Photo courtesy of ShawnHubbardPhoto.com
Perhaps one of the more understated needs of the Baltimore Ravens as they prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft is the position of defensive tackle.
The team as expected, lost Arthur Jones to free agency and now they’ll need to distribute his reps to others currently on the roster and perhaps a few who aren’t among the potential 53 – yet!
The obvious choices for more playing time are Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Tyson. Both are capable and as we’ve seen in the past, defensive line coach Clarence Brooks has a knack for developing such players. It might also help if Chris Canty steps up his game.
That said the anchor of the Ravens interior D-line is undeniably Haloti Ngata. But as we’ve seen in the past, too many snaps for the 30-year-old Ngata erodes his effectiveness and it raises concerns about his durability. Ngata has missed time in each of the past two seasons and that means the Ravens will have to acquire more depth.
And that is particularly important because the inside linebackers slated to receive the lion’s share of playing time in 2014 are Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown. Neither is viewed as a run stuffing defender and the team will need to keep the pair clean.
On Tuesday NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported that the Ravens offered a lucrative extension to Haloti Ngata to reduce his 2014 cap number and allow the former Duck to retire as a Raven.
The two sides couldn’t make it happen.
On Ngata, the deal the Ravens’ offered was similar in concept to the Terrell Suggs deal — aimed at allowing him to retire in Baltimore.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 16, 2014
Ngata is due $8.5M in salary in both 2014 and 2015. The Ravens could have turned that salary into a bonus and extended it beyond the two years remaining on Ngata’s contract.
Chances are the guaranteed money wasn’t what Ngata wanted and that’s not unusual for a player under contract for two more years. Suggs had only one year left on his contract making it easier for the two sides to find common ground. Like Suggs in 2013, Ngata will be playing for his future in 2014.
It is interesting that Breer reported the Ngata discussions now. The Ravens have ample salary cap room to make minor free agent acquisitions from a depleted field and to sign their rookie class. So the report isn’t all that relevant to the current state of the Ravens.
However the timing of the announcement is worthy of a raised eyebrow. Breer delivered the report from team headquarters in Owings Mills on Wednesday and where do you think he got the tidbit of info?
From the team of course and it begs the question, “Why?”
Perhaps it serves as a message to Ngata and his representatives?
It would be no surprise to hear sports talk radio paint Ngata as a moderate villain using the misguided rationale that it was good for Suggs, why not Ngata.
That one additional year on his contract makes all the difference between the Ngata and Suggs situations. Next offseason, look for Ngata and the team to mimic the approach they took with Suggs.
Pernell McPhee had a very productive rookie season with 6 sacks and he was generally menacing as an interior pass rusher while redirecting the passing lanes of opposing quarterbacks. That production inspired one Ravens executive to say that had they known McPhee was that good they would have taken him in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft instead of the 5th round.
His productivity fell off in 2012 while recovering from a knee injury and then he was moved to outside linebacker in 2013 where he was far less effective.
It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Dean Pees uses McPhee in 2014 but the bet here is that we’ll see him much more on the inside as second year linebacker John Simon earns more snaps on the outside.
Most expect Gary Kubiak’s offensive approach to be a welcomed addition for the Ravens. Last season the Ravens offense ranked 29th overall and 30th on the ground. Should the Ravens bump those numbers significantly, say in the top 12 of the league, might that be enough to issue Kubiak’s ticket out of town and into a new head coaching slot?
Some believe that if that happens the Ravens already have his successor in quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison. But such a promotion is hardly a sure bet. Dennison has a long history with Kubiak and there’s an excellent chance that the Montana native, who has spent his entire career west of the Mississippi, will leave with Kubiak.
Then the Ravens will have no choice but to ask Joe Flacco to work with his fourth coordinator in four seasons.
Today at The Castle the Ravens will host a clinic for the media with Dean Pees and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg as the keynote speakers.
Don’t you just want to know whatever happened to the coffin corner punt?