RICE DROPS 15 POUNDS
According to his trainer Kyle Jakobe, running back Ray Rice has lost approximately 15 pounds so far this offseason. Rice played 2013 about 15 pounds heavier than the team would have liked, and was hampered by a hip flexor injury as well.
The combination of the added weight and injury hurt Rice’s performance in 2013, as he averaged only 3.1 yards per carry. Rice was also notably less elusive, and after the season he made it known he felt the decrease in performance was due to the injury and not the added weight.
Jakobe chalked Rice’s weight loss up to a better diet since the season ended, saying “I got him hooked up with a personal chef, so he doesn’t have to think about anything about what he’s going to eat…his nutrition is great now.” Wide receiver Jacoby Jones added that Rice “looked fit.”
Jakobe added that Rice was only 2% more body fat in 2013 than he was in his rookie season and that felt Rice certainly had not lost a step. If Rice is back down to the weight where he played earlier in his career, than he has good odds at rebounding from his disappointing season.
RAVENS SIGN STEVE SMITH
The Ravens said earlier this offseason that one of the biggest needs for 2014 was to find a wide receiver who could make tough catches on “3rd and 7” plays and go over the middle. The lack of a physically imposing receiver after trading away Anquan Boldin was clear.
Last Friday, in an attempt to find that receiver, the team signed wide receiver Steve Smith to a three year deal worth $11 million. Smith caught 64 passes for 746 yards and four touchdowns in 2013 with the Carolina Panthers, the team who he had played for all 13 seasons of his career.
Smith has a reputation for being a player who talks a lot on the field, but who can also block for the running game and who has reliable hands and toughness. Smith has already drawn comparisons to former Ravens receivers Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin.
Smith, 34, has said he understands why the comparisons are being made, but has added that he knows he is not Anquan Boldin at this stage in his career. Smith acknowledged that he is no longer a number 1 receiver, but that he can contribute to a Ravens team in need of physicality and leadership.
OHER SIGNS WITH TITANS, RAVENS RE-SIGN MONROE
Right tackle Michael Oher signed a four year deal worth approximately $20 million with the Tennessee Titans on Friday. Oher was called “a big, strong, durable player” by Titans’ general manager Ruston Webster in a statement released, and Webster added that Oher’s versatility was appealing to the Titans.
Oher had played games at both left and right tackle for the Ravens over the last five years, and has never missed a game. While he has had issues with penalties throughout his career, he has proven to be an adequate right tackle, especially in the running game.
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, the Ravens announced they had re-signed left tackle Eugene Monroe, who they acquired early last season from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Monroe’s deal is worth $37.5 million over five years with an $11 million signing bonus.
Monroe graded out as the team’s best offensive lineman in 2013, and the Ravens made no attempt to hide that he was one of the biggest priorities this offseason. A few days earlier, the Ravens and Monroe were reportedly far apart in negotiations, but the market for left tackles cooled considerably over the course of a couple days, leading Monroe back to Baltimore.
RAVENS TO RECEIVE COMPENSANTORY PICKS
The compensatory pick formula is a relatively complex one, but one that the Ravens’ front office prides itself in understanding as a science. The team has re-signed five of its own free agents and has only signed one free agent from another team, (Steve Smith) who will not count against the compensatory pick formula because he was cut by the Carolina Panthers.
Meanwhile, Corey Graham, Michael Oher, and Arthur Jones have signed contracts elsewhere, which should give the Ravens tentatively three comp picks in the next draft. If safety James Ihedigbo signs with the Detroit Lions, (who he is visiting with) the franchise would potentially have the maximum four picks a team can receive.
The formula also includes the performance of the free agents who leave the team and how they play with their new franchises. If the players perform at a high level, the picks will be higher, and if they play at a replacement level or worse, the picks will be lower. For more clarity, see this piece from last year from RSR’s own Brian McFarland.
The Ravens are notoriously shrewd in free agency, and the team prizes draft picks very highly. Expect the team to continue to target players cut in the offseason over other free agents as the front office attempts to receive as many comp picks as possible.