Brandon Stephens

Ravens Rumors: Humphrey, Andrews, Stephens

Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey had one of the toughest seasons of his career in 2023. Pro Football Focus gave him the lowest grade of his career (subscription required), ranking him as the 59th best cornerback out of 127 graded players at the position, and he missed seven games as injuries nagged at him throughout the season.

As a result, it was not much of a surprise to see that Humphrey was in and out of organized team activities and minicamp this spring. That being said, there was still some concern as no information was being dispersed to explain his absences. Humphrey took to his Punch Line Podcast to inform fans and the media as to what the situation was.

“I did Day 1 (of minicamp), and then I took two vet rest days,” Humphrey explained. “I’m kind of on the NBA routine sometimes. Took two rest days, but man, I’m excited.”

Humphrey has been the lone staple in an everchanging Ravens secondary since he was selected in the first round out of Alabama in 2017. He had a healthy 2022 season but has missed at least five games in two of the last three years. The Ravens will hope to keep him on the field more in 2024 as he mentors Clemson-product Nate Wiggins, the team’s first cornerback taken in the first round since Humphrey. After Humphrey missed some of the spring, head coach John Harbaugh expects him to be good for training camp, per team writer Kyle Phoenix.

Here are a few other rumors coming out of Charm City:

  • Aside from several one-year deals, the Ravens have only a couple impact players entering contract years and only one on defense: cornerback Brandon Stephens. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic highlighted Stephens as a potential extension candidate for the Ravens this year. Starting his collegiate career as a running back at UCLA, Stephens transferred to SMU where he excelled at cornerback. Joining the Ravens as a third-round pick in 2021, Stephens was moved once again to safety, starting 11 games in place of an injured DeShon Elliott. In his sophomore campaign, Stephens took a step back in his role, moving back to cornerback behind starters Humphrey and Marcus Peters. With Peters moving on last year, Stephens became a surprise full-time starter, delivering the best season of his career, per PFF. If Humphrey doesn’t bounce back after his injury-riddled 2023 campaign, the Ravens may need to rely on Stephens to lead rookies Wiggins and T.J. Tampa into the future of the cornerbacks room in Baltimore. Stephens plays a premier position with versatility and reliability, and because he has yet to earn any accolades as he’s moved around, the Ravens could potentially sign him to a fairly team-friendly contract to keep him around for a few more years.
  • Zrebiec also mentioned tight end Mark Andrews as a potential focus for contract adjustments, claiming that an extension could be a strong move to lessen the former first-team All-Pro’s cap impact over the next two seasons. On his current four-year, $56MM deal, Andrews is due base salaries of $7MM in each of the next two seasons and will represent a cap hit of $16.91MM in each year, as well. Crafting an extension now could create some cap flexibility in the short-term while ensuring Andrews sticks around for a few more extra years to come.

Ravens Not Looking Externally For RB Help

The Ravens were forced to swallow a heavy pill when starting running back J.K. Dobbins suffered a torn Achilles tendon during the team’s win over the Texans this weekend. For solutions, many thought to look at the free agent or trade market, both of which are ripe with talented veterans, but head coach John Harbaugh said today that Baltimore will not be looking externally for running back help, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.

With options like Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette in free agency and a player like Jonathan Taylor reportedly available via trade, no one would blame Harbaugh and company for bringing in an experienced starter to tote the rock. Instead, the Ravens feel confident in the options they have in-house to take over with Harbaugh even indicating that they will be operating with a committee in the backfield.

When Dobbins exited Sunday’s game, fifth-year backup Justice Hill stepped in and immediately scored a touchdown, his first since the 2019 season. While he later scored a second touchdown, matching his career-high for a season, Hill only amassed nine yards on eight carries. Veteran backup rusher Gus Edwards, who has filled in as a starter at times in his career, was a bit more productive with his eight carries, racking up 32 yards.

Adding veterans didn’t quite deliver the desired result two years ago when Dobbins, Edwards, and Hill all missed the 2021 season with season-ending injuries before the year even began. That year, Baltimore turned to a committee featuring veteran backs like Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Le’Veon Bell in conjunction with Ty’Son Williams. Freeman and Murray each reached 500 rushing yards and delivered six scores apiece, but overall, the running game was dependent on quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Still, the Ravens added veteran rusher Melvin Gordon in the offseason, ultimately cutting him and signing him to the practice squad before the regular season. Gordon seems like an obvious callup to help carry the load without Dobbins. The Ravens also saw some impressive preseason performances from undrafted rookies Keaton Mitchell and Owen Wright, landing both on the team’s roster in some capacity to start the year. Mitchell currently resides on injured reserve himself, so he’s unable to contribute at this time. Wright, though, landed on the practice squad and may also hear his number called up to the active roster this season.

