The Ravens explored signing quarterback Robert Griffin III last year when their starter, Joe Flacco, was sidelined throughout training camp because of a back injury. The timing, however, wasn’t right for Griffin.
A year later with the Ravens looking for a backup quarterback and the polarizing former Washington Redskin and Cleveland Brown looking for a job, the two sides found common ground. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome announced at the start of Wednesday’s pre-draft news conference that the team had agreed to a one-year deal with Griffin, who didn’t play in the NFL last season.
Newsome said Griffin, 28, will be at the team facility next week to sign a contract. Terms of the deal aren’t immediately known.
The Ravens brought Griffin in for a workout and a physical last week and the 2012 first-round pick made a strong impression on team officials while throwing to a group of receivers that the organization wanted to evaluate.
“I'm very excited about it,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The coaches are excited. Robert came in, had a really good workout, looked good throwing the ball, was in very good shape. Obviously, his personality, he's a confident guy. He's a very talented quarterback that's had a lot of success in this league early on. So we're excited about it. We felt like we needed a No. 2 quarterback.”
After Newsome made the announcement, Griffin wrote on his Twitter page: “Play like a Raven.”
Griffin, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year whose career in Washington was marred by injuries, started five games for the Browns in 2016. He was released last March and didn’t sign anywhere last season.
“We’ve been in communications with his agent. He still lives in the D.C./Virginia area. We got contacted. We were bringing in some receivers and we asked him if he would come in and throw and go through a full workout for us. He took a physical. He did all of that,” Newsome said. “After that, he went to visit another team. We just were able to come to an agreement. We’re always working, trying to make our roster as good as it can be.”
Newsome’s announcement certainly took many in the audience by surprise, and not only because the annual pre-draft news conference traditionally produces very little news. It was well-documented that the Ravens were in the market for a veteran backup with Josh Woodrum, who starred in the preseason last year, being the only other quarterback on their roster behind Flacco. Ryan Mallett, Flacco’s backup the past two seasons, is an unrestricted free agent.
However, Griffin’s name never came up publicly in connection with the Ravens this offseason. With so few veteran backups available, it was widely believed that the Ravens would re-sign Mallett or just draft a quarterback later this month to compete with Woodrum for the backup job.
“We needed our guy. You look at the veteran quarterbacks out there, I mean, where we're at right now, I'm pretty excited about this player,” Harbaugh said. “I'm really feeling like we got a steal. I really feel that way. I feel like Ozzie and [assistant general manager Eric DeCosta] did a great job here, and I know RGIII, he'll speak to this, but I felt like he really wanted to be here. ... He really wanted to be a Raven. It just felt like this was the place for him. I believe our players are going to love the fact that he's here. They like him as a person. It makes us a better football team. What Ozzie's been talking about throughout the whole press conference is trying to become better, and this move makes us better.”
The Ravens hope Griffin can recover some of the form that made him one of the NFL’s most dynamic talents. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Griffin passed for 3,200 yards and rushed for 815 yards in 15 games his rookie year, finishing with a combined 27 touchdowns as he led Washington to the playoffs. The only game he missed was because of a knee injury suffered in Week 14 against the Ravens.
His production waned over the next two seasons, as he started 13 games in 2013 and seven in 2014 before eventually ceding the starting role to Kirk Cousins. In 2015, Griffin fell to third on the Redskins depth chart and remained inactive during the regular season. He was released the following March and spent one season with the Browns.
There are certainly no guarantees that Griffin will make the Ravens’ regular-season roster. The Ravens haven’t kept three quarterbacks on their regular-season opening roster since 2009, and it seems unlikely that they do it in the upcoming season, even with Flacco dealing with knee and back injuries in recent years.
Griffin will have to beat out not only Woodrum, but perhaps a 2018 draft pick. DeCosta raved Wednesday about the quarterback draft class, and all indications are that the Ravens will head into the draft with an open mind about adding a young signal caller they can groom behind Flacco.
The Ravens’ top decision-makers made it clear Wednesday that the Griffin signing wouldn’t preclude the Ravens from drafting a quarterback.
“I would say that there are really good quarterbacks in this draft,” DeCosta said. “If one of those guys are there at some point, we’ll have a chance to draft a quarterback and he’ll compete with RGIII, he’ll compete with Joe Flacco, he’ll compete with all of the other quarterbacks that we have on the roster.”