Baltimore Ravens Rumors & News

Ravens Work Out WR Griff Whalen

The Ravens worked out veteran wide receiver Griff Whalen on Friday, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). Whalen is taking a physical for the team and there is mutual interest in a deal, he adds. Griff Whalen (vertical)

Whalen, 27, spent the first four years of his career with the Colts before being bounced around like a pinball in 2016. He first latched on with the Dolphins, but he was dropped just after the 53-man cutdown deadline. He then hooked on with the Chargers and spent eight games on their roster before getting the ax to make room for Ronnie Hillman. He signed with the Patriots in December, but his stay lasted only one week.

For his career, Whaley has 47 catches for 509 yards and three scores with all but two of those receptions coming in his four seasons with Indianapolis. On the plus side, Whalen also offers experience in the return game.

The Ravens have Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, and Breshad Perriman as their top three wide receivers. After that, things are pretty wide open for the No. 4 and 5 spots. It sounds like Whalen could be thrown into the mix to battle it out with Chris Moore, Keenan ReynoldsChris Matthews, and Michael Campanaro for those final openings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Make Roster Moves

  • The Ravens made a few moves on Thursday, per the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec, who reports that the club waived/injured defensive back Daniel Henry, placed offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor on the non-football injury list, and put wide receiver Aaron Bailey and defensive end Patrick Ricard on the physically unable to perform list (Twitter links). With the exception of the English-born Eluemunor, a fifth-round pick, all of those players joined the Ravens this year as undrafted free agents.

Rashad Jennings Has Talked With Five Teams

Rashad Jennings has proven that he can dance. Now, he wants to prove that he can still play football at a high level. The free agent running back says that he is anxious to play in 2017 and eager for an NFL opportunity. Rashad Jennings (vertical)

I know there is a place for me in the league based on my skill set. I want to prove one GM right this year,” Jennings told SiriusXM (Twitter links).

Jennings added that he has had “simple conversations” with the Lions, Packers, Ravens, Rams, and Dolphins. The veteran hopes that those simple conversations will lead to a deal from one of those teams, but for now, he’s in “wait and see” mode.

The reigning Dancing With The Stars champion had a paltry 3.3 yards per carry average last year on 181 rushes, but did record 35 receptions. On the plus side, Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the NFL’s best pass blockers in 2016 and he isn’t too far removed from a productive 2015 season in New York.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Tony Jefferson Used Game Pass To Decide Ravens Fit

  • Before opting to sign with the Ravens this spring, safety Tony Jefferson used a creative method to determine if he’d fit with Baltimore’s roster. “I had to personally go on NFL Game Pass and watch tape and film before I made a decision,” said Jefferson, per Max Mayer of NFL.com. “I felt like this defense fits me. I feel like this style fits me. I love to hit, and do that type of stuff. And I think that’s the culture, and that’s what I want to be a part of.” Jefferson left Arizona to ink a four-year, $34MM deal with the Ravens, where he’ll team with fellow defensive back Eric Weddle.

Ravens Haven’t Contacted Gary Barnidge

There was upheaval at tight end last month in Baltimore, which released Dennis Pitta after he suffered yet another hip injury and saw the NFL hand a one-year suspension to Darren Waller. Consequently, the Ravens could stand to acquire help at the position, but it doesn’t look as though that aid will come in the form of free agent Gary Barnidge, the top tight end on the market.

Gary Barnidge (Vertical)

Barnidge told Glenn Clark Radio on Thursday that the Ravens haven’t reached out to him, saying (via Callie Caplan of the Baltimore Sun): “They know who to contact, who to call. I just know we haven’t heard anything yet, which is fine.”

PFR’s Dallas Robinson made a compelling case earlier this week for the Ravens to sign Barnidge, noting that their current tight ends carry significant risk.

