DVOA against opposing slot receivers, per Football Outsiders.

Pleased with Young’s production, the Ravens signed him to a three-year, $25.8MM extension that will keep him under contract through 2022. At signing, Young’s pact made him the NFL’s highest-slot corner, although his $8.6MM annual average has since been topped by Justin Coleman, who landed a $9MM yearly salary on a free agent deal with the Lions.

Losing Young will hurt, but Baltimore boasts arguably the league’s best secondary and has the depth to withstand’s Young’s absence. Brandon Carr, who played 242 snaps in the slot in 2018, is probably the most likely candidate to take over inside in a configuration that would allow Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith to play outside corner. Ravens coaches have also been impressed with Cyrus Jones‘ play in the slot, tweets Hensley.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Biggest Roster Weakness: AFC North

The 2019 regular season is right around the corner, but every NFL team still has at least one position on its roster that could use improvement. And there’s still plenty of time to address those areas of need! Free agents are readily available on the open market, while preseason trades provide another avenue of player procurement. 19 NFL trades were executed between August 1st and September 1st of 2018, and that number could increase this year.

Let’s take a look at the weakest positional group — and a potential solution — for each NFL club. Today we’ll examine the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Weakness: Offensive guard. Baltimore doesn’t have a problem at right guard, where future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda is still playing like one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen. But the Ravens do have a vacancy on the left side after somewhat surprisingly trading Alex Lewis to the Jets earlier this month. At present, 2017 fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor and rookie fourth-rounder Ben Powers are competing to start between left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Matt Skura.
  • Solution: See if Graham Glasgow is available. Glasgow was moved off center this offseason to make room for 2018 first-round pick Frank Ragnow, and he’s since been taking some practice reps with Detroit’s second-team offense, as Kyle Meinke of MLive.com recently detailed. While Glasgow may still be in the Lions’ plans, he is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Detroit could opt to go with Kenny Wiggins and the recently-extended Joe Dahl at guard. Glasgow, 26, is due a $2.025MM base salary next season.

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Weakness: Offensive tackle depth. After losing first-round pick and projected starting left tackle Jonah Williams to a shoulder injury, the Bengals got desperate, adding longtime Cincinnati security blanket Andre Smith on a one-year deal. He’s essentially the Bengals’ only option behind starters Cordy Glenn and Bobby Hart. When Glenn briefly went down in practice earlier this week, John Jerry — yes, the John Jerry who plays guard and didn’t appear in the NFL in 2018 — slid to left tackle. Send help, please.
  • Solution: Send a third-round pick to the Eagles for Halapoulivaati Vaitai. “Big V” doesn’t have a starting role in Philadelphia, and after the Eagles used this year’s first-round pick on fellow offensive tackle Andre Dillard, it’s unclear if Vaitai — whose contract expires after 2019 — has a long-term future with the Birds. Vaitai, a 10-game starter during the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl run, could line up at any number of positions for the Bengals, and if re-signed, would become the club’s right tackle for the long haul. Cincinnati missed out on veteran tackle assistance when Chris Clark (Saints) and Ben Ijalana (Jaguars) landed deals earlier this week.

Cleveland Browns

  • Weakness: Left tackle. The Browns are all-in on the 2019 season, and while they’ve accumulated talent at an impressive pace, left tackle is still the one area that could present a concern. Former failed No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson wasn’t a disaster in his eight starts for Cleveland, but among the 106 offensive tackles who saw at least 33% playtime in 2018, Robinson ranked only 60th in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking efficiency metric, which measures pressure allowed on a per-snap basis.
  • Solution: Trade for Trent Williams. As of earlier this week, the Redskins were still reportedly telling teams they have no intention of moving Williams, who had demanded a trade after expressing displeasure with Washington’s handling of both his contract and a health scare. Color me skeptical. The Redskins don’t have much hope of contending this season and have already signed a replacement left tackle in Donald Penn, so I’m guessing Williams could be had for the right price. Cleveland should offer a second-round pick to begin negotiations.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Weakness: Safety depth. In Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers are returning two safeties who each played on more than 90% of the club’s defensive snaps. But Pittsburgh also released veteran defensive back Morgan Burnett, who saw action on 389 snaps a year ago. The Steelers could use a third safety capable of contributing, and they also need depth, as backups Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen have only played a combined 219 snaps during their respective careers.
  • Solution: Acquire Josh Jones from the Packers. The 61st overall selection in the 2017 draft, Jones’ career in Green Bay has never really gotten off the ground. He hasn’t played on more than 70% of the Packers’ snaps in either of his pro campaigns, and Green Bay decisively replaced him this offseason by signing free agent Adrian Amos and drafting Darnell Savage in the first round. Jones read the writing on the wall and requested a trade in May. He’d be able to fit in Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler‘s scheme as a “big nickel.”

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/15/19

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Signed: TE Micky Crum, LB Christian Kuntz
  • Waived: LB J.T. Jones, CB Jermaine Ponder

Oakland Raiders

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Signed: DT Shane Bowman
  • Placed on injured reserve: WR Bryant Mitchell

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/13/19

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the night.

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Waived: TE Nick Truesdell

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers