THE GRAPEVINE: Kruger bulks up

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Kruger bulks up

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Previously we reported that one 24×7 source had indicated that Paul Kruger seemed like an unwilling participant in the Ravens’ “voluntary” offseason conditioning program. Rumor had it that Kruger was late to arrive and early to leave during the workout sessions.

Well maybe Kruger has something figured out that the others don’t.

Word is that the former Ute has added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame and is now pushing the scales a bit beyond 270. One team representative said that he would not be surprised to see the second year DE/OLB get close to 280 by the start of training camp.

Pretty good results for someone previously reported to be a workout slacky.

Judging from a recent poll on Ravens24x7.com, fans believe that the Ravens’ greatest need is at cornerback. When asked which of the following players if available at No. 25 in the 2010 NFL Draft would you most want, a Boise State playmaker is the leader by a wide margin: CB Kyle Wilson (37%), TE Jermaine Gresham (24%), WR DeMaryius Thomas (17%), Jared Odrick (16%) and CB Devin McCourty (6%).

But those who carry hopes that one day Wilson and Lardarius Webb can become a formidable tandem at corner, you may want to curb the enthusiasm. Wilson while a good press corner lacks Webb’s speed and tackling ability. It’s true that the Ravens like Wilson but more than likely not enough to spend the draft’s 25th pick on him.

Speaking of corners, Nathan Vasher just signed a two year deal with the San Diego Chargers. Never really known to be a savvy tackler Vasher did have a few very good years with the Bears and he was a player the Ravens coveted in the 2004 draft. But even coming out of college Vasher never possessed top end speed for a corner and the years since haven’t been kind to him as it relates to his accelerator. Age does not make a player faster and this might help to explain the Ravens apparent disinterest in Vasher despite the need to replenish the secondary’s depth.

Some might say that Willis McGahee is an expensive luxury as a backup. In 2010 McGahee is set to earn $3.6 million and if 2009 is any indication, McGahee will earn roughly $36,000 per carry – not bad work if you can get it. Ray Rice on the other hand will earn a little less than $400,000. The big picture however suggests that the Ravens will get great value from the position on whole and that’s exactly how the club is viewing it. While McGahee’s price tag is hardly a bargain the returns that Rice provides makes that $3.6 million bitter pill a bit easier to swallow.

Last week we had an exclusive interview with Willis McGahee that caught the attention of ESPN Insider. Here’s what they had to say:

Over the weekend, a captivating — if quite loose — rumor made the rounds, the crux of which is that a former Pro Bowl RB could be on the move. Initial speculation was that it could be Marion Barber, but we also thought that Marshawn Lynch, Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee made sense, given that they were involved in trade rumors earlier this offseason.

McGahee had an interview with Tony Lombardi of Pro Football 24×7 recently, and said that "I know that inside I am still a starter-quality back without question. I just want to play and help my team get to a Super Bowl in whatever capacity I can." The second sentence seems to indicate that he’s OK with playing second fiddle to Ray Rice in Baltimore, but the first sentence seems to indicate that perhaps he’d like a chance to be top dog again, possibly somewhere else.

Going strictly on need — and not taking into account McGahee’s contract or the personality concerns in adding a new RB to an NFL locker room — we could see the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers showing a bit of interest in Willis.

There has been a ton of speculation surrounding Jared Gaither and the apparent lack of interest in the former Terp. Nationally prominent insiders like NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora have hinted that the Ravens might accept the Redskins’ second round pick (No. 36 overall) in exchange for Gaither. But is that enough for the Ravens?

Gaither just turned 24 and he has three seasons under his belt. He is battled tested (28 career starts) and has held his own against some fairly formidable opponents at the left tackle position.

So why hasn’t the first round tendered restricted free agent attracted more attention from other clubs?

Gaither’s work ethic has been questioned as well as his consistency on the field. There are times when he’s dominant and yet there are other times when he appears a bit disinterested. But could there be more to the story than that?

One source close to 24×7 speaking on condition of anonymity, has mentioned that Gaither might be in “the program.” In other words he may have a strike or two against him in the league’s substance abuse program and another could earn a four game suspension. If true this clearly would explain why Gaither is not being courted by left tackle needy teams around the league.

Take it for what it’s worth but I will say if there’s even a hint of truth to this allegation and our source is aware of it, it is likely old news to the league’s inner circle and that news helps explain the obvious erosion in Gaither’s market value.

If the Ravens wants to take a chance on Gaither, now might be the time.
They just might get him for a club friendly price.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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