Baltimore Ravens

What this week’s NFL meetings mean for the Ravens

PHOENIX — With much of the focus on the Oakland Raiders' potential relocation to Las Vegas, this week's league meetings could feel a bit anticlimactic for the Ravens.

The organization is not the driving force behind any of the proposed rule changes that could be voted on this week like they were last year when head coach John Harbaugh spoke out about the need for a replay system overhaul and a better way to identify eligible and ineligible receivers.


While the Ravens still have needs they'd like to fill before the draft, the free agent market has been thoroughly picked over. There will be agents on the grounds here at the posh Arizona Biltmore Hotel this week, looking for homes for their free-agent clients. However, several teams — and the Ravens are often in this group — appear to be content to preserve their compensatory selections while waiting for free agent prices to reduce further.

Ravens officials can meet this week with executives from other teams in a more relaxed and less frenetic backdrop than what the NFL scouting combine offers. However, with only seven picks in next month's draft, the Ravens don't have a ton of inventory with which to make deals.


Even the compensatory picks, which have been announced at the league meetings in past years, have already been given out.

This is the NFL, though, where things are rarely quiet, and there are always a few surprises. Expect to hear plenty this week about the merits of the Raiders moving to Vegas — a vote among owners will reportedly take place Monday — and about the league's efforts to quicken the pace of play and make instant replay more efficient and effective.

From a Ravens' perspective, below are a few things to watch:

Harbaugh meets media Tuesday: League head coaches are scheduled to field questions in a breakfast format on the final two days of the meetings. Well, everybody except the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick who will reportedly miss his hour-long session due to a "scouting conflict."

Harbaugh has spoken in recent weeks at the news conferences for the signings of Tony Jefferson/Danny Woodhead, Brandon Williams and Brandon Carr. The AFC coaches breakfast on Tuesday is an opportunity for Harbaugh to be more in depth about the team's needs, the injury recoveries of certain players and other personnel decisions.

Any more free-agent fits?: The Ravens were uncharacteristically fast out of the free-agent blocks, agreeing to deals with Jefferson and Woodhead, and re-signing Williams, backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and safety/special teams ace Anthony Levine Sr. However, they've been quiet since agreeing to terms on a four-year deal with Carr 11 days ago.

That shouldn't be surprising. General manager Ozzie Newsome loves compensatory picks and the team is currently in position to snare two for 2018 if it doesn't sign any more true unrestricted free agents over the next six weeks.

The Ravens can wait until after May 9, when free agent signings no longer factor in the compensatory formula, or they can target players released by other teams that also don't qualify. Having approximately $8 million of salary cap space, money that will be needed to sign draft picks and for roster maneuverability, also is forcing the Ravens to be stingy.


Still, they're probably not done in free agency and this week is a perfect opportunity for more dialogue with agents. Newsome hates going into drafts with glaring holes, and the Ravens currently have needs at wide receiver, right tackle, center, edge rusher and weak-side linebacker. Adding more depth in the secondary is also a goal.

The top remaining free agents at those spots include former Ravens Anquan Boldin and Corey Graham, Michael Floyd, Ryan Clady, King Dunlap, Nick Mangold, Chris Long, Zach Brown (Wilde Lake) and Darrelle Revis.

Ex-Ravens still looking for homes: Over the last month, the Ravens have cut four players and withdrew contract tenders to two others. Of that group, only safety Marqueston Huff, who had his original-round restricted free agent contract tender revoked, found a new home, as he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Pass rusher Elvis Dumervil and defensive backs Lardarius Webb, Shareece Wright, Kendrick Lewis and Jumal Rolle remain on the open market, as do defensive backs Jerraud Powers, Matt Elam and Chris Lewis-Harris, unrestricted free agents who played with the Ravens last season.

The draft is a month away, and veterans want to have jobs before rookies are added to depth charts, so there is a developing sense of urgency among free agents and their representatives this week.

A Ravens-inspired rule: Remember how the Ravens punt coverage team intentionally held every Cincinnati Bengal on the field in allowing punter Sam Koch to run out the final 11 seconds and take a game-ending safety in their 19-14 victory on Nov. 27?


The competition committee surely does, and it has proposed a rule that would result in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty being called if a team commits multiple fouls during the same down to manipulate the game clock.

That is just one of the proposals — albeit a minor one in the grand scheme of things — that will be discussed and potentially voted on this week. The most debated one will almost certainly be the competition committee's wish to replace the sideline instant replay monitor with a hand-held device and allow the final decisions on replays to be made at a centralized location.