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THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens Rumor Mill

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens Rumor Mill

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Whether you are a defending Super Bowl Champion or a downtrodden team trying to emerge from the ashes, roster turnover season-to-season is a way of life in the NFL.

Twenty-five percent or more of any team’s roster churns and burns. That’s just the way it is in a league governed by a hard salary cap.

This offseason has just begun but given the struggles of the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 and considering the club’s standards and winning ways, they will likely blow through that 25 percent.

Defensive End Arthur Jones, a player who has met and perhaps even exceeded the Ravens expectations as the 157th overall selection (5th round) in the 2010 NFL Draft, is as good as gone and the team’s front office knows it. Expect the Paul Kruger treatment for Jones.

The next man up could be Kapron Lewis-Moore, a promising 3-4 DE who may have been a second round pick in 2013 had it not been for a knee injury suffered in the BCS Championship Game in January against the University of Alabama.

A few other names that come up often in the “will he stay or will he go” debates are those of Corey Graham, Jacoby Jones, Dennis Pitta and Daryl Smith.

The Ravens would like to keep Graham around because they’ve learned through experience that depth at corner is key to success during a 16-game season and beyond. But Graham may not fit the “right player, right price” credo for a nickel corner.

There’s a reason the Ravens kept Asa Jackson around and barring a surprise move in the draft, the Cal Poly alum is the favorite to assume Graham’s job. His change-of-direction skills in the slot are superior to those of the more battle-tested Chykie Brown.

Word is that Jacoby Jones really enjoys being a Raven. He’s embraced the city, the coaching staff and the organization and one insider believes that there’s a chance to bring back at a hometown discount.

Dennis Pitta’s situation is interesting and his importance to the Ravens offense can’t be understated. He’s held in high regard throughout the organization and is a very close friend of Joe Flacco’s. Unfortunately for Pitta and fortunately for the Ravens his market value is limited since his 2013 season was shortened by a hip injury.

Teams might take a wait and see approach with Pitta. It may be in the best interests of both the Ravens and the four-year veteran from BYU (who will surprisingly be 29-years-old when he takes the field next season) to find common ground on a 1-year incentive laden deal.

For Pitta to re-establish his market value, what better way than to play with a quarterback who relies heavily upon him?

Daryl Smith is said to enjoy Baltimore and at this point in his career the soon-to-be 32-year old linebacker is probably willing to accept a modest one or two year deal. The Ravens don’t have a lot of leverage at this point because their options at inside linebacker aren’t very impressive and promising rookie Arthur Brown was slow to grasp Dean Pees’ defense which limited his play to just 211 snaps in 2013.

The dearth of ILB talent could persuade the club to give the retired Rolando McClain another look. To his credit McClain decided to call it quits to clean up his troubled life and get his head on straight. If successful and if he wishes to return to the league, the Ravens have little to lose by providing the opportunity.

Let’s keep in mind that the NFL’s leading tackler in 2013 was kicked to the curb by 31 teams not named the Cincinnati Bengals. Vontaze Burfict is proof that players with character red flags can change with the right opportunity and the proper leadership.

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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 CBS Sports 1300. He also hosts Backfield in Motion with Justin Forsett seen on ABC2 every Saturday at 1PM. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin to being John Bonham. He ignores the passengers in cars beside him who laugh. Follow Tony's new Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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