Baltimore Ravens: 2014 NFL owners meetings
This really should be called the "Tucker Rule" because the proposal was made by the New England Patriots. It dates back to the Baltimore Ravens' 31-30 victory over the Patriots on Sept. 23, 2012, when kicker Justin Tucker's 27-yard game-winning field goal went over the right goal post.
Immediately after the kick, Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork berated officials and coach Bill Belichick placed his hand on another official to dispute whether the kick was good.
Click right here to see the kick if you want to see what the controversy is all about.
Tucker addressed the kick, which was the first game winner of his career, on Twitter on Wednesday:
"FWIW the only guys who know exactly where that GWFG went vs NE are Sam Koch and myself. Not my best kick but still inside by about a foot."
This is a good problem to have if you're the Ravens. The average age of their receivers is 25, so it's an added plus that Smith has this type of nonstop work ethic.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh runs a tough training camp, but he's smart with older players. Veterans get an extra day off during the summer because Harbaugh doesn't want to wear them down.
Smith, who turns 35 in May, is the oldest player on the Ravens' roster. Including Smith, there are only seven Ravens players who are in their 30s.
But Harbaugh doesn't force his older players to take a day off. Rivera wonders whether Smith can keep up such a pace in the later stages of his career.
"He's going to wear himself down," Rivera said. "Steve wants to take every rep. I give you an example. We tell Steve today's your day off. OK, we go out there and he's in pads. He says I just want to wear them out when I go through drills. The next thing you know he's in team drills. That's just the way he is. He wants to do everything all the time."
Rivera, though, made it clear that Smith can still help the Ravens.
"Steve still has it," Rivera said. "There are some things Steve will do very well for [the Ravens]. Steve is an explosive, dynamic player."
The proposal to allow coaches to challenge any official's decision wasn't passed Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who is co-chairman of the NFL competition committee, said less than 50 percent of the coaches supported the proposal to make all plays reviewable.
Harbaugh backed the proposal from Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"I think everything should be reviewed. If not, work back from what shouldn’t be reviewed," Harbaugh said Tuesday, a day before the voting. "Don’t work out from what should be reviewed because right now, all we do every year is we add things for review cause a play happens like the San Francisco play. You say, ‘Oh boy, that’s a loophole that should be reviewed,’ so we add it. That’s the tail wagging the dog."
On Tuesday, NFL owners voted to use a centralized system to help referees in stadiums make decisions on replay reviews. A day later, the proposal to make all plays reviewable didn't receive the required 24 votes to pass.
"Let’s make sure the outcome is right so when the game is all said and done, the fans aren’t blaming the officials for the outcome of the game one way or another," Harbaugh said. "They’re blaming or patting the players and coaches on the back. That’s where the outcome of the game should be and technology now gives us the opportunity to do that. Don’t put the referee in a situation where real time and the fans have a better view of the play than he does. That makes no sense. That’s our view.”
Harbaugh is also in favor of more challenges.
"I think the time argument is bogus," he said. "College does it very quickly. I like the coach having the challenge. I think it adds some excitement to the game and some strategy to the game that is fun and I feel like would give us an advantage because I feel we would be good at that. However, they decide to do it, it would not slow down the game and it would not take the game out of the referee’s hands. He would still control the game. It’s just a matter of time before it comes to that.”
"I was disappointed with the moves that the Broncos and Patriots made in the offseason. What more can I say?" Harbaugh said. "I thought they did a great job and that disturbed me.”
The Ravens have had a productive offseason, re-signing many of their own free agents as well as adding wide receiver Steve Smith and center Jeremy Zuttah.
But the Ravens are trying to catch the Broncos and Patriots. The two teams who played in last season's AFC Championship Game have competed against each other this offseason in terms of big signings. The Broncos signed cornerback Aqib Talib, safety T.J. Ward, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive end DeMarcus Ware, while the Patriots brought in cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner as well as re-signing wide receiver Julian Edelman.
The Broncos and Patriots attacked free agency differently than the Ravens for a reason. Those teams have aging quarterbacks and have taken an all-in philosophy. Ravens officials believe they have a longer window to win a championship.
The Ravens, obviously, aren't conceding anything.