Dobbins is now expected to undergo surgery to repair his Achilles tendon this Friday, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Pelissero points out that Rams running back Cam Akers recovered from a similar surgery in less than six months two years ago. Dobbins will be aiming for a similar timeline, bringing him back shortly after the start of the 2024 league year.

In other injury news, Harbaugh confirmed that starting free safety Marcus Williams “will be out for a while” after suffering a pectoral muscle injury, according to Ravens editorial director Ryan Mink. Williams missed seven games in his Baltimore debut last year and will be forced to miss more in 2023, but the team is holding out hope that he will not be out for the season. He’ll be forced to make a decision soon on whether or not he will undergo surgery, as well.

In Williams’ absence, the team turned to Geno Stone yesterday. Stone started the seven games missed by Williams last year, as well. The team also has versatile defensive backs Brandon Stephens and Ar’Darius Washington that they can turn to. Stephens recently moved back to safety after spending time at cornerback when the depth chart was thin there. Washington has always been a safety but got extensive work in the slot this offseason.

Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum suffered a sprained knee and ankle, respectively, forcing them both to leave the game early, as well. Both players are reportedly “week-to-week” but could miss the trip to Cincinnati this Sunday. Versatile sixth-man Patrick Mekari stepped in for Stanley yesterday and is an easy choice to start as an injury replacement as he’s done so often in the past. Offseason addition and practice squad callup Sam Mustipher filled in at center and will likely continue to do so, if needed.

The team will certainly hope that they won’t need to rely on Mekari and Mustipher for too long, and though they are clearly missing many bodies for the upcoming matchup with their division-rival, they’ll hope to get some back, too. Both cornerback Marlon Humphrey and tight end Mark Andrews will have a chance to play this weekend. There’s still work to be done, but things have been looking up recently for both players.

Latest On Ravens’ CB Situation

The Ravens appear to have their starting boundary tandem in place at the cornerback position. A number of candidates are vying for the first-team role in the slot, however.

Marlon Humphrey is in place to once again serve as the anchor of Baltimore’s secondary, but fellow All-Pro Marcus Peters is no longer in the fold. The latter signed a long-anticipated deal with the Raiders recently, marking a formal end to his Ravens tenure. Rock Ya-Sin had already been acquired as a Peters replacement, signing a one-year contract in May. The former Colt and Raider is currently dealing with a knee injury, but it is not believed to be serious (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network).

The question of who starts in the slot remains unanswered. Defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt named several contenders for the role, as detailed by The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required). Among them is a mix of veteran and young players, as well as those with a background playing at safety as opposed to corner, and vice versa. Hewitt said the position is in an “open competition” at this point.

2022 first-rounder Kyle Hamilton played extensively in the slot as a rookie, but the trade sending Chuck Clark to the Jets paved the way for the Notre Dame product taking on full-time safety duties. The Ravens used three-safety alignments under defensive coordinator Mike McDonald, however, so keeping Hamilton at the nickel could allow the Ravens to deploy their best secondary options for extended stretches.

Other candidates for the position include Brandon Stephens and Ar’Darius Washington. The former was a third-round Ravens selection in 2021, after a college career which saw him play at both running back and corner. Stephens primarily played as a safety as a rookie, but his more common usage came at corner in 2022. Washington, meanwhile, has seen time in the slot in his limited usage since joining Baltimore as a UDFA.

2022 fourth-rounders Damarion Williams and Jalyn Armour-Davis are also contenders for a first-team role. Williams was named as a player to watch during camp, given his more natural fit as a slot corner compared to many of the team’s other options. He missed time at the start of camp due to injury, however, leaving him with ground to make up during the preseason. Hewitt added that Armour-Davis, who played on the outside at Alabama, is under consideration to be moved inside.

By far the most experienced option is Arthur Maulet. The 30-year-old signed a one-year deal last week after being released by the Steelers earlier in the offseason. Maulet has seen considerable usage in the slot over the past three seasons in particular, and it would come as little surprise if that is his primary function in Baltimore. The Ravens were linked to a veteran signing leading up to his addition, but another could be coming as well.

Zrebiec notes that the Ravens could still be in the market for a corner, though the team is focusing on its numerous internal options for the time being. The developments in the ongoing competition will be worth watching as camp practices and preseason games take place.