Ben Watson, whom the Ravens signed as a free agent last offseason, missed all of 2016 after suffering a torn Achilles. That’s a difficult injury to come back from for anyone, let alone a 36-year-old. Injuries have also troubled Crockett Gillmore, who sat out 15 of the Ravens’ 32 games from 2015-16 and then missed minicamp last month on account of a hamstring issue. Maxx Williams isn’t the picture of health, either, as Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun reported last week that knee trouble could force him to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. And then there’s a pair of unproven options in Nick Boyle, who has already racked up a couple PED suspensions during his two-year career, and undrafted rookie Ryan Malleck.

Considering both the lack of certainty among the Ravens’ tight ends and Barnidge’s quality production in recent years, it’s fair to suggest he’d be an upgrade for the club. Barnidge made light of his solid output Thursday.

“In the last two years with eight different quarterbacks, I was able to still put up really good numbers,” Barnidge said. “I was still one of the top tight ends in the NFL over a two-year period … I don’t think there’s any other guy that can say they’ve done that.”

While it’s concerning that the 31-year-old Barnidge has been on the open market since April – when one of the Ravens’ AFC North rivals, the youth-oriented Browns, released him – his numbers were indeed impressive over the previous two seasons. Barnidge broke out in 2015 with 79 receptions, 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns, and though he didn’t come close to replicating those stats last year, he still posted respectable totals (55 grabs, 612 yards and two scores). Additionally, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Barnidge graded as Pro Football Focus’ best pass-blocking tight end in 2016. As Robinson pointed out, that aspect of his game could be especially useful to a Baltimore team that lost standout right tackle Ricky Wagner to the Lions in free agency.

Although the Ravens and Barnidge look like a logical match, it doesn’t appear there will be a union between the two. The Ravens could still use some of their nearly $6MM in cap space on another free agent tight end, though, with Ladarius Green, Jacob Tamme and Larry Donnell representing other notable unsigned options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Notes: Weddle, Jefferson, Harbaugh

Eric Weddle helped convince the Ravens to go hard after safety Tony Jefferson in free agency, Childs Walker of The Baltimore Sun writes. Now that Jefferson has landed in Baltimore on a four-year, $34MM deal, Weddle is delighted to partner with him in the secondary.

He’s physical, explosive and he’s only going to get better,” Weddle said. “I not only look at this season but for the future as far as building this team. He can be that guy to lead this defense. From the outside looking in, when I move on, the Ravens D is still going to be good.”

Weddle also believes that the arrival of Jefferson will take a lot of work off of his plate.

No disrespect to any of the guys I’ve played with, but it’s nice not to have to explain why I do certain things or why I’m doing this in this coverage,” Weddle said. “From day one, he already had a feel for how I play and how to work off me. … It frees me up a lot more mentally. I don’t have to tell him after each play why I did this or, before the snap, let’s do this. He already knows. That is just light years ahead of most guys I’ve played with. I’ve loved every guy I’ve played with, but he’s just on another level.”

Here’s more from Baltimore:

  • The pressure could be building in Baltimore for coach John Harbaugh, Jim Owczarski of USA Today writes. Harbaugh might not be on the hot seat at this moment, but his team has compiled a 31-33 record since winning the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, missing the playoffs in three of the last four years. It’s possible that Harbaugh could be a victim of the high expectations he set for his teams in Baltimore. Before winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens made the postseason in each of his first five seasons and reached two AFC Championship Games. Even if things go terribly wrong in Baltimore this year, I have a hard time seeing any scenario in which Harbaugh does not get the chance to turn it around in 2018.
  • The Ravens are using 10% of the salary cap on players who are no longer with the team, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes. That helps to explain why the Ravens are near the bottom of the league in available cap room. Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, who has not played for the team since November 2015, accounts for the biggest dead money hit with a $4.4MM cap charge for 2017, giving him the tenth-highest hit on the team. After Monroe, there are four more players with $2MM+ dead money cap hits: tight end Dennis Pitta ($2.7MM), cornerback Shareece Wright ($2.66MM), linebacker Elvis Dumervil ($2.37MM), and center Jeremy Zuttah ($2.2MM). Hensley notes that the Ravens are usually in the middle of the league when it comes to dead money – they landed in the top 10 only twice in the last five years and placed No. 14 last year.
  • This week, PFR’s Dallas Robinson made the case for why the Ravens should sign tight end Gary Barnidge.

