Ravens coach John Harbaugh was talking to me just outside the Ravens' locker room one afternoon during 2014 training camp when safety Darian Stewart walked by. Harbaugh called Stewart over and introduced the free-agent acquisition as one of the best kept secrets in the NFL. After Stewart had walked away, Harbaugh predicted that the safety would have a really good year. It really never happened for Stewart who had a relatively uneventful one season with the Ravens, starting 14 games and registering 40 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Stewart didn't play poorly, but he certainly didn't stand out, so his free agent departure to the Denver Broncos following the season generated little more than a shrug from the team's fan base. Stewart, however, capped a solid first season with the Broncos with a standout showing in Super Bowl 50. He had a sack, a forced fumble, two passes defended and three tackles as the Broncos shut down the Carolina Panthers. Good for Stewart, who is a solid pro and was well liked by his teammates. But his performance this season certainly makes you wonder where that player was last year. Perhaps, the simple explanation is that Stewart benefitted greatly this year from playing behind two shutdown cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., and alongside extremely active safety T.J. Ward. However, it's a fair question to ponder, especially with the team's struggles in recent years with signing free agent safeties, as well as drafting and developing them.
The league-wide roster purging started Monday with the New Orleans Saints releasing guard Jahri Evans, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, along with veteran linebackers David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber. The Atlanta Falcons got into the act, letting go safety William Moore and linebacker Justin Durant. Dozens of releases will happen in the days ahead. No word yet from the Ravens who don't traditionally act on the first allowable date. But there will be moves. The Ravens' potential cap casualties include defensive end Chris Canty, middle linebacker Daryl Smith and cornerback Kyle Arrington. They'll have decisions to make on running back Justin Forsett and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, and they'll most likely have to address the contracts of tight end Dennis Pitta and cornerback/safety Lardarius Webb.
Watching the offensive tackle play during the postseason only strengthened my belief that pending free agent Kelechi Osemele will exceed the Ravens' price range. I saw five or six playoff teams over the past month that would benefit from having Osemele, and there are countless other teams that didn't make the playoffs that need offensive line help.
The one mock draft last week that had Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa falling to pick number six certainly got some Ravens' fans excited. But I wouldn't count on it. After watching what Von Miller and company did to the Panthers, every team is going to be out looking for pass rushers. If Bosa doesn't go to the Tennessee Titans with the first overall pick in the draft, I'd have a hard time believing the Cleveland Browns would pass up a chance to keep Bosa in Ohio, regardless of the fact that they need a quarterback.
The number of Ravens to take to Twitter Sunday night/Monday morning to congratulate Broncos coach Gary Kubiak shows what a remarkable impression that he made on the organization in his one year as offensive coordinator. The next time I hear somebody in the Ravens' facility say something negative about Kubiak will be the first time
It was quite a rookie season for offensive lineman Robert "Snacks" Myers. The former Tennessee State guard was drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round. He was cut late in training camp and claimed on waivers by the Indianapolis Colts. Five days later, he was cut by the Colts before ultimately being re-signed to their practice squad on Sept. 11. A week later, the Colts released him and the rookie re-signed with the Ravens' practice squad on Sept. 21. Then on Dec. 30, during the final week of the regular season, the Broncos signed Myers off the Ravens' practice squad and elevated him to their active roster. Myers wasn't active for a single game with the Broncos and yet he'll get a Super Bowl ring. Not a bad deal.