Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday that, barring unexpected developments, he expects guard Marshal Yanda and safety Eric Weddle to return to the team next season.
Both Pro Bowl players are under contract, but Yanda, 34, has not publicly committed to playing what would be his 13th NFL season. Weddle, 34, meanwhile, told the team website Wednesday that while he “obviously” wants to finish out the last year on his Ravens deal, he’s “not sure if things are going to get worked out with Baltimore.”
Harbaugh acknowledged that while their decisions are still pending, he’s optimistic they’ll go the Ravens’ way.
“Unless something changes along the way, they will be back,” he said at his end-of-season news conference. “We have talked about all those things, but no decisions have been made. One thing you learn about this whole building a roster around the National Football League and working around the [salary] cap is that no decision stands on its own feet. It's not sequential, either. It's not this, then this, then this. It all happens together at once.”
Harbaugh said that along with general manger Eric DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome, who remains involved in Ravens personnel matters, he wants Weddle and Yanda back, “for sure.” While Yanda has been limited by injuries in recent years, and though Weddle has faced scrutiny for his athleticism in the open field, they’ve combined for five Pro Bowl honors in the past three seasons.
“There's nobody that doesn't want both those players on our team, so we'll do everything we can to make that happen and we'll see what happens,” Harbaugh said.
With training camp about six months away, Harbaugh does not expect any players to be unavailable. Guard Alex Lewis, who did not play after Week 13, had offseason shoulder surgery, while safety Tony Jefferson, who missed two games in December, underwent an arthroscopic operation on his ankle.
Cornerback Tavon Young and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, an unrestricted free agent, both had sports hernias treated, Harbaugh said.
Jackson expected to be busy
League rules prevent the Ravens from coordinating Lamar Jackson’s offseason workouts, but Harbaugh expects the second-year quarterback to spend the next few months polishing his all-around skills.
He expressed great faith in Jackson’s work ethic. “It’s his responsibility to do it, per rules, and that’s the way it should be,” Harbaugh said. “Of course we have thoughts on it, and advice and whatnot, but he’s going to work at it. He’s going to work at it really hard.”
Harbaugh said he has a sense of what Jackson will do but will leave it to the former first-round pick to describe the particulars.
“I’ll leave that up to him to answer if he wants to answer, but I’m quite sure that he’ll be working at it really hard and he already is, and throughout the course of the offseason he’s going to throw the ball a lot,” he said. “He’s going to have his receivers to throw the ball to, he’s already told me that. All those other things. He should come back, I expect him to come back a better quarterback, skill-wise, than he was when he left, and he’s determined to do that.”
» Harbaugh said it should be a “no-brainer” for the NFL to expand its use of instant replay after an uncalled pass interference likely cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.
“I’m not afraid to stand up,” he said. “They may get mad at me in the league office, they usually do, We’ve been pushing for that, along with Coach [Bill] Belichick and Coach [Sean] Payton, ironically enough, and some others for quite a while. Hey, the technology is there, let’s use it. There’s smart ways to do it. I’m not sure what’s quite holding us back.”
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» With Bobby Engram shifting to coach the Ravens tight ends, Harbaugh said he’s looking for a new assistant to work with the team’s wide receivers and help design a revamped passing attack. After that, he said he’ll move to replace running backs coach Thomas Hammock, who left to become head coach at Northern Illinois. Harbaugh said Hammock’s post could be filled from outside or within.