ORLANDO -- Ravens coach John Harbaugh just spoke with reporters for about an hour on a variety of topics at the NFL owners meetings. Here are some of the highlights:
Like owner Steve Bisciotti did a day earlier, Harbaugh again defended Ray Rice and said that, despite the running back’s legal issues, Rice will be on the team in 2014. Harbaugh, however, acknowledged that the team’s three arrests in a 22-day span were embarrassing and inexcusable.
Harbaugh confirmed that Jeremy Zuttah, who was acquired Sunday for a 2015 fifth-round draft pick, is projected as the starting center. He called him a “big, rangy guy” who should do really well in Gary Kubiak’s offense. Harbaugh called last year’s starter, Gino Gradkowski, yesterday and delivered the news.
At this point, the Ravens are proceeding with plans to keep Kelechi Osemele at left guard. Osemele played right tackle for much of his rookie season before moving to left guard for the team’s Super Bowl run. He started at left guard last year before a back injury forced him to miss the rest of the season and get surgery. Osemele’s rehab is going well, and Harbaugh said the team would like to keep him at the position at which he is most comfortable. However, that’s not set in stone. Harbaugh said it’s possible that the team could draft or sign a guard that they really like and that would prompt them to move Osemele out to tackle.
With that in mind, and Eugene Monroe at left tackle, Osemele at left guard, Zuttah at center and Marshal Yanda at right guard, that would leave the Ravens with one offensive line vacancy at right tackle. Harbaugh said that, in his mind, second-year player Rick Wagner is currently atop the right tackle depth chart. But he also said that Jah Reid is determined to win the job. It could become a moot point if the Ravens draft a right tackle, like Notre Dame’s Zach Martin.
Harbaugh said that the team is still actively engaged in negotiations with free agents, including a couple of their own. “You’re never done,” Harbaugh said. The Ravens’ remaining free agents are tight ends Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark, running back Bernard Scott, fullback Vonta Leach and nose tackle Terrence Cody. Harbaugh confirmed that the team is still talking to Dickson, but he also acknowledged that the Ravens have interest in free-agent tight end Owen Daniels, who obviously has great familiarity with Kubiak and tight ends coach Brian Pariani.
The Ravens are still looking to add to their defensive line, but with how their roster is currently constituted, Harbaugh said that Brandon Williams is the favorite to fill the starting spot left by the departed Arthur Jones. Harbaugh also said that Kapron Lewis-Moore will be in the mix.
The Ravens maintained interest in quarterback Brandon Weeden, who signed earlier this month with the Dallas Cowboys, and Harbaugh said that they’d still like to add a backup behind Joe Flacco. He cited the fact that Tyrod Taylor is a free agent after the 2014 season, and the team has been “disappointed” with how Taylor has played when given a rare opportunity in games.
Harbaugh didn’t rule out retired linebacker Rolando McClain joining the Ravens, but he certainly doesn’t appear too consumed by it. He said that he hasn’t had any talks with McClain about returning, and he wouldn’t be interested unless McClain is working hard. The Ravens still have McClain’s rights, and the player has said on Twitter that he’s planning to return to the NFL. However, it’s still too early to suggest that will happen with the Ravens and in the 2014 season.
Harbaugh said that Kubiak and his staff have finished the playbook and the offensive players have had it for about a week. He also said that he’s been told that Joe Flacco has organized informal workouts with his receivers away from the team facility, though he wasn’t sure of the details.
Harbaugh said the team is very excited about the recent signing of safety Darian Stewart, but he said that the team is still looking to draft a safety. Harbaugh acknowledged that he’s been looking at a lot of tape of the safeties in the draft, and he watched tape last night of Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Asked what his reaction was when owner Steve Bisciotti told him that he was adding a year to the head coach’s contract despite the team missing the playoffs, Harbaugh said: “The first thing I said was, ‘Why?’” Harbaugh went on to call Bisciotti’s gesture a “big statement” of support.
Because the team is younger, Harbaugh said that he will likely have a more physical training camp for this coming season.