The Ravens Need To Sign TE Gary Barnidge

Perhaps no position group has taken as many hits as the Ravens’ tight ends over the past month, as Dennis Pitta suffered another devastating hip injury in early June (which ultimately led to his release and will likely end his career) while athletic backup Darren Waller was hit with a one-year PED suspension last week. With Pitta and Waller out of the picture for 2017, Baltimore is left with five tight ends on its roster: Ben Watson, Maxx Williams, Crockett GillmoreNick Boyle, and Ryan Malleck, all of whom come with significant risk.

Watson is entering his age-36 campaign coming off a torn Achilles, but he’s likely to make the Ravens’ roster after accepting a pay reduction earlier this year. Having missed 15 games over the past two seasons, and dealing with back and leg injuries, Gillmore is no bet to be available next year. The same goes for Williams, a former second-round pick who may begin the 2017 campaign on the PUP list, tweets Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Boyle, meanwhile, has already been banned twice for PEDs (a third positive test would net him a yearlong suspension, à la Waller), while Malleck is a 2016 undrafted free agent with no game experience.Gary Barnidge (vertical)

Given the amount of question marks among their tight ends, the Ravens need to consider scouring the free agent market for reinforcements. While other players such as Ladarius Green or Jacob Tamme could be on Baltimore’s radar, the most reliable veteran who still remains unsigned is former Brown Gary Barnidge, whom Zrebiec notes (Twitter link) would make for a sensible Ravens target. I didn’t originally list Baltimore as a potential destination for Barnidge when I ran down landing spots for him in May, but given the events of the past month, the Ravens should give Barnidge a call.

While Barnidge could simply serve as insurance for the Ravens, he might also represent improvement over the club’s tight end production from a year ago. While Pitta finished first among tight ends in receptions, and seventh in yards, various advanced metrics indicate he wasn’t all that successful on a rate basis in 2016. Among 46 qualified tight ends, Pitta finished 45th in DYAR and 40th in DVOA (both are metrics from Football Outsiders which measure a receiver’s value). Pro Football Focus was also critical of Pitta’s 2016 play, ranking him 47th among 63 tight ends.

Barnidge, on the other hand, ranked higher than Pitta in all three metrics (15th in DYAR, 13th in DVOA, 25th in PFF’s grades). On a yards per reception basis, Barnidge finished with 11.13 YPR while Pitta managed only 8.48 YPR, second-to-last among tight ends with at least 25 receptions. The 31-year-old Barnidge has also done well on deep passes, long a staple of Baltimore’s offense. On passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air, Barnidge ranked third and 15th in yardage among tight ends in 2015 and 2016, respectively, according to Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus.

Of course, a tight end is responsible for not only receiving, but blocking, and after losing right tackle Ricky Wagner to free agency, the Ravens can use all the edge blocking help they can get. PFF ranked Baltimore’s offensive line 23rd heading into the 2017 season, specifically noting question marks at right tackle, where James Hurst is now projected to start. Barnidge can aid in that capacity, as PFF graded him as the No. 1 pass-blocking tight end in the league in 2016.Gary Barnidge (Vertical)

Barnidge could also benefit from staying in the AFC North, as none of the clubs in the division besides Baltimore are above-average at defending the tight end. Cleveland, Barnidge’s former team, ranked dead last in DVOA against tight ends last season, allowing an average of 7.2 receptions and 63.4 yards per game (30.2% worse than the NFL mean). Neither the Steelers (13) nor the Bengals (15) could crack the top-10 in DVOA against opposing tight ends, either.

In terms of salary, it’s difficult to believe Barnidge will be able to command much more than a incentive-laden minimum deal, especially given that he hasn’t been signed yet. Even so, adding Barnidge could be difficult for the Ravens, who rank third-to-last in the NFL with only $5.833MM in cap space, per Over the Cap. Baltimore could potentially restructure the contracts of veterans such as Jimmy Smith, Marshal Yanda, or Eric Weddle to create a bit of breathing room if it wants to bring in Barnidge.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Will Ravens' Lack Of Action Hurt Them?

