THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens Rumor Mill

Art Jones Celebrates

Whether you are a defending Super Bowl Champion or a downtrodden team trying to emerge from the ashes, roster turnover season-to-season is a way of life in the NFL.

Twenty-five percent or more of any team’s roster churns and burns. That’s just the way it is in a league governed by a hard salary cap.

This offseason has just begun but given the struggles of the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 and considering the club’s standards and winning ways, they will likely blow through that 25 percent.

Defensive End Arthur Jones, a player who has met and perhaps even exceeded the Ravens expectations as the 157th overall selection (5th round) in the 2010 NFL Draft, is as good as gone and the team’s front office knows it. Expect the Paul Kruger treatment for Jones.

The next man up could be Kapron Lewis-Moore, a promising 3-4 DE who may have been a second round pick in 2013 had it not been for a knee injury suffered in the BCS Championship Game in January against the University of Alabama.

A few other names that come up often in the “will he stay or will he go” debates are those of Corey Graham, Jacoby Jones, Dennis Pitta and Daryl Smith.

The Ravens would like to keep Graham around because they’ve learned through experience that depth at corner is key to success during a 16-game season and beyond. But Graham may not fit the “right player, right price” credo for a nickel corner.

There’s a reason the Ravens kept Asa Jackson around and barring a surprise move in the draft, the Cal Poly alum is the favorite to assume Graham’s job. His change-of-direction skills in the slot are superior to those of the more battle-tested Chykie Brown.

Word is that Jacoby Jones really enjoys being a Raven. He’s embraced the city, the coaching staff and the organization and one insider believes that there’s a chance to bring back at a hometown discount.

Dennis Pitta’s situation is interesting and his importance to the Ravens offense can’t be understated. He’s held in high regard throughout the organization and is a very close friend of Joe Flacco’s. Unfortunately for Pitta and fortunately for the Ravens his market value is limited since his 2013 season was shortened by a hip injury.

Teams might take a wait and see approach with Pitta. It may be in the best interests of both the Ravens and the four-year veteran from BYU (who will surprisingly be 29-years-old when he takes the field next season) to find common ground on a 1-year incentive laden deal.

For Pitta to re-establish his market value, what better way than to play with a quarterback who relies heavily upon him?

Daryl Smith is said to enjoy Baltimore and at this point in his career the soon-to-be 32-year old linebacker is probably willing to accept a modest one or two year deal. The Ravens don’t have a lot of leverage at this point because their options at inside linebacker aren’t very impressive and promising rookie Arthur Brown was slow to grasp Dean Pees’ defense which limited his play to just 211 snaps in 2013.

The dearth of ILB talent could persuade the club to give the retired Rolando McClain another look. To his credit McClain decided to call it quits to clean up his troubled life and get his head on straight. If successful and if he wishes to return to the league, the Ravens have little to lose by providing the opportunity.

Let’s keep in mind that the NFL’s leading tackler in 2013 was kicked to the curb by 31 teams not named the Cincinnati Bengals. Vontaze Burfict is proof that players with character red flags can change with the right opportunity and the proper leadership.

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About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

21 Raves on “THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens Rumor Mill

  1. JerryB on said:

    “In Ozzie we trust” has become clichéd over the years and, while not perfect, he’s enjoyed more successes than failures and he definitely knows more about personnel than any of us! So, best to leave it in his capable hands. The Burfict-McClain analogy is a good one; besides, the Ravens have had great success in the past with guys named…….McClain! LOL!

  2. -joe d on said:

    Tony, love your work and would love to see you take on the people primarily responsible for the wide talent gap that now exists between the Ravens and the Bengals, that being Ozzie Newsome and the entire scouting staff. We have gotten little out of the draft the last 3-4 years. In the 2010 draft we got Pitta and Arthur Jones, a 4th and 5th round pick while Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody and Ed Dickson self destructed. In 2011 we got the Smith brothers but a 3rd round pick like Jah Reid can’t get on the field. In 2012 we got K.O. in the second round, who may turn out to be a diamond in the rough, but Upshaw hasn’t impressed me, nor has Pierce. One of our two 4th round picks that year, Gradkowski, was the worse center in the league this year, while our other 4th round pick, Christain Thompson, got released after 1 year. In 2013 Elam cracked the starting lineup but picks like Brandon Williams and Arthur Brown barely saw the field. I grant you that few players selected in rounds 5-7 make major contributions and are primarily just special team players but you should be drafting major contributors in rounds 1-4, which the Ravens have not done.

    • Matt on said:

      I think Pierce is a pretty good RB. The offensive line couldn’t open holes this year. Once the offensive line improves a bit look for him to get it going.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Ravens like him, he has a mean streak and could play guard and center. Could push for the center position but I would not be surprised to see them go the route of a heady vet like they did with Birk years ago if they’ve seen enough from Gradkowski.

      • Mark on said:

        Tony,
        Do you know who at the Castle pounded the table for Gradkowki when he was drafted at least 1 or 2 rounds earlier than necessary? Somebody apparently felt he was a steal (former D-1 recruti with NFL bloodlines etc). Who was it?

  3. richieG on said:

    Hey TL,
    We’ve seen enough of GinoG; BUT, do you think the FO has too, or…?!?
    Also, and again. joe d is right – take a closer look at the emperor’s new clothes…OR, are these guys really really good and, for some crazy reason, not allowed on the field because of the HC? Say Whaaaa!!??!
    Cheers,
    RichieG in Dallas

  4. ken on said:

    i expect the Ravens to lose most of these free agents, because in the end money speaks louder than talk, hopefully they keep the best ones (Monroe, Pitta)

  5. BmoreB on said:

    Pitta and Monroe will be back with all others going elsewhere. Obviously just my opinion but the emphasis will be on the O line and not our current list of FA’s. I’m sure Steve B was a bit disturbed by seeing his franchise QB limping around the last couple of games. The shot of Flacco staring into the camera in Cinci after reinjuring his knee was tough to take. The guy was laying there like, “get me some freaking help Steve !” And he needs it, our O Line was horrendous.

  6. Tyler on said:

    I think our o-line will be fine. At least, compared to this year. We retain Monroe for a slight hometown discount because he and his wife have roots in Baltimore and he’s finally with a winning team. They chose right when deciding to sit KO, and he returns to nasty fashion with plenty of time to heal. Back injuries are no joke. Yanda will still tear it up, as he’s continued to do, even with a bum shoulder this year. That leaves RT AND C. Oher walks, and is lucky to even continue his career. Gradkowski may not be done, but his position is definitely in jeopardy with Shipley and Jensen waiting to take it. Rick Wagner and Jah Reid get a shot at RT, but I see that being addressed with a high draft pick. If we can avoid anymore COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY and BONEHEADED changes to the scheme and coaching, I can see our line resembling the unit from the Superbowl run.

  7. Truth on said:

    Jacoby is a great player to keep around and I hope we do. He just gives us an extra threat to score and you can never have enough playmakers. I’m willing to bet money we sign a Vet at Center and Draft a Tackle Early. But if we cant reach a cap friendly deal with Monroe I wouldn’t be surprised to see us Draft a LT in round 1, move Osemele to RT, still bring in a Veteran Center, and let the LG position resolve itself in training camp. Would be the cheapest alternative given the Cap.

    but I still prefer Monroe, Osemele, Vet, Yanda, 1st rd pick as our starting Line because it would give us the most depth. I think Oher would be a beast of a Guard but at this point the ship has sailed with that dude. Pitta is expendable if the price isn’t right. Im just not confident that having a TE being Joe’s #1 receiving Target is a good thing for our offense…could handicap us to an extent. I would love to see us restructure Haloti to retain Art but that’s a long shot. And if McClain isn’t released to keep Daryl Smith im Sharpening the Pitch fork and lighting the torch. That dude needs to be a Raven next year. He deserves and extension if not a raise. Turns out we drafted Gradkowski to groom him as a backup. Talk about missing the boat on that one..uhh

  8. Jimmie on said:

    Ravens could make some solid moves with available cap space: I would like this going into next season.

    OC change if Caldwell gets a HC job: Norv Turner, Chud or Linehan

    QB: Flacco
    RB: Rice
    WR: Smith
    WR: Maclin, Alexander or Britt(down year) on a 1yr deal coming of knee injury. Draft a WR Rd 1 or 2
    WR: Brown
    TE: Pitta draft TE Rd 3 or 4
    LT: Monroe
    LG: KO
    C: Grad – Sign Brian de la Puenta, Roberto Graza or Dominic Raiola for competition
    RG: Yanda
    RT: Draft RT Rd 1 or 2, or sign Zach Strief or Eric Winston

    DE: Canty
    NT: Ngata – rest. Deal possibly
    DE: Let Williams, Tyson and Lewis-Moore compete for this spot with a low draft pick
    OLB: Suggs – rest. deal
    MLB: Smith and Brown
    OLB: Dumervill
    CB: Smith and Webb
    FS: Chris Clemons or Kerry Rhodes(what happened to him) (FA addition)
    SS: Elam

    • Nate on said:

      This team would be nasty! Alex Mack would be another possiblity at Center. I just don’t think Gino is the answer here.

      Given the year he had and his age, I would have no problem dealing Suggs. I think we should try to restructure Ngata, his presense alone is enough to mess with team’s whole offenses.

  9. FL Raven on said:

    It’s interesting how short are memories are. Before Birk retired, everyone, me included, was calling for his ouster because he was too slow, too often injured, not able to make any push etc. Now that he’s gone and Gino had a bad year, everyone misses Birk so much and he’s now the standard for a center. I don’t know that Gino will ever be a successful center but I’m pretty sure most experts will tell you that it takes more than one year for a center to develop successfully. One thing for sure. The best lines are those that develop a chemistry and stick together for a while and the center is the key to the line as he calls the shots and keeps everyone on the same page.

    BTW – everyone was saying that Boldin’s best years were behind him before he stepped it up in the playoffs and super bowl. I still think if Pitta didn’t get hurt, we would have had the possession guy over the middle that Boldin was and not only would we not be talking about missing Boldin but Smith and Jones would not have been double teamed as much on the long routes.

  10. Greg on said:

    Really no such thing as a hometown discount.

    Reading between the lines though with what the organization/insider said, my guess is there’s a mutual understanding that:

    1) Jones revitalized his career in BAL when it was in real danger. He is best as a deep threat/WR3/KR. If he had gone to a lesser team with a lesser QB, would the same had happened? Doubt it. I.e. he’s a good mutual fit.

    2) Jones has the potential to be productive for a full 4 year contract here. Not necessarily so on other WR needy teams with suspect QBs like say Tampa Bay or the Jaguars. He could take a few extra dollars from those teams and might woefully underperform and be out of the NFL and it’ll be too late. He’s 28 or 29 I believe.

    If Jones stays I think its less because he “loves the city” (a fan notion nothing more) but because both sides know its a good place for him to sustain a career where his strengths are maximized.

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