Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti admitted last week during his conference call with personal seat license and season ticket holders that the organization is not against sending up smoke screens in the days leading up to the draft.
Well then, what should we make of Bisciotti’s comments indicating that the Ravens could use the 26th overall pick on a pass rusher, calling it the team’s “quietest need?”
Look, Bisciotti won’t make the final call on draft day. He’d be the first to tell you that is general manager Ozzie Newsome’s responsibility. And nothing that is said between now and the first round on April 30 will change the fact that when the Ravens are on the clock, they’ll take the highest player remaining on their board rather than picking to fill their perceived biggest need.
Whether that’s a pass rusher, a cornerback, a wide receiver or even a running back, that will depend on how the 25 picks in front of them play out. But I will say this: I don’t disagree at all with Bisciotti’s assessment.
We’ve written all this before - Pernell McPhee was a huge factor for the Ravens last year and he’s gone. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are 32 and 31 years old, respectively. Courtney Upshaw will be a free agent following the 2015 season and he has just three sacks in as many pro seasons.
Throw in the fact that the Ravens haven’t made any obvious upgrades to their secondary and you can see how much another dynamic pass rusher would help take pressure off the back end.
Also worth keeping in mind: the draft is loaded with outside linebackers and defensive ends who possess good pass-rushing skills. It seems more likely that a top pass rusher falls to No. 26, rather than one of the top available corners (Trae Waynes or Marcus Peters). Again, I don’t think a pass rusher is the Ravens’ biggest need, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s their first pick.
Bisciotti’s comments about how he’s not “desperate” for a wide receiver falls in line with the team’s approach to the free agent market at that position. As a ton of pass catchers have found new homes over the past month either via trades or free agency, the Ravens have seemingly not been ultra aggressive in trying to land any of them.
A big part of that is the team’s limited salary cap room. But it’s also evident that the Ravens do have a lot of confidence in the development of young receivers like Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro (River Hill), Kamar Aiken and Jeremy Butler.
The Ravens still will likely draft a wide receiver pretty early and they still are monitoring the markets of veteran free agents like Greg Jennings and Michael Crabtree. But by now, it’s pretty clear that they want to give every opportunity for their own young receivers to step into bigger roles.
Much of the fan focus over the next couple of weeks will be on the draft, and for good reason. It’s a cool time of year for football fans and the Ravens having 10 picks – only the Seattle Seahawks have more – adds to the excitement.
But it’s also an important time for the Ravens in trying to strike long-term deals with players like Marshal Yanda, Jimmy Smith and Justin Tucker, all of whom will be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Bisciotti made clear that the team is working on those deals, and Kelechi Osemele should probably be included in the extension talks if he’s not.
It’s far too early to fret about next offseason, but with quarterback Joe Flacco’s contract needing to be addressed, the possibility that Steve Smith will retire and need to be replaced and the long list of potential free agents, it would be huge for the Ravens to take care of some of this stuff now.
Before signing Matt Schaub last week to be their backup quarterback, the Ravens entertained the idea of bringing in veteran signal caller Jason Campbell, who played the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively.
Such a move would have made sense because not only does Campbell have the type of strong arm that fits the West Coast offense, but he has a history with Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
When Campbell was preparing for the 2006 draft, he worked with Trestman, who by then had already developed a strong reputation for his mentoring of quarterbacks. It isn’t clear whether Campbell wanted more money than the Ravens were prepared to pay for a backup or the Ravens just preferred Schaub. There’s also been some speculation that the 33-year-old Campbell is contemplating retirement, so perhaps that’s the reason a deal with the Ravens wasn’t worked out.
Speaking of Schaub, I heard from plenty of folks who complained about the amount of money ($2 million guaranteed with an additional $1 million available in incentives) that the Ravens were paying the veteran quarterback. The questions about how much Schaub has left are fair, but I don’t understand the gripes about the money.
One, $2 million is not close to top-of-the-line money for a veteran backup these days. Just look at some of the deals that other free agent backup quarterbacks have gotten this offseason. Shaun Hill got a two-year, $6.5 million contract from the Minnesota Vikings. Christian Ponder got a one-year, $2.25 deal from Schaub’s former team, the Oakland Raiders. The Miami Dolphins gave Matt Moore a one-year pact worth $2.6 million.
Two, this whole idea that the Ravens shouldn’t waste money on a backup quarterback because starter Flacco has never missed a game takes for granted how much good fortune that the organization has had never having to play without its starter for the past seven seasons.
Flacco is a tough as they come, but there’s a lot of luck involved in keeping your quarterback healthy, too.