  • With the exception of the Jeremy Maclin signing, the Ravens did not do much this offseason to add playmakers at wide receiver or running back. That lack of action could hold them back from making a January push, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes. Now, he argues, there is increased pressure on Breshad Perriman to perform so that Mike Wallace can assume more of a secondary role. He also notes that the Ravens will have to come up with answers at tight end after losing Dennis Pitta.
  • The Ravens are reportedly split about whether to pursue a reunion with linebacker Zach Orr.

AFC Notes: Jaguars, Bortles, Jets, Ravens

Is Blake Bortles a lost cause for the Jaguars? Mike Wells of ESPN.com seems to think so, writing that the team made a big mistake by exercising his fifth-year option for $19MM+ in 2018. Making matters worse, he writes, the Jaguars did not bring in a quarterback to compete with him and push him to perform better this offseason. Jags beat writer Michael DiRocco, meanwhile, has given up on the notion that Bortles can be an elite quarterback, saying that his ceiling could be in the Brian Hoyer/Matt Cassel/Jon Kitna range.

In his three NFL seasons, Bortles has 69 touchdowns against 51 interceptions with an 11-34 record. The onus is now on the 25-year-old to prove that he should be the man under center for Jacksonville. If not, he might be looking for work elsewhere after this season since the fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury only.

Here’s more out of the AFC:

  • Tackle Ben Ijalana now has to prove that he is worth the Jets‘ $11MM investment, Brian Costello of the New York Post writes. Last year, Ijalana stepped into the left tackle spot after Ryan Clady went down and wound up making 13 starts. This offseason, the Jets gave him a two-year, $11MM deal to keep him in the fold. Given the lack of playing time he saw in his first few seasons, it’s hard to know exactly what the Jets have in Ijalana, even though he put in significant minutes in all 16 games last season. There’s also the advanced metrics to consider. Ijalana earned a 47.6 overall score from Pro Football Focus last year, ranking him as the No. 60 tackle in the NFL last year out of 78 qualified players.
  • After re-signing with the Ravens on a five-year, $52.5MM contract, Brandon Williams says he wants to be more of an every down player, ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley writes. “I need to get my sacks up,” Williams said. “I need to get my pass-rushing up. I am excited. I just had a meeting with our D-line coach, Coach [Joe] Cullen yesterday, about me kind of fine-tuning. I have the run-stop. I could still work on it, obviously, but I’m more just trying to work on my pass rush, trying to get out there and do the best I can.” Williams has had only 4.5 sacks in his four NFL seasons. Last season, ten interior lineman had five or more sacks and that’s a group that Williams is presumably hoping to join. His deal, which averages $10.8MM per season, is the highest of any nose tackle in the NFL and puts him No. 8 among all defensive tackles.
  • Who do you think should be the Browns‘ starting quarterback in 2017? Click here to weigh in.

Ravens TE Darren Waller Suspended At Least One Year

Ravens tight end Darren Waller has been suspended for at least one year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Baltimore announced today.Darren Waller

Waller previously served a four-game substance abuse ban in 2016, meaning that he’s now run afoul of the league’s drug mandate for a second time. Waller, 24, played in 12 games for the Ravens last year (including three starts), racking up 10 receptions and 85 yards for two touchdowns. While his offensive output was minimal, Waller appeared on nearly half of Baltimore’s special teams snaps a year ago. He’d been set to earn $615K in 2017.

Already down one tight end following the release of Dennis Pitta, the Ravens will now more heavily rely on internal options such as Ben Watson (who is recovering from a torn Achilles at age-36), Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore, and Nick Boyle. As Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun notes (Twitter link), Waller was still in the developmental stage of his career, but was the most “physically gifted” tight end on the club, so his absence will be felt.

If the Ravens look to the free agent market for a new tight end, options could include Gary Barnidge, Ladaraius Green, Jacob Tamme, and Larry Donnell.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.