A 'paradise' amid the rocks and weeds
Ravens Insider

Ravens news and notes on Braxton Miller, contract extensions and more

Why the Ravens need to follow the lead of their AFC rivals and add someone like Ohio State's Braxton Miller:

Ohio State quarterback turned wide receiver Braxton Miller was one of the big winners at the Senior Bowl last week.

He reportedly played his way into potentially being a second-round NFL draft pick. Who knows at this point how the Ravens evaluate Miller, but what should be clear is that their offense needs to add speed and a multidimensional threat this offseason. Look at how the Pittsburgh Steelers use Martavis Bryant. Look at what the Cincinnati Bengals have done the past several years with Mohamed Sanu. Look at what Julian Edelman does for the New England Patriots, and how they were using Dion Lewis before he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The Ravens don’t really have an all-purpose threat like that. Maybe Breshad Perriman becomes that player when he’s healthy. Michael Campanaro (River Hill) can do some things if he’s out there. Running backs Justin Forsett and Buck Allen are running and receiving threats, but they don’t bring the combination of explosiveness and speed that some other teams have. Whether it’s Miller or somebody else, the Ravens need to find a weapon they can line up in various areas and get the ball to, regardless of situation. They need to add some unpredictability to their offense.

Sign of the times

The Kansas City Chiefs last week locked up tight end Travis Kelce with a contract extension. The Philadelphia Eagles did the same with tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz and offensive tackle Lane Johnson. Can the Ravens find common ground on a contract extension with one of their own?

Looking beyond their free-agent class this year, Brandon Williams is the most logical candidate. He has one more year remaining on his rookie contract, but the Ravens would like to keep him beyond that. The 2013 third-round pick already has become one of the top nose tackles in the league. He won’t be cheap, but he’s someone the Ravens need to try to lock up.

Right tackle Rick Wagner, who like Williams will enter the final year of his rookie deal in 2016, is another potential candidate for an extension. But if I’m the Ravens, I’d want to see a little more from him and find out whether he more closely resembles the player he was in 2014 or last year, when he struggled at times.

Why bother?

Admittedly, I didn’t watch a single play of the Pro Bowl. I can’t remember the last year I did. But I’m not sure I understand all the grousing about the game that goes on. I don’t think the issue is that the game still takes place. I think the issue is that so many people count the Pro Bowl as a measure of a certain player’s worth or performance.

This year, 133 players were invited to the game because of the rash of declined invitations and withdrawals. Remember when all those Pro Bowl snub lists came out? Well, most of those players — and the sixth or seventh alternates at some positions — wound up being selected to the game. But so what? Let the players who want to go enjoy themselves and garner a nice reward for a strong season.

Ravens punter Sam Koch certainly seemed to do just that, taking along family members with him to Hawaii for a memorable week. After having such a solid career in near anonymity outside Baltimore, you don’t think Koch enjoyed the opportunity to take part in the Pro Bowl and get some recognition after perhaps his best season as a pro?

I’m just not sure why the Pro Bowl is so offensive to people. If you don’t like the actual game, which isn’t exactly hotly contested, you don’t have to watch. And it certainly isn’t worth getting worked up over when the selections come out and the declines start rolling in. As many NFL players and coaches like to say, it is what it is. It’s a nice reward for players after a long and grueling season. If you’re looking at it for anything beyond that, you’ll probably be disappointed.

End zone 

Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. took to Twitter on Sunday night to salute Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who reportedly will retire after nine NFL seasons. If his decision is final, good for Johnson for leaving the game healthy and on his own terms while he’s still playing at a high level. But his decision to retire as a 30-year-old further underscores how remarkable it is that Smith is preparing to play in his 16th NFL season. Smith will turn 37 in a little over three months.

Congratulations are in order to Ravens reserve safety and special teams ace Anthony Levine, who recently was inducted into the R.J. Reynolds High School (N.C.) Hall of Fame. Not only is Levine one of the team’s more unselfish and unheralded players whom the coaching staff loves, he’s also the only current Raven who has two Super Bowl rings as a player. Levine was on the 2012 Super Bowl champion Ravens and the 2010 champion Green Bay Packers.

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