Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu

Ravens Rumors: Left Guard, Wallace, Washington, Clowney

The competition for a starting job that began with five or six candidates has seemingly been whittled down to two. According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, it seems that veteran John Simpson and rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laula are the final two players fighting for the starting left guard job in 2023.

Simpson appears to be the frontrunner. He has received a good amount of snaps with the first-team offensive line in camp and hasn’t looked out of place. Aumavae-Laula is viewed to have a higher ceiling than Simpson, and while the sixth-round pick out of Oregon has shown less consistency, the staff seems to be open to “letting him learn on the job.” With Simpson receiving the most first-team reps leading up to the regular season, it appears to be his job to lose, but it may be difficult to hold off Aumavae-Laula for long.

On the flipside, it’s a disappointing outcome for former third-round pick Ben Cleveland. After losing the starting battle to Ben Powers last year, the 6-foot-6, 357-pound lineman seems to be on the losing end of the competition for the second straight year. If he can’t show something soon, Cleveland may find himself fighting for a roster spot next summer.

Here are a few more rumors coming out of Baltimore:

  • Weeks ago, wide receiver Tylan Wallace was considered a likely candidate to be cut before the start of the regular season. After Wallace only amassed 56 receiving yards over his first two seasons, the additions of Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor, and Zay Flowers made Wallace’s future cut seem like a foregone conclusion. With Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, among others, set to return, the battle for the WR6 position became a must-win. According to Zrebiec, Wallace responded to the adversity by hiring a new trainer and showing out in the preseason. Wallace has given strong performances in the last two weeks while other fringe receivers like James Proche have seen some rough stretches. There’s no guarantee that Baltimore holds on to six wide receivers, but if they do, Wallace is making a strong case for the job.
  • Formerly an undrafted free agent, Ar’Darius Washington has kept at least a spot on the practice squad with the Ravens over his first two NFL seasons as a promising reserve safety and special teamer. According to Zrebiec, though, he has inflated his stock this preseason by shining as a nickel cornerback. His smaller 5-foot-8, 177-pound frame makes some matchups an issue, but Washington has been one of the Ravens’ top performers in the past two weeks and should make a strong case for a roster spot and a true role on the defense.
  • Finally, while second-year pass rusher David Ojabo hasn’t stood out much in the team’s preseason games, the Ravens staff is still excited about his development after barely playing coming off an injury as a rookie. According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN, head coach John Harbaugh made a point to say that the addition of veteran edge Jadeveon Clowney would not impact the playing time of Ojabo. “You want to have enough guys,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a lot of snaps…about 1,200 snaps in the season. You need all those guys.”
  • Hensley’s colleague at ESPN, Field Yates, also provided us with some details on Clowney’s contract with the Ravens. Along with Clowney’s base contract value of $2.5MM, consisting of a $1.17MM base salary and a $1.34MM signing bonus, Clowney can receive up to $3.5MM of incentives. Specifically, he will earn $500K for five sacks, $1MM for seven sacks, or $1.75MM for nine sacks. The same respective amounts would be paid out if Clowney plays over 50 percent, 60 percent, or 65 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. If he hits full incentives, it would push the total value of his contract up to $6MM. Finally, he will earn a per game active roster bonus of $20K for a potential season total of $340K.

Latest On Ravens’ Patrick Ricard, LG Competition

The return of Patrick Ricard to Ravens training camp earlier this week brought about a notable development. The four-time Pro Bowl fullback was used in a different capacity, one which could signal another position change for him.

Ricard worked as an offensive lineman after being activated from the PUP list, as noted by ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. That represents an interesting development given Ricard’s successful background as a fullback, where he has received a Pro Bowl invitation every year since 2019. That campaign saw the former college defensive tackle serve in a hybrid role, as he logged 342 snaps on offense and 140 on defense.

Since that point, Ricard has been used exclusively as a fullback, a position which held more value under previous offensive coordinator Greg Roman than it is expected to with Todd Monken now at the helm. A shift toward a more pass-oriented scheme led to some questions about Ricard’s roster security, but they have been put to rest. Trying the 29-year-old along the O-line is currently just in the experimental stage, though.

“We’re looking at that,” head coach John Harbaugh said via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic when speaking about the potential position switch (subscription required). “It’s just a multitude role kind of thing. Pat’s quite an athlete. He can do a lot of different things, and maybe we expand his role just a little bit for a little bit of time here and see how he does.”

Ricard could serve in a depth role along the offensive line if needed, but that unit is also the location of an ongoing positional battle. The left guard spot has been up for grabs since Ben Powers signed with the Broncos, and the Ravens have auditioned a number of replacement candidates. 2021 third-rounder Ben Cleveland appeared to be the top fill-in option at one point, but that is no longer the case.

Sixth-round rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu (who has experience as a guard and tackle dating back to his time at Oregon) is currently the frontrunner to win the job, per Hensley. Zrebiec adds that former Raider John Simpson is the other contender for the starting role, and that he recently rotated into the first-team during practice. It will be interesting to see how that competition shakes out over the coming weeks, along with how Ricard is deployed in practice and preseason games.