Ravens Rumors: WRs, Nickelback, Ricard

The Ravens did a lot in their attempts to improve the wide receiving corps this offseason. What that usually means is that some receivers from last year’s roster will be fighting to remain on the team this summer. According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, one of James Proche or Tylan Wallace may find themselves on the outside looking in come September.

Proche and Wallace were drafted in back-to-back years following quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s 2019 MVP season. Both players were taken as flyers following more valuable attempts to add to the room as the Ravens tried to bolster Jackson’s weapons cache. In 2020, Proche joined Devin Duvernay as rookies out of the state of Texas. Duvernay, a third-round pick out of Texas, was expected to be a contributor who could add to the room very soon, while Proche, a sixth-round pick out of SMU, had a similar playing style and added an ability as a return man.

Wallace had a stronger chance to contribute as a fourth-rounder out of Oklahoma State the following year, but he was still not the team’s headliner rookie receiver that year. Wallace was picked three rounds after first-round pick Rashod Bateman, the clear choice of rookies expected to contribute right away.

The source of disappointment in Wallace is fairly apparent. Through two years in the NFL, Wallace has only six catches for 56 yards. He contributes on special teams, but that doesn’t help a ton when he misses eight games, as he did last season. Proche showed signs of life in a sophomore season with 16 catches for 202 yards, but he took a step back in 2022 with only eight catches for 62 yards. His return ability was rendered moot, as well, as Duvernay earned first-team All-Pro honors as a return man.

The offseason has seen the departures of pass catchers Demarcus Robinson, DeSean Jackson, and Sammy Watkins, all of whom outperformed Proche and Wallace last year, but the additions of Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor, and first-round pick Zay Flowers vastly outweigh what was lost in the room. With a top-five of Bateman, Beckham, Flowers, Duvernay, and Agholor, it’s hard to see where Proche and Wallace are both getting in the game. In a situation where the Ravens only hold on to six wide receivers, Proche and Wallace are likely going to be battling it out for that last roster spot in the preseason.

Here are a few more roster rumors coming out of Charm City:

  • Baltimore added to the cornerbacks room this offseason with the additions of free agent Rock Ya-Sin and fifth-round pick Kyu Blu Kelly. While those acquisitions address the loss of starting cornerback Marcus Peters, the team may need to also address the slot. With Kyle Hamilton, who covered a bit of time in the slot last season with Chuck Clark and Marcus Williams starting at safety, moving back to his more natural position, who do the Ravens play in the slot? According to Zrebiec, second-year cornerback Damarion Williams is the favorite for the job, but Williams is reportedly dealing with some health issues right now. If Williams can’t go, Brandon Stephens, who has shown versatility while playing both safety and cornerback in his first two years, could get a chance to demonstrate his abilities. Former undrafted safety Ar’Darius Washington also reportedly has some “fans in the building” and could get an opportunity. Zrebiec doesn’t want to rule out starting cornerback Marlon Humphrey, though. Some around the team believe that putting one of the team’s best defenders closer to the ball and line of scrimmage could allow him to demonstrate his physicality and game-changing ability on more of a regular basis.
  • With the addition of new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, some fans were concerned about the safety of fullback Patrick Ricard‘s roster spot. Ricard was used heavily in former play-caller Greg Roman‘s system, but does Monken’s new system allow for Ricard to extend his streak of four straight Pro Bowl selections? According to Zrebiec, Monken may have little say in the matter. General manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh both value Ricard highly as a player. They’ve used him as a blocker out of the backfield, a receiver lining up at fullback and tight end, a contributor on special teams, and even as a defensive lineman in his early years. Regardless of how Monken has utilized fullbacks in the past, it’s hard to see a scenario where the Ravens can’t find a role for Ricard to fill.

Ravens Interested In Adrian Amos, To Move Brandon Stephens Back To Safety

As the Ravens’ Rock Ya-Sin signing showed, a visit not producing an immediate agreement does not mean no interest exists on the team’s part. The Ravens kept in touch with Ya-Sin after a March meeting and signed him last week, shortly after the compensatory period expired.

The same timeline appears to be in place regarding Adrian Amos, who visited Baltimore in late March. Mutual interest exists between the Ravens and Amos, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Signing Amos would no longer count against the Ravens’ 2024 compensatory formula. Considering the Ravens’ long-held value of comp picks, the early-May deadline has always been an important date for the franchise.