“We’ll find out. The proof is in the pudding," Harbaugh said. "But obviously they’ve added some pieces. I think both of those teams do a great job. They make great decisions, they’ve very particular with who they add and they add the player they need in the spot they need. It seems they draft that way as well. You’ve got to applaud what they’ve done. But we’ll play games in the fall and see how it plays out.”
Why? Tyrod Taylor has an uncertain future (one year left on his contract), and he hasn't necessarily convinced anyone that he's a proven backup quarterback.
"We've been very happy with Tyrod, and we feel like he has a great future, but we have been a little disappointed how he's played in games certainly," coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. "We feel like he's a lot better than he's showed. I know he feels that way, too. We feel like Tyrod's best football is by far definitely in front of him, but he's only got one year left with us, so we need to add a quarterback into the mix, whether it be offseason or in the draft.”
Taylor has never completed 60 percent of his passes in the preseason and he's lacked consistency in limited action in the regular season. In 13 regular-season games, he has completed 19 of 35 passes (54.3 percent) for 199 yards. He has thrown no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 47.2 career passer rating.
This is why the Ravens expressed interest in former Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden before he signed with the Dallas Cowboys. There's not much left in free agency in terms of quarterbacks: Matt Flynn, Luke McCown, Jimmy Clausen, Josh Freeman, Rex Grossman and Dan Orlovsky. It's essentially a list of underachievers.
If the Ravens decide to take a quarterback in the draft, it will likely come in the fifth round or later. ESPN's Kevin Weidl named Pitt's Tom Savage and Georgia's Aaron Murray as developmental quarterbacks who are creating buzz among NFL personnel.
Savage has polished mechanics and one of the strongest arms in the draft class. Murray has impressed scouts with his decision-making and poise in several high-pressure situations.
I don't see the Ravens going with a rookie as the primary backup to Joe Flacco. But, if they take a quarterback in the draft, it could be a case where a prospect is groomed to take over the No. 2 job in 2015 from Taylor.
It goes back to the collective bargaining agreement, which allows teams to keep first-round picks for a fifth season by exercising an option in May. This is the first year that it has gone into effect.
So, to keep Jimmy Smith from becoming an unrestricted free agent, the Ravens need to pick up his option before the May 3 deadline. All the Ravens have to do is pay him an average of the 25 highest-paid cornerbacks, with the top three excluded. That means Jimmy Smith won't be a free agent until 2016, and the Ravens could put the franchise tag on him to retain him another year.
"We have no doubt that we’ll be investing the option in Jimmy when the time comes," Harbaugh said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. "We are hopeful that we can sign Jimmy long-term. That will be our goal."
The more immediate concern is Torrey Smith, who is entering the final year of his deal. The receiver is the type of player the Ravens like to extend because there is little risk in giving him a big-money contract. He is a high-character player whose receiving yards have increased every season.
The Ravens are hoping to get a deal done with Torrey Smith before the draft.
Daniels, 31, would fit with the Ravens because he has familiarity with Gary Kubiak's offensive system from his days in Houston. Durability is the biggest concern. Last season, Daniels played only five games because of a fractured fibula.
"We just have to see how it plays out," Harbaugh said. "It's got to be a fit for everybody. There's a lot to it financially and other things. He's in our conversation."
Harbaugh also mentioned that the Ravens are considering re-signing Ed Dickson to fill the No. 2 tight end role.
There has been speculation that the Ravens could bring in another former Texans player. But right tackle Eric Winston is currently not on the team's radar.
"That's not to say it couldn't change, but that's not a guy we're talking to right now," Harbaugh said.
Two weeks ago, McClain was noncommittal on whether he plans to play this season.
"To me, it all depends on a couple things. Who [is he] as a person right now? Has he grown up?" Harbaugh said. "He had a lot of growing up to do obviously. And how hard he's working, how hard he's working at Alabama right now. If he's working his rear end off, then I'm kind of excited about him. If he's not, then I've got no interest in him being on our team."
The Ravens don't have a pressing need at inside linebacker. The team re-signed Daryl Smith and hopes Arthur Brown steps into a starting role in his second season. The Ravens' backups are Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan, both of whom have starting experience and are core special-teams players.
McClain, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Oakland Raiders, announced his retirement 10 months ago, stating he wanted "to focus on getting my personal life together."
He re-enrolled at Alabama and told reporters that he needs two summer classes to complete his degree.
