Tray Walker tragedy looms over Ravens as owners meetings begin

Tray Walker remains on the Ravens' minds, but the business of the NFL doesn't stop.

The tragic death of Ravens cornerback Tray Walker looms over this week’s owners meetings, which officially got underway last night.

Walker died late Friday afternoon, a day after his motorbike collided with an SUV at an intersection near where he grew up in Miami. The accident happened only about 45 minutes from where team owners, executives, coaches and other league officials are gathering for the next couple of days at the Boca Raton Resort.

Several high-ranking Ravens’ officials visited Walker’s mother in the days after her son’s death. The Ravens will continue to support the family and they’ll undoubtedly come up with ways to honor Walker in the days ahead.

Owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty and coach John Harbaugh all either arrived here yesterday for the meetings or are expected today.

Here are some of the things that could take place over the next couple of days:

John Harbaugh media availability

One of the highlights of the meetings is the AFC and NFC coaches breakfast, where the coaches of each team hold court for an hour. Harbaugh has been plenty visible and vocal over the past couple of weeks at the team facility as he has spoken at news conferences for Shareece Wright, Benjamin Watson, Mike Wallace and Eric Weddle.

However, Harbaugh’s table will undoubtedly be a popular stop Tuesday, given the tragedy that the organization has been dealing with over the past couple of days. He’ll surely get some football questions too about the team’s free-agent work and the holes that the organization still has to fill.

Bisciotti or Cass have also spoken to select media members at past meetings, but it’s unclear if that will take place this year.    

Free agency

Free agency is now 12 days old and the number of daily transactions has slowed to a trickle. However, there are still plenty of players available and many want jobs soon before teams turn to the draft to fill their needs. Many agents will also be in attendance this week for face-to-face negotiations with executives.

Despite their recent activity in free agency, the Ravens’ top three needs haven’t changed: left tackle, pass rusher and cornerback. There is more quantity than quality available at those spots, and the Ravens would also like to keep alive their chances of getting a compensatory selection for the loss of offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele. That would mean avoiding signing any true unrestricted free agents.

However, the team still has approximately $8 million of cap space and could open up more, depending on what it decides with tight end Dennis Pitta and left tackle Eugene Monroe. So the Ravens clearly have the cap flexibility to make more moves.

It will also be interesting to see if this is the week that ex-Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw finds a new home. Upshaw visited the New York Jets last week, but his market has otherwise been quiet.      

Potential trades

The owners meetings provide a far more relaxed and less hectic environment than the NFL scouting combine. Coaches are in meetings together and roam the grounds at the posh resort together. Some even get in a couple of rounds of golf. The same holds true for team executives.

There is ample opportunity for teams to talk trades and lay the groundwork for potential deals that many not come to fruition until after the draft.

With the Ravens, it doesn’t appear that any deals are imminent, but the team did acquire center Jeremy Zuttah from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the meetings two years ago in Orlando. There is another offensive lineman, Denver Broncos tackle Ryan Clady, available in the trade market. With questions surrounding Monroe, it will be interesting to see if the Ravens get in the mix.     

Rule changes

The potential rule change that is garnering the most attention is the one that calls for an automatic ejection for a player who has committed two personal foul penalties in a single game. The league will also discuss banning chop blocks altogether and making permanent last year’s change involving extra points.

The Ravens have proposed two changes of their own. They want coaches to get three challenges per game, rather than two, and instant replay to be expanded further. They also want players to wear jersey vests with numbers appropriate for their positions when they declare as eligible receivers.

That last one isn’t expected to gain much traction, but it will be interesting to see if the instant replay system is altered in any way. At the meetings, rule change proposals can be put in effect, voted down or tabled for another time.           

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