A Baltimore native whom Zrebiec notes grew up idolizing Ed Reed, Amos is also on the radar for a second Packers deal. Green Bay would seem to have a greater need at the position compared to Baltimore, which gave Marcus Williams a $14MM-per-year deal in 2022 and drafted Kyle Hamilton in the first round soon after. Though, the Ravens traded longtime starter Chuck Clark to the Jets this offseason. Still, the Packers did not draft a safety until Round 7 and minimized ex-first-rounder Darnell Savage‘s role down the stretch last season. The Packers did sign Tarvarius Moore but cannot match the Ravens’ Williams-Hamilton duo.

Amos, 30, has 122 starts on his resume and has not missed a game since 2017. The Packers gave the ex-Bears draftee a four-year, $36MM deal in 2019, bringing him over during the same offseason in which they poached Za’Darius Smith from the Ravens. With Amos remaining unsigned until May, he likely does not have an offer in that ballpark. But the veteran starter will undoubtedly have a chance to play a ninth season.

Pro Football Focus did grade Amos as one of the NFL’s worst safety regulars last season, but he drew a top-30 mark at the position in every other year of his career. Amos also made a career-high 102 tackles in 2022, registering a career-most seven tackles for loss as well. Amos joins the likes of John Johnson, Logan Ryan, Lamarcus Joyner, Duron Harmon and Ronnie Harrison as veteran back-liners still available.

The Ravens’ Ya-Sin signing does look to be influencing their secondary makeup overall. They are planning to station Brandon Stephens at safety once they begin on-field work this offseason, John Harbaugh said. A third-year player, Stephens worked as an injury replacement for safety DeShon Elliott as a rookie but played only nine snaps at safety last season (as opposed to 330 as a boundary corner), Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter).

Valuing Stephens’ versatility, the Ravens appear prepared to see if the 215-pound defender — a college cornerback and running back — can become an in-house Clark replacement. Stephens’ status, then, could certainly affect Baltimore’s interest in adding Amos.

Ravens Notes: Biegel, Linderbaum, Ojabo, Roster Bubble

Vince Biegel‘s season has ended before it even started. The Ravens linebacker suffered a torn Achilles on Thursday and will miss the 2022 season, per the team’s website.

The linebacker has bounced around the NFL during his four years in the league, spending time with the Packers, Saints, and Dolphins. Following a 2020 season where he compiled 59 tackles and 2.5 sacks in a career-high 15 games (10 starts) with the Dolphins, he was limited to only two tackles in five contests with Miami in 2021. He caught on with the Ravens this offseason, and according to Ryan Mink of the team website, Biegel had made a strong impression during the first few days of camp.

“Vince was fighting to make the team,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He would have had a great chance to make it, because he’s just a solid, tough, talented guy who does everything exactly right as hard as he can.”

The Ravens were already eyeing a depleted linebackers depth chart with Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo sidelined. The team’s current options consist of Odafe Oweh, Justin Houston, Daelin Hayes, Steven Means, and a handful of rookies.

More notes out of Baltimore:

  • Fortunately, there was some good news on the Ravens’ injury front. While first-round rookie center Tyler Linderbaum limped off the field during practice, an X-ray confirmed he avoided a major injury. “He’s going to be fine,” Harbaugh said (via Mink). “Didn’t get stepped on, kind of just … It’s a physical drill there, and [he] came up a little sore. They’ve looked at it, X-rayed it. They’ll do an MRI on it to make sure, but all indications are it’s nothing serious at all.” Beside the rookie, the Ravens have veteran Patrick Mekari to step in at center.
  • We previously heard that Ojabo’s brief holdout was an attempt to get more guaranteed money in the third year of his rookie contract. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), the rookie ended up getting $700K of that 2024 base salary guaranteed. As our own Ely Allen previously pointed out, the player selected just before Ojabo at 44th overall is John Metchie III, who received $800,000 (55.61%) of his third year guaranteed. The pick immediately after Ojabo at 46th overall is Joshua Paschal, whose guaranteed third-year money dropped dramatically to $275,000 (22.02%).
  • Guard Ben Powers could find himself on the trade block depending on the status of Ben Cleveland and Tyre Phillips, writes Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. Powers has 19 career starts, so he’d surely appeal to a squad seeking some guard depth. Meanwhile, Zrebiec writes that running back Mike Davis could be fighting with Tyler Badie and Justice Hill for two open roster spots. The veteran was brought in this offseason to provide some depth while J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards return to full health, but he may not be needed if the duo is ready for the start of the season.
  • In a stock report of Baltimore’s minicamp, Zrebiec provides a handful of interesting tidbits related to the Ravens. Fourth-round rookie Isaiah Likely will find himself behind Mark Andrews on the depth chart, but he also “seems close to certain to have a notable Week 1 role with the Ravens.” Meanwhile, versatile defensive back Brandon Stephens has been preparing to play cornerback after starting 11 games at safety last season.
  • The Ravens’ other fourth-round rookie tight end, Charlie Kolar, had sports hernia surgery earlier this week, per Zrebiec. “It’s a thing that was lingering from college,” Harbaugh said. “He actually had a sports hernia from college, had a surgery. They’re going to redo that one as well. We’ll get it cleaned up now. I think he felt like he could manage it, but it’s gotten to the point where it needs to be fixed.”