The Raiders released McClain last April 5 after a series of off-field issues, including a shooting incident in December 2011 that led to McClain being charged with four misdemeanors. The charges were later dropped after he and the victim reached a financial settlement.
McClain signed with the Ravens five days after being released by Oakland but retired before attending even one practice. The Ravens still retain the rights for the 24-year-old former Alabama standout. In 41 games over three seasons with the Raiders, McClain had 246 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Harbaugh didn't specify whether there is a time frame in which the Ravens need to know McClain's decision.
"If he unretires or whatever the situation is, then we'll decide whether he is going to be good for our team," Harbaugh said. "And if we think yes, then we have the rights to him and he'll have to come back with us. But if we don't think he'll be good for our team, we'll let him go and play for somebody else. It's all up to Rolando McClain. Who are you? How hard are you working? And how much do you want to play football? Up to this point, he hasn't really wanted to play football. That's what I'm interested in as a coach."
Harbaugh didn't have any details of when or where the throwing sessions will occur.
Flacco knows who he'll be throwing the ball to this year. The Ravens' top three wide receivers -- Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones -- are back along with tight end Dennis Pitta. The only change so far has been the addition of wide receiver Steve Smith.
There was no such familiarity last year, when Flacco lost his top two receivers (wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded and Pitta was out for 12 games with a hip injury). The biggest adjustment for Flacco is the Ravens' new offensive scheme under coordinator Gary Kubiak. Flacco and the rest of the offensive players have received the playbook, but they can't talk to any coaches about it because of NFL rules limiting players' work in the offseason.
Players are allowed to work out at the Ravens' facility with limited supervision starting April 21.
Pitta said earlier this month that Flacco talked about organizing workouts with his receivers. Flacco is coming off a season in which he threw a career-worst 22 interceptions.
“We were just [a little bit] off,” Flacco said at the end of the season. “If you’re just [a little bit] off and when you’re [a little bit] off throughout the course of the game over the course of 16 games, you’re not going to be special enough to win football games.”
At the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday, Harbaugh provided some good insight on what was the weakest part of the Ravens' team last season ...
The Ravens intend on starting Jeremy Zuttah at center. Zuttah, who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fifth-round pick, will replace Gino Gradkowski. Harbaugh informed Gradkowski, who struggled as a first-year starter, of the demotion on Monday. "Jeremy is a more experienced center-guard in this league," Harbaugh said. "The thing I liked on tape -- we studied him pretty hard -- he’s a big, rangy guy. He’s got length, he’s got size in there, he’s got experience and he’s also got, we think, a knack for the scheme we’re going to run offensively. He’s a good fit for us.”
The plan is to start the versatile Osemele at left guard. "That’s where I see him playing next year," Harbaugh said. "Could that change? Certainly, with the draft and that kind of thing. But let’s keep him in there at left guard. He’s got a lot of experience in there right now, he’s comfortable there, he likes playing on the left side. It provides us with some real size inside, some length inside, which is good. We can run all those twists and games and things in there, keep the pocket deep for Joe [Flacco]. That’s where we’re going right now, and we’ll see how it plays out.” Osemele could potentially move to right tackle if the Ravens draft a guard.
Wagner is penciled in at right tackle to replace Michael Oher, who signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency. A fifth-round pick a year ago, Wagner played 12 percent of snaps last season. "We put him in that role as a move tight end with the extra offensive lineman down at the goal line in short-yard situations, and he was very bad at it early and he became very good at it toward the end," Harbaugh said. "You start to learn how a guy thinks, so you learn how to teach him a little bit. I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to need a lot of reps to gain his confidence. And once he gains confidence in his techniques, he’ll be really good at it. Juan [Castillo] is a great trainer of offensive linemen, one of the best in the league, if not the best, at training guys in techniques. We think that Rick’s going to really benefit from that.” Jah Reid is in the mix at right tackle as well.
There have been reports that Rice has worked hard this offseason to shed pounds and is close to that targeted weight. The Ravens believe Rice will benefit from the team's new cross trainer coach.
"We talked about some of the stuff that we’ve done with our training program to try and lean him up a little bit," Harbaugh said. "He’s under 210 right now. I’d like to see him around 205, 207 [pounds]. That’s where he was his first couple of years, and then he crept up to about 212 in the Super Bowl year. It was still good for him. He was still very explosive. And then last year through the injury, he got up to at least 217, which was just too big.”
