By Jeff Zrebiec
2:21 PM EDT, April 30, 2012
The Ravens won’t announce their latest undrafted free agent class until the players officially pass physicals and sign contracts, which will happen at some point before the start of the rookie mini-camp in the second week of May.
But most – if not all of the names have come out and been confirmed – either on the player’s Twitter accounts, by their college athletic departments or in media reports.
Below are the undrafted free agents on the defensive side of the ball. The offensive players were discussed in a follow-up entry.
DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS
Charles Brown, North Carolina, CB: At 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Brown lacks the ideal size for a cornerback, but he possesses enough traits where scouts feel he has a good chance to catch on with an NFL team as a nickel back. Brown, who started 12 games for the Tarheels last season, is tough and competitive, loves to hit and support the run and has good ball skills, evidenced by his eight career interceptions. The Ravens are stocked with young cornerbacks, but Brown’s ability to return kickoffs and punts gives him an extra dimension.
Elliott Henigan, UAB, DT: The 6-foot-6, 298-pound defensive tackle was named Alabama-Birmingham’s top defensive lineman after his sophomore season in 2009, but he was hampered his final two seasons by a shoulder injury that required surgery and a sports hernia. He had 37 tackles, including three for losses, during his senior season. After losing Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney to free agency, there will be jobs available on the defensive line in training camp.
Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, Baylor, NT: A potentially valuable signing, Jean-Baptiste is a space eater at 6-foot-1 and 335 pounds, but he has enough strength and agility to force his way into the backfield. He also is considered an overachiever who gets the most out of his ability. Not a pass-rushing threat, he still could be a valuable member of the defensive line rotation because of an ability to occupy blockers and plug up the middle. He had 8 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks in his senior season. Everything about him sounds like a young Brandon McKinney who the Ravens have to replace after he signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
Austin Johnson, Tennessee, LB: Johnson (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) was a fullback for his first two seasons in Knoxville and paved the way for 2010 Cleveland Browns’ second-round pick Montario Hardesty. However, he was switched to inside linebacker for his junior season and he led the Vols in tackles and interceptions in 2011, totaling 81 and four respectively. He made the SEC All-Academic team three times. The Ravens have a history of turning undrafted free agent linebackers into reliable performers. Johnson will get the opportunity to be the latest one.
Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Kent State, DT: A Youngstown, Ohio native, Kitchen is one of two Kent State players to sign with the Ravens, joining center Chris Anzenvino who was his college roommate. At 6-foot-1, 335 pounds, he is a classic two-down run defender with the size to clog the middle. He started six games at nose tackle in his senior season, making four tackles against Alabama. The Ravens were thin on the defensive line but they added several during and following the draft and Kitchen faces an uphill battle to make the team.
Chyl Quarles, Wake Forest, S: Quarles, who started 32 games in his college career and notched 239 tackles and two interceptions, figured to get drafted at some point Saturday. When he didn’t, the Ravens were more than happy to give him an opportunity. He has decent size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) and good ball skills, but the knock on him is his instincts and he isn’t as sure-handed of a tackler as teams would like. Still, he led the Demon Deacons with 101 tackles in 2011. After losing both Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski to free agency, the Ravens are thin at safety, which should benefit Quarles, as will his special teams skills.
Justin Tucker, Texas, K/P: The Ravens will likely still sign a veteran free agent to serve as competition for kicker Billy Cundiff, but Tucker was also added to get an opportunity behind Cundiff and punter Sam Koch. Tucker hit 40-of-48 field goals during his last two seasons at Texas. He also averaged 40.3 yards per punt during his career.
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