Ravens Sign Brandon Stephens, Wrap Draft Class

That’s a wrap. On Wednesday, the Ravens inked third-round defensive back Brandon Stephens to his rookie deal. With Stephens taken care of, the Ravens now have their entire 2021 draft class in the fold.

Stephens began his collegiate career as a running back at UCLA. Then, he transferred to SMU, switched to the secondary, and put himself on the NFL’s radar. Last year, Stephens notched ten passes defensed to lead the American Athletic Conference and also came away with one interception. Between ’19 and ’20, he batted down 22 passes in total, showing the length and coverage skills needed to make it at the next level.

Stephens spent most of his time on campus as a cornerback, but the Ravens believe that he can play both corner and safety. As the No. 104 pick, he’s slotted for a four-year, $4.8MM deal. That sum includes an $840K signing bonus with escalating salaries from now through 2024.

With less than a week to go before rookies report for duty, here’s the full recap of the Ravens’ 2021 class:

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/3/15

Today’s minor moves and signings in the NFL..

  • Cowboys linebackers Justin Anderson and guard Reshod Fortenberry were waived/injured, Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram tweets. Linebackers Jonathan Brown and Ka’Lial Glaud were signed.
  • The Patriots have agreed to bring back second-year linebacker Cameron Gordon to address some depth concerns, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets. The Patriots also announced that they have claimed guard Harland Gunn off waivers from the Falcons.
  • The Chiefs announced that they have signed former Missouri wide receiver L’Damian Washington.
  • The Patriots waived-injured Kevin Hughes and cut Vince Taylor with a failed physical designation, Wilson tweets.
  • The Packers announced that they have signed wide receiver Ed Williams.
  • The Cowboys waived-injured Justin Jackson, who tore his ACL over the weekend, Wilson tweets.
  • The Broncos signed wideout Corbin Louks, Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post tweets. Louks, who was cut by the Chiefs in May, will fill the roster spot previously filled by Kyle Williams, who has hit the IR.
  • The Chargers signed former Packers defensive tackle Luther Robinson, Wilson tweets.
  • The Browns announced that they have signed running backs Timothy Flanders and Jalen Parmele and waived wide receiver Kevin Cone and defensive back Brandon Stephens, Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal tweets.
  • The Bills have signed free agent cornerback Merrill Noel, according to Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News (on Twitter). Noel was released by Buffalo back in June.

Earlier Updates:

  • The Chiefs waived backup defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, as Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star tweets. Worthy signed a futures deal with KC back in December. Worthy, a 2012 second-round pick out of Michigan State, tore his ACL in the final game of the 2012 season and played only 12 snaps in 2013. Worthy was traded from the Packers to the Pats in August of 2014 but he did not get on the field last season.
  • The Eagles signed rookie free agent wide receiver Mike Johnson, Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The Delaware product participated in the Eagles rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis and, apparently, he impressed the right people.
  • Linebacker/defensive end Austen Lane, who had stints with the Jaguars, Lions, and Bears, took to Twitter to announce his retirement.

Browns Sign Nine, Waive Four

The Browns have signed sixth-round cornerback Charles Gaines and eight players who tried out for them at their recent rookie camp, reports ESPN’s Pat McManamon (via Twitter). The list of tryout signings comes courtesy of Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter link):

  • E.J. Bibbs, tight end, Iowa
  • Paul Browning, wide receiver, Colorado State-Pueblo
  • Landon Feichter, defensive back, Purdue
  • Kevin Haplea, tight end, Florida State
  • Darius Jennings, wide receiver, Virginia
  • Luke Lundy, running back, Ottawa
  • Rodman Noel, linebacker, North Carolina State
  • Brandon Stephens, defensive back, Miami (Ohio)

To make room for their newest players, the Browns cut kicker Garrett Hartley, wideout Phil Bates, cornerback Varmah Sonie, and defensive end Christian Tupou, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link).