Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano’s style is a far better match for the defensive DNA of the Ravens. Judging from the collective enthusiasm of the defense during camp, particularly Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson, they prefer Pagano’s version of organized chaos to the conservative style of former DC Greg Mattison. It’s early but at least for the moment, Ray Lewis & Company have their swagger back.
Discussions about Osi Umenyiora are likely to die down now that the Giants will no longer allow the disgruntled DE to find a trading partner. Seems to me that Big Blue’s brass allowed Umenyiora’s agent Tony Agnone to poll the league about his client’s value and when that slipped below a No. 1 pick, the team decided they are better off keeping the pass rush specialist. That said this is a fluid situation and if you think Umenyiora was disgruntled before, wait! The bet here is it will get way worse before better.
Despite the seemingly attractive pairing with Umenyiora, the Ravens are likely to stay put with their defensive personnel. The organization believes that they have the talent to generate a stronger pass rush in 2011 through the plus developments of players such as Arthur Jones, Terrence Cody, Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle, a healthier Jarret Johnson and the faster and quicker Haloti Ngata. Pagano’s willingness to bring pressure from all directions will also serve notice to opposing quarterbacks.
And let’s not forget, the Ravens are tight to the cap of $120.375M.
Speaking of the cap, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter seven teams are over the salary cap and will have to be in compliance by Friday, not today as originally reported. Those teams in the salary cap red include: St. Louis Rams ($100K); Atlanta Falcons ($1M); Dallas Cowboys ($3M); Detroit Lions ($8M); Houston Texans ($8.5M); Pittsburgh Steelers ($11M); and the Oakland Raiders ($12M).
Look for Ozzie Newsome to be waiting for Blue Light Specials to fall from those rosters, specifically in the areas of WR, QB, DE, OL and RB.
The Ravens could create a little cap space by extending Haloti Ngata. Word is the two sides are getting close and the numbers we are hearing fall into the 6 year, $72 million range. If those numbers are close (and we think they are), expect Ngata to get guaranteed coin in the area of $40 million.
Bernard Pollard was signed last night to a two year deal. Apparently Ozzie Newsome thinks that a thumper is needed in the secondary to match the physicality of the arch-rival Steelers and it would be no surprise if Pollard earns the starting nod. Tom Zbikowski has filled in well when given the opportunity but it remains to be seen if he can hold up physically to the wear and tear of a full time starter.
Haruki Nakamura has better range than either Zbikowski or Pollard but his tackling is suspect at times. Pollard is more in the mold of the recently departed Dawan Landry – a liability in coverage but strong in the box.
Regardless of what happens at safety, the competition alone improves the Ravens.
Pollard’s former Texan teammate Vonta Leach is a perfect fit for the Ravens. He brings a team first attitude and he understands and embraces his role as a battering fullback. The Ravens coaching staff is excited about how his style of play matches up with the Steelers linebackers and they believe that Leach will become even more valuable during the months of December and January when the running game becomes even more critical.
Marc Bulger’s retirement didn’t surprise the Ravens.
“In talking to Marc last year, I thought [retirement] was 50-50,” said John Harbaugh.
Well if that’s the case, why didn’t the Ravens have a better transition plan in place? Despite all of the early accolades directed towards rookie QB Tyrod Taylor, he will not be ready to guide the Ravens should Joe Flacco miss a game or more. The pickings are slim at QB in the free agent market.
Jimmy Smith is as advertised – a big physical corner. He brings late recovery and an ability to tip passes that only a 6’2” corner can. And for those waiting for the character shoe to fall, the Ravens consistently refer to Smith as “a good kid.” Time will tell but so far the Ravens look like they’ve drafted another late first round defensive stud.
David Reed remains on PUP and he’s a perfect example of how the lockout hurt young players who don’t have access or the financial resources to work with the trainers and the medical staff the team employees. Reed could be a No. 3 receiver but the longer he sits out, the more ground that the polished Tandon Doss gains on Reed. Doss could prove to be a fourth round steal and his football IQ will eventually put to rest any jaded opinions that he’s just another fourth round WR disappointment like Demetrius Williams and Marcus Smith.
Marshal Yanda’s new deal looks like a pretty fair deal considering some of the other deals signed by top level guards around the league. It works for both Yanda and the team – at least for now. Yanda’s deal in many ways sets the starting point for future discussions with Ben Grubbs who will be a free agent after the 2011 season. Despite his first round draft status Grubbs is regarded as a notch behind Yanda by the team. With new contracts looming for Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, the bet here is that Grubbs won’t get Yanda money – at least not with the Ravens.
In league news, Roger Goodell will be busy today working on those final dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s” in the new CBA so that the free agents can get on the field today. He has also informed NFL Network that he doesn’t plan to punish James Harrison for comments leveled at the commissioner in a Men’s Journal story.
It does make you wonder, would Harrison be punished if this CBA was already a done deal? Seems to me this is Goodell’s version of an olive branch in order to achieve the greatest good for the league.