Ravens news, notes and opinions on possible RB fit and Waller potentially changing positions again

It isn’t clear whether the Ravens pursued free agent LeGarrette Blount at any point or they just considered the possibility, but any temptation to add the big running back is now moot after the former New England Patriot signed a 1-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday.

My stance on it was while Blount might have upgraded the team’s current running back corps because he’s a good player, he wouldn’t have made the Ravens offense any more dynamic. His signing with the Eagles could, however, lead to the availability of another back who might be a little bit better fit for the Ravens.

With Blount, Darren Sproles, rookie fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey and 2016 fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood all reportedly in the Eagles' plans at running back, veteran Ryan Mathews very well could be the odd man out. The 29-year-old is still recovering from neck surgery and will likely be released when he’s healthy, according to reports.

In 13 games last season, Mathews rushed for 661 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 13 passes, including one for a score.  He ran all over the Ravens in December, gaining 128 yards on 20 carries, and scoring a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. The Ravens came away impressed.

Mathews has had some fumbling problems and he’s been injury-prone, having missed 16 total games over the past three seasons. However, the Ravens like what they have in Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon and Danny Woodhead, and they’re not scouring the open market for a 16-game starter and lead back.

Mathews, though, could be a decent insurance policy, especially early in the regular season when Dixon will be serving a four-game suspension.

Mathews averages 4.4 yards per carry in his career and has 40 touchdowns in 86 games.

Standing pat

In his behind-the-scenes feature with first-year San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, MMQB’s Peter King chronicled the 49ers’ efforts to get into position to take Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster as a second first-round pick.

Per King, the 49ers offered the Ravens their second-round pick (No. 34 overall), their third-rounder (No. 66) and their fourth-rounder (No. 121) for the Ravens’ 16th overall pick. General manager Ozzie Newsome, however, asked the 49ers for their second-rounder and both their third-rounders (66 and 67), a request Lynch denied.

If they had agreed to the 49ers’ original proposal, the Ravens, who stood pat in the first round and selected Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey at 16, would not have had a first-round pick unless they made another trade.

They, however, would have had two second-round picks, three third-rounders and two fourth-rounders. It’s hard to play revisionist history and opine whether Newsome should have made the deal. However, here are the players who eventually went at those picks along with a few players of interest who went in the general vicinity.

No. 34 pick in second round: The Jaguars selected Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson. The Bills took East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones at 37, and the Chargers took Western Kentucky guard-tackle Forrest Lamp at 38.

No. 66 pick in third round: The 49ers took Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. The Saints took Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara at 67, the Rams took Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp at 69 and the Vikings took Ohio State center Pat Elflein at 70.

No. 121 pick in fourth round: The 49ers took Utah running back Joe Williams. The Ravens took San Diego State guard Nico Siragusa at 122, and the Cowboys took North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer at 133.     

Waller to WR?

Darren Waller was drafted out of Georgia Tech as a wide receiver, and he played that position as a rookie in 2015. The Ravens shifted him to tight end the following season and Waller had 10 catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games in 2016.

With the current roster loaded with tight ends and extremely thin at wide receiver, there have been a lot of questions about whether the Ravens could move him back outside, where he’d seemingly have a better chance at a bigger role.

Team officials have yet to address the matter and we’ll get a better idea with where Waller is lining up during the organized team activities. However, count me among those who don’t think such a move makes a lot of sense.

Yes, Waller ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash before the draft, but that was more than two years ago and he’s since bulked up to 255 pounds to adapt to tight end. He was 238 pounds coming out of college. He’s also significantly improved his blocking.

Why not continue to let him develop at tight end? Benjamin Watson and Crockett Gillmore are free agents after the 2017 season, and Dennis Pitta could be entering his final season with the team as well. If Waller doesn’t have a big role in 2017, he certainly could the following season.

It’s also important probably wise not to get too hung up by the team’s current depth at tight end. One, Watson, Gillmore, Pitta and Maxx Williams all enter training camp with some injury concerns. And two, the Ravens are going to keep their best 53 players on the regular-season-opening roster.

They won’t necessarily cap it at three or four tight ends, especially when Nick Boyle could be used at fullback, Pitta essentially could be closer to a slot receiver and Waller is one of the Ravens’ best special teams players.      

Failed physical foils DeAndrade

I confirmed last week in this space that the Ravens were planning on signing former New Hampshire safety and return man Casey DeAndrade, who tried out for the team at its rookie minicamp.

Yet, DeAndrade was not one of the four “tryout” players the team ultimately signed, per the league’s transaction wire. That’s because, as Shannon Gallagher of The Enterprise News in Massachusetts writes, DeAndrade failed the Ravens physical. The team had concerns about the condition of DeAndrade’s knee.

Why Washington isn’t a fit

The Ravens still have some uncertainly at inside linebacker after the offseason retirement of Zachary Orr. One former Pro Bowl linebacker just became available, but I wouldn’t count on the Ravens pursuing him.

Daryl Washington was released by the Cardinals last week after he was reinstated to the NFL after a three-plus-year suspension for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

The Ravens aren’t against giving a player another chance after drug problems, but Washington’s problems go beyond that. In 2013, he was arrested in Phoenix on two counts of aggravated assault after an altercation with an ex-girlfriend. He ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation.

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