The Ravens invested heavily this offseason to improve upon a secondary that too often looked confused and overmatched during the fourth quarter of games, particularly when facing formidable quarterbacks. With starters such as Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr at corner, Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson at safety and Tavon Young at SCB, the Ravens, on paper, looked tight across the back end of their defense.
They also added depth to boot after re-signing Lardarius Webb and spending their first-round pick on promising corner Marlon Humphrey. And so far during OTAs, CB Maurice Canady appears to be stepping up in a big way.
Unfortunately, with the season-ending injury to Young, the Ravens will already be forced to tap into that depth – and it’s only June.
Young’s injury could also trigger a tactical change for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Pees has often shied away from employing dime defensive packages and that may have been talent driven. But with the return of cover safety Webb who improved dramatically late during the 2016 season, one could easily conclude that Jefferson could be used in the box to assume the coverage responsibilities normally assigned to a 3rd-down linebacker. Barring a free agent acquisition, Webb now could be looked upon to assume Young’s spot at nickel corner.
An all too familiar name on the injury list is WR Michael Campanaro. The former Demon Deacon has flashed playmaking skills similar to those of the Patriots Julian Edelman and it’s those skills that both intoxicate and frustrate the Ravens front office and coaching staff. He’s now missing time during OTAs with a toe injury.
Campanaro has spent time on IR during each of his three seasons with the Ravens and an injury-plagued summer could lead to his ultimate demise in Baltimore. Releasing Campanaro would trigger cap savings of $950,000. According to Spotrac, 30 other teams are in a better cap position than the Ravens and that places them at a competitive disadvantage when trying to lure free agents.
That said, if the Ravens want a player, they can find a way to get creative and create space but such creativity can become a salary cap burden in future years as explained by RSR’s Brian McFarland.
Candidates for a contract restructure (turning base salary into bonus to reduce the player’s 2017 Cap number) could be Joe Flacco, Justin Tucker, Eric Weddle, Marshal Yanda and Jimmy Smith. That said, restructuring a contract to create present Cap space comes at the expense of future Cap space, and each of the aforementioned candidates comes with varying degrees of risk when restructuring the contract of that player.
As mentioned, Maurice Canady has been impressive during OTAs and has made some splash plays. On Thursday he had three interceptions, two off Joe Flacco as seen here in a video from BaltimoreRavens.com.
And although the team’s official website attempts to shed light on Canady’s progress, the video may also be displaying the lack of progress from Chris Moore. Moore allowed a catchable ball to bounce off his hands and into the waiting arms of Canady. That’s not what you really want to see from the team’s No. 3 receiver (for now) and it speaks to the team’s almost shocking lack of depth at the position.
Ozzie Newsome has vowed to add a complementary receiver to Joe Flacco’s modest arsenal of pass catchers but so far, nothing has materialized. Perhaps the lack of movement can get a jumpstart with the Chiefs recent release of veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Maclin is one season removed from a 1,000-yard campaign and is an accomplished player inside the numbers – a skill that would match up well with the speed on the outside in the forms of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Maclin also has a connection with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. The two were together in Philadelphia from 2009-2012 when Mornhinweg served as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator.
Quantity doesn’t always equate to quality and that is particularly true of the Ravens tight end position. With Pitta’s career now in serious jeopardy according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the health concerns of Watson, Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams, the inexperience of Darren Waller and the potential for a 1-year ban for the twice-suspended Nick Boyle, there really isn’t a reliable option for Flacco at tight end.
Enter Gary Barnidge…
Barnidge, one year removed from a 79-catch, 1,039 yard, 9 touchdown season, was released by the Browns on April 28 and remains unsigned. Could he provide the reliability the Ravens lack at tight end? Barnidge has missed just 4 games during his 8-year career.
Sports Illustrated recently posted a piece that lists 20 high-profile players in the NFL who are under pressure in 2017. Two Ravens made the list: Breshad Perriman and Kamalei Correa. Here’s what SI’s Chris Burke had to say about the two Ravens:
Breshad Perriman, WR, Ravens: Is Year Three the one in which Perriman makes the leap to stardom? His rookie season vanished due to a knee injury and he posted just 33 receptions for 499 yards last year. The Ravens bypassed the WR position during the draft, so Perriman is the de facto No. 1 headed into the summer.
Kamalei Correa, LB, Ravens: The unexpected (and unfortunate) early retirement by LB Zach Orr due to a neck ailment accelerated Correa’s timeline. The 2016 second-rounder now stands to start for Baltimore this season, alongside C.J. Mosley. Is he ready for that level of responsibility? Orr leaves big shoes to fill—he led the Ravens in tackles last season.
THE NEW MATH
The Ravens are currently around $3.2M under the Salary Cap, pending the resolution of Pitta’s status (as well as Arrington’s). With needs at WR, possibly TE and a glaring hole at the right tackle position, currently being handled by James Hurst, team capologist Pat Moriarty might have to get creative in order to fulfill Ozzie Newsome’s promise to bring in reinforcements to help Joe Flacco. So far they’ve added Danny Woodhead while losing Ricky Wagner, Steve Smith, Sr., Jeremy Zuttah and Kamar Aiken.
It’s ok if the Ravens want to fix their defense first and go to a ground and pound offense until they can spend the 2018 offseason re-tooling their offense. But the last thing they need is to put Joe Flacco at risk and if Hurst is the go-to right tackle, or even the next man up, it’s a big red flag that could negatively affect the 2018 season.
Let’s not forget that Flacco’s season-ending injury in 2015 was the direct result of Hurst’s inadequacies.
If the former Tar Heel is on the Ravens roster when the regular season opens, consider it a broken promise by Ozzie Newsome.