We’ve heard from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and newly-signed defensive back Corey Graham in person and we also chatted with re-signed linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo on a conference call. And while we wait to meet with starting linebacker Jameel McClain, who is upstairs crossing T’s and dotting I’s, I’ll pass along the highlights of our conversation with Harbaugh, including an interesting tidbit on Jah Reid’s new role.
Harbaugh on the team putting an emphasis on improving their special teams with today’s signings: “It’s certainly something we thought coming out of the season that we really needed to do. We weren’t as good there as we need to be. We need to be more explosive, cover kicks better. We have good specialists we feel like, but that core group needs to be more dominant. These are the types of guys that will help us do that.”
Harbaugh on watching some of the Ravens’ free agents sign elsewhere: “It probably wasn’t as hard for me as it was for the fans because I had a little more of a front seat to what we were doing. ... We were involved with guys all the time but we have our limits as what we are going to be able to pay certain players. That was for our own guys that left and it was also for free agents out there that we were interested in. There just weren’t going to be big numbers that we were going to be able to spend on guys. Really, in free agency those guys are worth every penny that they can get, but they’re not worth the same to every team. Some teams have bigger needs. Some teams have more cap room. And it was just something that we knew we were just going to have to ride out a little bit, and again, try to make some wise decisions as we go forward.”
Harbaugh on whether the team will make more moves before next month’s draft: “I think further moves are possible. We would like to fill as many spaces as we can between now and the draft. You can only do that when the move presents itself. … So when there is a player available that you feel like can make your team better and the economics work out that you can actually get him, then you try to make a move.”
Harbaugh on whether Jah Reid could replace Ben Grubbs at left guard: “That’s definitely a possibility. Jah’s a guy who can play right tackle for us. Really, he can play any position along the front line. He played every position last year in practice, so he’s definitely a possible answer at left guard. I would say right now, today, he’s the left guard. He’s got to earn that spot but we’ll be continuing to look for players. Our goal would be to put the five best offensive linemen on the field. Jah, certainly, I’d like to see him be one of those guys, but it’s up to him to earn that spot.”
Harbaugh on the competition between Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee to replace Cory Redding: “Those two guys are excited. They’re disappointed to see Cory go. They learned so much from Cory. Cory was such a great mentor for those guys. But I talked to Pernell on the phone and I’ve seen Art here twice in the last couple weeks. I could hear Pernell smile and I could see Art smile. So they’re both really looking forward to competing for that spot. But they have flexibility, too. Art can play inside and Pernell can go outside, so there’s some flexibility with those guys as well.”
Harbaugh on if he was confident that Jameel McClain would return: “I probably wasn’t real confident early on. We just know what kind of a player he is and you guys have seen him. Our fans know how good of a player he is. But for whatever reason, the inside ‘backer market just didn’t really go crazy like the outside ‘backer market, for instance. So the more it went, the more excited I got that maybe he’d be able to fit into our economic situation. And he got a really good contract and that’s going to be something that I think is going to give him an opportunity down the road to do well financially. But he’s a Raven. He’s one of us. I think he helps define what it means to be a Raven. Look at his character. Look at his story. Look at what he’s done. I just have so much respect for him, so much admiration for him as a person. He’s a big part of who we are.”
Harbaugh on Corey Graham’s role here: “Corey Graham is going to help us on defense and on special teams, but just talking about special teams first, he’s a tremendous gunner. He’s an outside guy that just makes plays. He’s a dominant gunner. He’s a dominant kickoff cover guy who’s going to make a big difference on our cover teams. But he’s also a heck of a corner and I think he wanted an opportunity to expand his role on defense, too, and we’ve got a history here. Look at what Brendon Ayanbadejo has done. We play a lot of different players on defense. Haruki and Zibby had a big role. So he’s excited about that also.”
Harbaugh on who will win tonight’s NCAA tournament game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Indiana Hoosiers, who are coached by Harbaugh’s brother-in-law Tom Crean: “IU. Is there any question?”
Will he be giving a pep talk tonight? “The Wildcats are going to get a face-full of red in this game. I promise you. Rumor has it that I might be giving a pep talk tonight. You might have heard part of that pep talk right there. A face-full of red.