Rice rushed for 660 yards last season, his lowest output since becoming the Ravens' featured back in 2009. He only had one run over 20 yards last season after having five such runs the previous season.
The Ravens are hoping that Rice will bounce back with fewer injuries and fewer pounds.
"He tried to fight through it the whole year and he was probably good enough to play, but not good enough to excel," Harbaugh said.
- Harbaugh acknowledged he was surprised when owner Steve Bisciotti offered him a one-year contract extension last month.
- Ray Rice was as heavy as 217 pounds last season, according to Harbaugh. The Ravens would like Rice to be around 207 pounds this season. Harbaugh reiterated that Rice "will be part of our team."
- Harbaugh was very strong on three player arrests in a month span were "unacceptable."
- Jeremy Zuttah, who was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been brought in to be the starting center. Harbaugh talked with Gino Gradkowski, last year's starter, to break the news.
- The plan is to start Kelechi Osemele at left guard, which is where he is most comfortable. But, depending on what the Ravens do in the draft, Osemele could still play right tackle.
- As of right now, Rick Wagner would start at right tackle. Wagner was a fifth-round pick from last year. Of course, the draft could change this.
- Asked how the Ravens would replace defensive tackle Arthur Jones in the starting lineup, Harbaugh talked about starting Brandon Williams alongside Haloti Ngata at defensive tackle. He also mentioned using Kapron Lewis-Moore as well.
- Tyrod Taylor has played, but he said Taylor's best football is ahead of him. Given that Taylor has one year left on his contract, the Ravens are looking at quarterbacks in free agency and the draft. Harbaugh has been "disappointed" in how backup quarterback
- Joe Flacco has workouts scheduled with his receivers, but Harbaugh doesn't know when they will occur.
- Harbaugh said the Ravens aren't done in free agency. "I think we're actively engaged with a number of guys, some on our team and some who are free agents," he said.
- In terms of tight ends, the Ravens have Owen Daniels and Ed Dickson on their radar.
- The Ravens are looking to extend the contracts of cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith. The team will pick up the 2015 option on Jimmy Smith in May.
- Harbaugh is in favor of expanding the replay system. He likes Patriots coach Bill Belichick's proposal of having everything subject to a coach's challenge.
- The Ravens haven't talked to inside linebacker Rolando McClain about a potential return. Harbaugh, though, said he would welcome McClain if he can help the team. It depends on how hard McClain is working and how much he has matured, Harbaugh said.
- Harbaugh said the Ravens will have a tougher and more physical training camp this year because his players are younger.
- The seventh-round pick acquired from the Miami Dolphins in the trade for offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is for the 2015 draft, Harbaugh confirmed. It was originally reported it was for the 2014 draft.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- With a Super Bowl ring on his right hand and an optimistic outlook on the 2014 season, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sat down with ESPN.com to discuss his team's image, Joe Flacco's disappointing season and Ray Lewis' opinion that the team lacks leadership.
Are you concerned about your team's image after having three players arrested this offseason?
Steve Bisciotti: "In a general sense, very much so. In a specific sense, not really. You're always concerned about the image, but the fact that they all happened at once, really is embarrassing to us. I think that we have a reputation for having a well-run organization. I don't know whether if they were spread out, whether that would make it better or not. I'm disappointed. I'm not concerned."
You give Joe Flacco a $120 million contract and he follows that up with the most interceptions of his career. How disappointed are you by that? Do you have any buyer's remorse?
John Harbaugh wants the Thanksgiving night game in Baltimore to become an NFL tradition. Is this something you will try to pursue with the league?
SB: "I have certainly voiced my opinion that we would like that. But, because of the popularity of it with other owners, I'm not holding my breath that I'm going to win that argument. Our fans got a taste of it [in two of the past three years], and I think the city would adapt to that real well. Anything that ties tradition with football is a home run. I would love it. I have expressed it to the league, but I haven't expressed it to everybody. I'm not done."
There have been a report that you had a heavy hand in the hiring of Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator. What was your influence?
