Monthly Archives: March 2017

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The Ravens didn’t submit any rule change proposals, but there’s one submission from the competition committee that would close a loophole Baltimore has used and another that could be of great benefit. Plus, the schedule for the week.

The 2017 NFL league meetings have begun in Phoenix, Ariz., and they will shape the upcoming NFL season.

Owners, general managers, team presidents, head coaches and other high-ranking team officials gather to debate the league’s big-picture items and hammer out any rule changes. It’s the who’s who of the NFL all in one place.

There are several notable items that could affect the Ravens. Here’s what you should know:

Rule Change Proposals

There are 15 proposed rule changes this year. While none have been submitted by the Ravens, who had two last year, there are definitely some notable ones. Here are five:

No. 2: By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field-goal and extra-point plays.

Had this rule been in effect last year, kicker Justin Tucker likely would have had a perfect season. Tucker’s only field-goal “miss” came when New England Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin leaped over Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox to block Tucker’s attempt. The Eagles are proposing a rule change to not allow that maneuver because it compromises the safety of the long snapper.

No. 4: By Philadelphia; Amends the challenge system by granting a third challenge if a club is successful on at least one of its initial two challenges, and expands reviewable plays outside of two minutes of each half.

No. 5. By Washington; Eliminates the limit of three total challenges per team per game and eliminates the requirement that a team be successful on each of its first two challenges in order to be awarded a third.

Nos. 4 and 5 are both similar in their intent to expand the scope of challenges, which is something the Ravens proposed last year, but the league did not pass. Baltimore proposed giving coaches three challenges and Head Coach John Harbaugh has been in favor of making any player safety penalty (such as hits with the crown of the helmet), or non-call, reviewable. The Eagles and Redskins aren’t offering a change to what is reviewable, but wants coaches to be given more opportunities to challenge.

No. 6: By Washington; Moves the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line for any touchback where the free kick travels through the uprights.

Head Coach John Harbaugh floated the idea last season that a team should be given a point if their kicker boots the kickoff through the uprights. This rule proposal doesn’t go that far, but it would reward big-legged kickers like Tucker. Currently, teams start at the 25-yard line on a touchback. Pinning a team back 5 more yards doesn’t seem like a lot, but it would be a big field-position benefit over the long-haul.

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By Competition Committee; Makes it unsportsmanlike conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock.

This would close a loophole that Harbaugh and the Ravens have wisely used twice to milk the clock and protect a lead at the end of games. Baltimore instructed every player to hold while punter Sam Koch danced around in the end zone and eventually took an intentional safety. The Ravens used it in Super Bowl XLVII and last season in a 19-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Under the new proposed rule, the team committing the intentional penalties would be moved back 15 yards and the clock would be reset to where it was at the snap of the ball.

League-Wide Topics

Better fan experience
Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to fans about ways the league is looking to speed up games, including changing the timing and frequency of commercials. After much buzz last year about dropping ratings, the league will surely spend a lot of time talking about how to make the product more engaging for fans, both in stadiums and watching at home.

Las Vegas Raiders
A vote on relocation will happen Monday or Tuesday, and it’s looking like the Raiders will be on the move from Oakland to Las Vegas. Owner Mark Davis needs 24 of 32 voters to say “yes.” The move wouldn’t happen until 2020, so the Ravens will still face the Raiders in the Bay Area during the 2017 season.

International growth
The league is always looking for ways to grow revenue, and international markets offer that possibility. The NFL went back to Mexico for a game last season, and it will discuss the next step abroad at the meetings. China and Europe (outside of London) are reportedly in the mix.

Full-time refs
Harbaugh has long been an advocate of hiring referees to be full-time employees. Some officials who have high-paying jobs outside of the NFL have resisted the move, but it’s a step that would likely ensure better quality and more consistency.

Questions For Harbaugh

Harbaugh will meet with reporters for about an hour-long breakfast on Tuesday starting at 7:15 a.m. MT (10:15 a.m. ET). Here are some of the questions he will likely get:

What’s the plan on the offensive line?
The Ravens lost starting right tackle Rick Wagner to the Detroit Lions in free agency and released starting center Jeremy Zuttah. Harbaugh will be asked whether the Ravens are looking to fill those holes with in-house players, draftees or free agents.

What’s the plan at wide receiver?
Similar to the offensive line, the Ravens still need another wide receiver (or two) to replace retired Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken, who left for Indianapolis. Does Harbaugh think the Ravens could draft a wide receiver in the first round? Are there still veteran free agents the team has its eye on?

Who could step up at inside linebacker?
The sudden retirement of Zachary Orr has left a hole next to C.J. Mosley. The Ravens have some young linebackers already in the building in last year’s second-round pick Kamalei Correa and undrafted Patrick Onwuasor. Does Harbaugh see them as the solution?

Offensive game plan
The Ravens have beefed up their defensive secondary and retained nose tackle Brandon Williams. By all accounts, the defense should be really good again next year. But what about the offense? The unit has lost more players (Wagner, Smith, Aiken, Zuttah, fullback Kyle Juszczyk) than signed (running back Danny Woodhead). Harbaugh added to the coaching staff with Greg Roman. What’s the way forward on offense?

