RICE OFFICIALLY PLEADS NOT GUILTY
Last Thursday, running back Ray Rice formally pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of assault. The former Rutgers star also applied for a pretrial intervention program, and if granted to Rice, he would likely be able to avoid the original assault charges.
The conditions Rice would follow if granted the pretrial intervention would include staying out of further trouble for a year while also going through counseling. Rice has already said he and his wife, Janay Palmer, are going to work to move forward from the incident and are happily married.
Rice’s lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, said during a press statement outside of the courthouse that, “There was a disagreement between [Rice] and his wife. He made a mistake. He loves Janay and wants to move forward. This was a momentary lapse of reason.”
Rice has a chance to avoid punishment from the United States government, but seems unlikely to completely avoid punishment from the NFL. In the past, Commissioner Robert Goodell has dealt suspensions even without players being found guilty, including to Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who received what ended up being a four-game ban several years ago without even being formally charged.
RAVENS JUST MISSED SIGNING ADDITIONAL RUNNING BACKS
Even before the well-documented legal issues facing starting running back Ray Rice this offseason, the Ravens had made it clear they were looking to upgrade their backfield after Rice averaged only 3.1 yards per rush in 2013, and backup running back Bernard Pierce averaged under 3.0 yards per rush.
Since then the Ravens have signed former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Justin Forsett, but according to general manager Ozzie Newsome, they have been in on some other free agent backs, although Newsome opted not to name any specific players.
“In talking with John all the way back to when we went to Jupiter to spend some time with Steve [Biscotti] we’ve been talking about adding one, maybe two running backs to our team,” Newsome said. “And this was before the incident that happened in Atlantic City.”
Because of the decrease in the value of running backs in today’s NFL, finding a quality running back in the NFL Draft or at the end of free agency is always possible. In fact, most of the best running backs in this year’s draft are not expected to go off the board until the second round or later.
RAVENS BELIEVE IN THE CRIMSON TIDE
Recently, University of Alabama prospects have come under significant scrutiny after ESPN’s draft expert Mel Kiper expressed concern about drafting players out of Alabama because of the struggles of the early picks taken in recent years. Over the last four seasons only one Alabama defender selected in the first round out of seven has made it to the Pro Bowl.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome has expressed confidence in Alabama however, and still feels that the University is a top producer of pro-ready talent. “Do I have intimate knowledge of what goes on at the university? Yes I do. My son is still there playing,” Newsome said. “What we do is just grade the players.”
Newsome has picked from the talent pool of Alabama often in his tenure as the general manager for the Ravens. Alabama players drafted by Newsome include Jarret Johnson, Le’Ron McClain, Terrence Cody, Terry Jones, Ralph Staten, and most recently Courtney Upshaw.
Upshaw has had injury troubles on top of playing in what is a very talented outside linebacker corps in Baltimore. Upshaw showed potential, especially in rush defense in his rookie year, but saw a drop-off in playing time after injuring his shoulder in 2013. Newsome being an alumni may play a role in his support of Alabama, although he also maintains that the team drafts players, not schools. The only school the Ravens have drafted more players from than Alabama is Oklahoma (seven). They’ve also drafted six from Miami (Fl.).
POSSIBLE PROSPECTS RAVENS MAY TARGET IN DRAFT
In recent years, the Ravens have picked at the later end of the first round of the NFL draft, in large part due to their consecutive playoff runs from 2008-2013. This year, the Ravens pick right in the middle of the draft, and will be in relatively unfamiliar territory. Many think they may choose to trade back.
The front office has long made it clear that they value having multiple picks, and that they believe in value in depth. Over the weekend, BaltimoreRavens.com staff writer Garrett Downing took a look in depth at some potential players the Ravens may target in the draft if they do indeed opt to trade back.
Two potential Ravens in Downing’s eyes are USC’s Marquise Lee and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin. Lee’s stock has fallen slightly after a subpar combine, and he may make it to the back of the first round, where his versatility may prove to be too much for the Ravens to pass up.
Benjamin’s size (6-5) is appealing to a wide receiver corps that lost it’s most physical presence last offseason in Anquan Boldin, and that lacked a strong playmaking receiver all year. Benjamin would be dangerous for opposing defenses in man coverage, and would be a great red-zone target.