SB: "My participation with Kubiak was zero. I had no idea he was even on the market. I thought he was like Lovie Smith and was going to sit out a year. John was very close and a day or two away from making a choice [for his new offensive coordinator] when he had a conversation with Rick Dennison, who he knows from being a special teams guy. So, they ended up talking and it was then that Rick said he thought Gary would be interested in his job specifically. My impression of Gary is a lot like John in that he's a solid, high-character guy. My reaction was, 'wow.' People can believe what they want to believe, but it kind of goes against everything that I've ever believed in from a tutorial management standpoint that is to give good council, give them good advice and let them make decisions. I still haven't talked to Gary."
With what the Ravens have accomplished in free agency, have you done enough to get back to the playoffs?
SB: "Yeah, but I thought that last year. So it shows how much I knew. I think we've done enough to put ourselves in position to have a typical Ravens draft. That's all I really look at. We knew we were going to lose Michael Oher and Arthur Jones. Getting Eugene Monroe was the first biggie. I was always confident that we were going to keep Dennis Pitta because his wife and Joe Flacco's wife wouldn't allow him to leave. It probably cost Pitta $1 million per year because his wife is best friends with Dana (Flacco's wife). I'm thrilled with Steve Smith, I like the signing of safety Darian Stewart and the trade for center Jeremy Zuttah. From the eve of free agency to yesterday, I think we've had a great offeason and I think we have filled our roster to the point where we won't be forced or steered in an awkward direction in the draft. That's where I really want to be."
After experiencing last season, do you believe in Super Bowl hangovers nows?
SB: "No, I think it's hard to win the whole thing because of the confidence level of the league. It's such a significant thing to do. There are just great franchises like the Chargers who haven't won one. It's killing [Patriots owner] Bob [Kraft], that it's been nine years for him and it's killing [Cowboys owner] Jerry [Jones], that it's been 18 years for him. When you realize how hard it is, I think failing is more of a statistical certainty than it is an indication that there is a hangover. I'm more worried about a trend. This year is almost more important. We weren't going to rig the game to give us a little better chance to repeat. Rigging the game costs you too much down the road. I'm proud that we all agreed to do it a certain way. We weren't going to put ourselves out of contention in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to try to repeat. We didn't do that. We didn't get to the playoffs. I want the feeling of being a champion to still be present in our locker room. I'm more worried if we fail to make the playoffs this year and next, then that institutional feeling and knowledge that would dissipate to the point where we're kind of back with everybody else."
Ray Lewis said there was a lack of leadership on the Ravens after losing Ed Reed and himself. Any merit to that?
SB: "No, I don't see any void at all. I talked to Ray that week and I think he regretted saying it. I think afterward he felt bad because he realized that there was only one way to interpret his words and that is: 'Without me, they don't have it.' I don't think he realized that implication to the fullest extent when he said that. He regretted saying that for that reason. It kind of put the spotlight on him. If he had to do it over again, he wouldn't have brought that topic up. Leadership starts at the top, and we've got Ozzie and John. Players do come and go. The great teams have lost great leaders and have come back to win championships."
"He's well into it," Bisciotti said at the NFL owners meetings Monday. "I haven't seen any progress pictures, but the original stuff was just off the charts. We think we'll have it done before the season starts."
Bisciotti wouldn't reveal details about how the Lewis statue will look. Lewis will either be depicted in a linebacker pose or a celebratory pose. The Ravens left the decision up to Lewis.
The Ravens announced plans to put up a statue in Lewis' honor just four days after the team won its second Super Bowl title. Lewis retired after that Super Bowl victory, ending the career of the best player in Ravens history.
"I think he set himself apart in Baltimore sports history," Bisciotti said of Lewis last year.
The Ravens netted four comp picks because they had four of their unrestricted free agents sign elsewhere in 2014, and they didn't sign an unrestricted free agent from another team before June 1. The Ravens' four comp picks will come from losing safety Ed Reed, linebacker Paul Kruger, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams.
Safety Bernard Pollard won't net a comp pick because he was cut, and the Ravens' signings (Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Michael Huff and Marcus Spears) won't count against them because all of those free agents were released. Compensatory picks are only for players who leave after their contracts have ended. Middle linebacker Daryl Smith was an unrestricted free agent last year, but the Ravens signed him after June 1.
The Ravens' best-case scenario for comp picks is one in the third round (Kruger), two in the fourth round (Ellerbe and Williams) and one in the fifth round (Reed). The worst case is one in the fourth (Kruger), two in the fifth (Ellerbe and Williams) and one in the seventh (Reed).