Ravens Rumors: Ricard, Bateman, OL

Baltimore will be without its four-time Pro Bowl fullback to start training camp, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. Head coach John Harbaugh told the media last week that Patrick Ricard underwent hip surgery this offseason, meaning he’ll start training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

After five seasons of defensive line play at Maine, Ricard began his career playing on both sides of the ball for the Ravens, serving double duty as a defensive lineman and a fullback. Over the past four years, Ricard has played exclusively on the offensive side of the ball, routinely grading out as the league’s top fullback, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

With Ricard out, the Ravens will turn to former fifth-round pick Ben Mason. It’s no wonder Baltimore saw something it liked in Mason in the 2021 NFL Draft. Coming out of Michigan, Mason had just moved into a fullback/tight end role for the Wolverines after spending a season at defensive tackle as a junior. They must’ve seen a lot of Ricard in Mason, but without an immediate need for him, Mason failed to make the final 53-man roster that year.

Mason spent 2021 on the Patriots’ and Bears’ practice squads. After the season ended, Mason returned to Baltimore, spending last season on the practice squad. If Ricard is forced to miss extended time due to his hip surgery, Mason could finally get a chance to prove his worth.

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

  • Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman has had a rocky start to his NFL career. Despite obvious displays of the talent that got him drafted in the first round two years ago, Bateman has struggled to stay on the field. Over his first two seasons, Bateman has missed 17 total games, including a playoff game this past season. Groin surgery just before his rookie season forced him to miss five games and a Lisfranc surgery ended his season early last year. He’s not quite out of the woods yet, according to Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Banner. Harbaugh told the media that Bateman had received a cortisone shot “for healing purposes.” He seemed to hope that it would help keep the injury short-term, claiming that the shot would only sideline Bateman for a couple of days. “We just decided to let him keep rehabbing and make sure he’s ready to go for training camp,” Harbaugh explained.
  • A couple weeks ago, we delved into the Ravens’ position battle at left guard. At the time, we mentioned drafted rookies Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Andrew Vorhees. Vorhees will likely spend most, if not all, of his rookie season recovering from recent injuries, while we noted Aumavae-Laulu was projected as a developmental pick. The assessments on Aumavae-Laulu may have been a bit off as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic has reported that he appears to be very much in the mix for the starting left guard job. Harbaugh apparently made it very clear by featuring the sixth-round pick heavily in minicamp.
  • Former first-round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell recently got another chance to stick on a roster by signing with Baltimore. Thanks to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2, we now have a few details on his new contract. According to Wilson, Treadwell will receive the league veteran minimum on a one-year, $1.17MM deal.

Four In Running For Ravens’ LG Job?

The Ravens will return four starters from last year’s offensive line in right tackle Morgan Moses, right guard Kevin Zeitler, center Tyler Linderbaum, and left tackle Ronnie Stanley. After allowing last season’s starting left guard, Ben Powers, to depart for Denver in free agency, Baltimore has an open spot available on the starting offensive line.

The Ravens are fairly confident in their options to replace Powers. The favorites for the job are utility lineman Patrick Mekari, guards Ben Cleveland and John Simpson, and tackle Daniel Faalele. The team did draft two linemen in Oregon’s Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and USC’s Andrew Vorhees, but Aumavae-Laulu is considered a developmental prospect who can play all over the line, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, while Vorhees’s recent injuries will require him to miss most, if not all, of his rookie season. They also recently added former Bears center Sam Mustipher, but Mustipher is expected to act as an experienced backup center behind Linderbaum.

Mekari and Faalele may be too valuable in their current roles to force into a starting guard spot, even if they would be strong contributors at the position. Mekari has excelled in recent years as a sort of sixth-man for the Ravens’ offensive line. The former undrafted free agent out of Cal has started games at every position on the line for Baltimore usually as an injury replacement. He has the talent to start for many teams, but Baltimore paid him in 2021 to stay and be one of the league’s most talented backups. Faalele on the other hand has the perfect frame to develop into a top tackle. At 6-foot-8, 380 pounds, Faalele could surely be a force on the interior offensive line, but the Ravens want to keep that length on the outside and will likely continue developing him as a tackle.

The battle likely boils down to Cleveland and Simpson. Cleveland was drafted in the third round two years ago with the expectation that he would develop into a starting guard. He lost the battle last year to Powers, but at 6-foot-6, 357 pounds, Cleveland could be an imposing physical presence on the left side of the line. He’s had five starts over his first two years in the league and dealt with a knee injury his rookie year.

Simpson was a late-season addition to the Ravens’ practice squad last year who was signed to a futures contract at the end of the season. He found his way to Baltimore after being waived by the Raiders but is only a year removed from his role as a full-time starting left guard for Las Vegas.

No battles will be won in May, but the Ravens are well set up to use this summer to determine who will be starting in between Linderbaum and Stanley in Week 1 vs. Houston.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/4/23

After the Panthers got the ball rolling yesterday, a number of teams started signing draft picks to their rookie contracts today. We’ve compiled all of the four-year, later-round signings below:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks