THE GRAPEVINE: Baltimore Ravens news, rumors and innuendo

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Baltimore Ravens news, rumors and innuendo

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If the Ravens had their choice between Michael Oher and Brandon Pettigrew on draft day, word is the team’s war room may have been seriously divided. While the team is very pleased with the value pick of Oher at No. 23 sources indicate that the card turned in under this scenario would have described a coveted tight end out of Oklahoma State.

 

On draft day the league invites a handful of highly regarded NFL draft candidates to Radio City Music Hall for the festivities.  Those invited are generally believed to be top 10 picks based on conversations with league executives. Michael Oher was on hand this year and word is the 49ers were set to select the Ole Miss tackle at No. 10 but that was before Michael Crabtree unexpectedly fell into the lap of San Francisco.

Many have criticized the Ravens for ignoring their needs at wide receiver on draft day. The way we hear it the Ravens coveted Michael Crabtree yet they didn’t foresee a scenario in which he would become a Raven given the costs to move up into the Top 10 of the draft.  The other receiver that they may have given consideration to at No. 26 (had they stayed there) was Rutgers’ Kenny Britt. The team was never high on Darrius Heyward-Bey as a first round choice and the more time they spent with North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks, the less they liked him.

The team had high second round grades on wide receivers Brian Robiskie from Ohio State and Mohamed Massaquoi out of Georgia but both were chosen by the Cleveland Browns at picks 36 and 50 respectively. Had either been available at no. 57 they likely would have been a Baltimore Raven.

Beyond that, the Ravens simply ranked players at other positions higher than the remaining draft eligible wide receivers and remained true to their draft board.

One of the undrafted free agents that the Ravens signed is Graham Gano, kicker out of Florida State.  Gano was the Lou Groza Award recipient honoring the nation’s top collegiate placekicker. However, word is the Ravens were serious contenders for kicker Ryan Succop had he gone undrafted. Unfortunately the Ravens plans to bring in Succop came crashing down when the Kansas City Chiefs made the South Carolina kicker the 2009 NFL Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

The Ravens have signed quarterback John Beck, the Miami Dolphins second round selection (overall no. 40) in 2007. Prior to the 2007 draft the Ravens invited Beck in for a visit. Mix that in with Cam Cameron’s familiarity with Beck and his understanding of the Cameron offensive system and clearly the move makes sense for the Ravens.

Beck is said to be a heady, poised player with a team first attitude. He is accurate in short to intermediate spaces and possesses a quick release. The knock against Beck is that his delivery can often drop down to three-quarters and he doesn’t have prototypical NFL arm strength (although the video below might suggest otherwise). Beck will be 28 when the team takes the field on Opening Day.

So what does the Beck signing mean for Troy Smith? Smith isn’t generally viewed as a John Harbaugh kind of guy.  His ego belies his productivity and Smith envisions himself as an NFL starter. After the 2009 season Smith will become a restricted free agent and he might want to move on to a team where he’ll have a chance to start. Beck on the surface seems more willing to accept a No. 2 role and given his reputation for preparedness and film study he could be better suited for a long-term backup role than Smith.
 

You often hear the Ravens coaches and scouts these days describe desirable players as tough, fast, smart, possessing a love for the game and good character guys. Yamon Figurs might be a good guy and he is obviously fast but tough and smart are about as appropriate for Figurs as clean and sober are for Amy Winehouse. With the additions of players with return capabilities like Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb to the Ravens roster plus a healthier Ray Rice, the one-dimensional (some would say no-dimensional) aspect of Figurs’ game will more than likely force him off the roster. The only thing that could save him is the same thing that helped extend David Pittman’s career – his status as a third round choice. Unfortunately for Figurs he has morphed into the second coming of Lamont Brightful.

Former Bengals and Patriots wide receiver Kelley Washington is said to be torn between the teams on opposite ends of the Baltimore/Washington Parkway. The Redskins have offered Washington a NFL minimum deal to catch passes from Jason Campbell but rumor has it that Washington would like to participate in a Ravens mini-camp before making a decision.

Washington is a big receiver standing at 6’3” and weighing in at around 215-220. He’s a solid red zone target with great athleticism but the desirable measurables haven’t translated well to the field. The rap on Washington is that he lacks football instincts, focus and consistency. If the Stephens City, Virginia native decides to stay closer to home with the Redskins, don’t fret it B’more. The Pats opted to go with 37 year old Joey Galloway over Washington.

Count me among those who still think Anquan Boldin to Baltimore is a possibility albeit remote. Given the recent Boldin shenanigans in Arizona (he opted out of team activities due to a mysterious hamstring injury) they may run out of patience and be forced to move the three-time Pro Bowl receiver by accepting less in return.

But that is only part of the problem in moving Boldin. His contract demands are probably the biggest reason his car remains parked in the desert. More than likely Boldin and his agent Drew Rosenhaus will need to ease off the contractual throttle if he wants out of Cardinals’ red. The Ravens at the moment are a bit hamstrung given their salary cap status however they could create room by releasing Willie Anderson and Frank Walker. Those moves would save the Ravens over $4.5 million in cap space. Of course a Terrell Suggs extension would help as well but the two sides are said to be at a stalemate with Suggs not yet accepting Jared Allen-like money ($31 million guaranteed).

Back to Boldin for a moment…you have to give it to Anita Marks for her steadfast support of any move that would bring Boldin to the Land of Pleasant Living. Some might suggest that Marks is obsessed with the idea and I must admit that I’ve wondered if she has a Boldin Fat Head on her bedroom wall.

And finally, I had the pleasure of participating in the Fiesta 5K run which was well represented by supporters of the Brigance Brigade. From my recollection the Ravens in attendance included: Ed Reed; Matt Birk; Quinn Sypniewski; Matt Katula; Chris Carr; Chris Chester; Adam Terry and retired Raven Jonathan Ogden.

Here’s to you O.J.!
 
Photo by Kevin Moore 

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Tony Lombardi

About 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 and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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