RAVENS UPGRADE TO ZUTTAH
After signing Eugene Monroe to a long-term deal earlier this month, the Ravens continued to work towards improving their offensive line, trading for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Jeremy Zuttah on Sunday. The Ravens gave up a 5th round pick in the 2015 draft to acquire the 27-year-old lineman.
The Ravens knew they needed to address the center position this offseason, after Gino Gradkowski struggled mightily in his first season as a starter. Therefore, while Zuttah is not a Pro Bowl player, his ability to be at least an average center in the NFL appealed to the team significantly.
Zuttah has played six previous seasons, and has started every game the last two seasons. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds, which is considerably larger than Gradkowski, who was pushed around at the position last year, and has always been knocked for being too small.
Zuttah has experience at the guard position as well, and his athleticism makes him a solid fit in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking offense this season. The deal was made possible after the Buccaneers signed Evan Dietrich-Smith last week and made it known Zuttah was being shopped.
RAVENS SIGN DARIAN STEWART
The Ravens signed veteran safety Darian Stewart to a one-year contract Friday, as they continue to look for answers at the position. Stewart played with the St Louis Rams in 2013, but started only 6 games. In 2011 when he played under current Ravens’ secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, he started 13 games.
Stewart is listed at 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds and was signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of South Carolina. In 2013 the 25-year-old finished the year with 36 tackles, four passes defended, and a forced fumble.
2011 was also easily the best year of Stewart’s career, as he made 91 tackles, forced two fumbles, intercepted a pass, and registered three sacks. Since then, Stewart has regressed and had trouble getting playing time. The Ravens hope a reunion with Spagnuolo can jumpstart his productivity.
With the future of free agent James Ihedigbo uncertain, and the team looking to find a more athletic free safety so they can move Matt Elam back to strong safety anyway, the Ravens likely are not done looking for safeties. Stewart gives the team depth at the position.
STEELERS DRAFT PICKS SAFE
After considering taking a draft pick from the Pittsburgh Steelers for Mike Tomlin’s sideline interference last Thanksgiving, the NFL announced last week that the Steelers would not lose any selections. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley says the Ravens shouldn’t be surprised by this either, as it is difficult to prove any clear motive in the interference. (link 3)
Tomlin was on the field during a kickoff return by Ravens returner Jacoby Jones last November, and appeared to influence the play by being in Jones’ path. He was fined $100,000 after the game, the fourth-highest fine the NFL has dealt a head coach in league history.
Tomlin serves on the NFL competition committee, and by being inside of the white border, much less on the field of play at all during the return, was breaking Rule 13, Section 1, Article 4 of the NFL’s rulebook.
After the game the Ravens, (who won the game 22-20,) made light of the situation, as quarterback Joe Flacco joked that Tomlin pulled his own move from the Super Bowl the previous year. Head Coach John Harbaugh asked the media if Tomlin received credit for a tackle on the play.
STEVE SMITH SURPRISES FAN
After wide receiver Steve Smith signed with the Baltimore Ravens earlier this month, many Panthers fans made it clear they were going to miss their number one receiver from a season ago. Nobody was going to miss him more however, than 7-year-old Gavin Simone. Here’s Simone’s original reaction:
Smith surprised the unhappy fan on Good Morning America and gave the little guy the very first Steve Smith Sr. Ravens jersey among other Ravens items. Smith will wear the number eighty-nine, the same number he had worn during his tenure with the Carolina Panthers his whole career.
Smith also told Simone that he was going to invite him to his football camp this spring in Charlotte, where the child lives. Despite being the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, Smith was a surprise cut by the Carolina Panthers earlier this month after a down 2013 campaign.
“Everybody was contacting me so I was like, ‘I’ve got to meet him and hook him up with some Ravens gear.’” Smith said after hugging Simone. Smith signed a three-year deal with the Ravens on March 14, giving the Ravens a physical, chain-moving wide receiver they missed in 2013.