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Mike Preston’s Ravens observations on Derek Wolfe, NFL draft, Jimmy Smith and more | COMMENTARY

If Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta ever decides to leave the front office, he could become a sports official.

During the weekend, he made a good “makeup” call by agreeing to a one-year contract with Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe, reportedly worth $3 million with another $3 million in incentives.

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The agreement took place one day after a failed agreement between the Ravens and Los Angeles Rams defensive end Michael Brockers. It’s like being a basketball referee. If you miss one call, get the next one right.

Wolfe is no Brockers. If he was, he wouldn’t have still been available on the free-agent market. But he has collected 33 sacks during his eight years, including seven in 12 games last season. He also played on the Broncos team that won Super Bowl 50 and had five tackles in the title game against the Carolina Panthers.

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The drawback on Wolfe, 30, is that he has played only 39 of 48 games in the past three seasons and was put on injured reserve Dec. 5, 2017, with a neck injury and Dec. 2 last year with a dislocated elbow.

But he is known for having a strong work ethic and relentless pursuit and is certainly better at this point in his career than second-year player Daylon Mack, who would have been the starter if Wolfe wasn’t signed.

Based on how quickly the Ravens made a move on Wolfe, it was clear that they had done their homework. They made the best of a bad situation.

It was a good makeup call.

Draft decisions

The NFL made the right decision by sticking with its draft days of April 23-25 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual draft has a lot of flair and pageantry, but sometimes too much. At least this year you don’t have to put up with the wild, crazy suits worn by the players or those fake high-fives and chest bumps by commissioner Roger Goodell when the picks are announced.

And we don’t have to watch some poor sap melt away in his chair with his family when he slips into the middle of the second round instead of going in the top 20 overall.

Hopefully, for the first time in quite a while, it will be just business, not “Showtime at The Apollo.”

“I am glad the league decided to move forward with it, get some normalcy to set in,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “We’ve been doing the radio, mock drafts, and free agency went along as scheduled, even though it wasn’t perfect and ideal with players moving all over the place.

“But trades are being made, everything is being done and the draft can be done without having everybody being together. There are a lot of other things going on than obviously the NFL. Everybody is trying to get through this, and the NFL can. People are dealing with things much bigger than the NFL draft.”

Plenty of receivers to choose from

A lot of local fans want the Ravens to select a wide receiver in the first round to give quarterback Lamar Jackson an outside threat, but it’s unlikely that they will be able to get a top one like Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III or Clemson’s Tee Higgins, unless they trade up from No. 28 overall.

But there is talent in the second round and possibly early in the third, with Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr., LSU’s Justin Jefferson, TCU’s Jalen Reagor and Baylor’s Denzel Mims candidates.

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“You can add a receiver, a lot of depth at wide receiver,” Kiper said. “It’s the strongest position in the draft and there will be a lot of talent available in the second round.”

The Ravens have nine picks overall, including one in the first round, two in the second and two in the third.

Time to bulk up

If the Ravens’ rookie class from a year ago has a strong year in the weight room during the offseason, it could be a real productive group.

Receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin showed potential, but both need to add some weight to their frames, especially Brown. Running back Justice Hill came on at the end of the season, and that’s surprising because most rookies tire in the last month.

Outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson was supposed to play with power, but only had a bull rush move. If he develops more strength and learns how to bend to use more leverage, he could end up being a decent player.

Hopefully, Ferguson turns out better than the last couple of linebackers the Ravens drafted in Kenny Young, Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser.

Jimmy Smith on the move?

With veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith back on the roster, hopefully the Ravens will start the conversion of moving him to safety.

By the end of last season, opposing teams started to single out Smith, especially with Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey as the starting cornerbacks. In some situations, Smith can play over the slot, but he has lost a step.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Smith on the field in passing situations in place of Earl Thomas III, who is stronger against the run than backpedaling in pass defense.

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