Schedule

Tuesday, 10:15 a.m. ET: AFC Head Coaches Breakfast

Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET: Competition Committee Press Conference

Wednesday, 10:15 a.m. ET: NFC Head Coaches Breakfast

Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET: Goodell Press Conference

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One of the more interesting upcoming decisions for the Ravens is whether to pay wide receiver Mike Wallace the big bucks scheduled on his contract for next season.

Wallace signed a two-year deal last offseason, but there is a club option for 2017 that must be exercised by the end of the 2016 league year in order for Wallace to remain on the roster. That deadline comes in eight days.

Wallace made a reported $1.25 million with a $3.5 million cap hit last year. In 2017, he would have a base salary of $4.75 million and cap hit of $8 million if the option is exercised, per Spotrac.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked Wednesday about Wallace’s status, and he gave a hopeful response.

“Circumstances, contracts, salary caps, all that, are another conversation that you have about every single guy,” Harbaugh said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “But my anticipation is that Mike Wallace will be a part of our team, and I know he’s working to be a part of our team, and I’m planning on having him back next year.”

Harbaugh wasn’t asked about a potential new deal that could lower Wallace’s cap hit next season and keep him in Baltimore for a longer period of time.

Wallace, 30, proved himself after a down season in 2015 with the Minnesota Vikings, who released him last March. Wallace started all 16 games with the Ravens last season and posted 72 catches for a team-leading 1,017 yards and four touchdowns.

He brought his trademark speed and big-play ability, including a 66-yard touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, 70-yard catch and run against the New York Giants in Week 6 and 95-yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9.

“Mike Wallace, to me, was a big, integral part of our team last year,” Harbaugh said.

“Mike Wallace is a top-flight competitor. Mike Wallace is a guy that has a chip on his shoulder right there; that’s what you love about him. The guy wants to compete, he wants to be great, and he works that way. So I want Mike Wallace on our football team.”
If the Ravens parted ways with Wallace, they would be without their top two receivers from last year considering the retirement of Steve Smith Sr.Kamar Aiken is also a pending unrestricted free agent, and if he weren’t re-signed, Breshad Perrimanwould be the only returning wide receiver with double-digit receptions last season.

But things can change quickly this time of year in the NFL. There are a lot of moving parts depending on who the Ravens can re-sign, who becomes available and more.

“We’re bringing everybody back until we’re not,” Harbaugh said. “I think circumstances dictate that. So every one of those guys is in a little bit of a different position and has a different story.”

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Bengals receiver A.J. Green fully cleared from hamstring injury. Browns haven’t made a decision about receiver Josh Gordon. Terrelle Pryor likely to hit the market.

NFL head coaches and front-office executives stepped to the microphone Wednesday at the scouting combine.
Here were some of the news and notes from the day:

– Head Coach John Harbaugh provided updates on the Ravens’ soon-to-be free agents. He said the team is negotiating with Brandon Williams, Rick Wagner and Kyle Juszczyk, but also said the franchise tag would not be an option for any of them.

– Some have speculated that veteran receiver Mike Wallace could be a salary-cap casualty, but Harbaugh said his “anticipation is that Mike Wallace will be a part of our team, and I know he’s working to be a part of our team, and I’m planning on having him back next year.”
– Cleveland Browns dynamic wide receiver Terrelle Pryor looks like he’s going to hit the free-agent market. The deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag is 4 p.m. Wednesday, and the Browns have decided not to tag their young wideout. Browns Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown told reporters that trying to keep Pryor “is a priority,” but “we won’t panic if he’s not on our roster.”

– Another Browns receiver is also in the news, as Josh Gordon is planning to apply for reinstatement from the NFL. Gordon has dealt with off-the-field drug problems and hasn’t played a game since 2014. When asked if Cleveland would welcome Gordon back, Brown said he has yet to seriously discuss the issue with Head Coach Hue Jackson. If the league reinstated Gordon and Cleveland released him, then he could draw suitors on the market considering he led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013, and he’s still just 25 years old.

– Cleveland is in the market for a quarterback, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll use their No. 1-overall pick to draft one. The Browns also have the 12th-overall pick in this year’s draft, and Brown said he’d listen to offers for that No. 1 spot.

– Bengals Vice President of Player Personnel Duke Tobin said that wide receiver A.J. Green has been 100 percent cleared from the hamstring injury that sidelined him at the end of last season. Green missed both matchups against the Ravens last year, but the Pro Bowl receiver is now fully healthy.

– Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron has been mentioned in a handful of trade talks, and Cincinnati could net a nice haul by parting ways with the former Alabama quarterback. The Bengals will listen if teams want to inquire about McCarron, as Tobin said “the phones in our office work.” But Tobin also cautioned teams that the asking price for McCarron wouldn’t be cheap. “If somebody wants to call and talk to us, call and talk to us. But they’re going to find out that we value AJ McCarron quite a bit,” he said.

– Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said that outside linebacker “is probably the most difficult” position to project to Pittsburgh’s defense. That explains part of the reason Pittsburgh later in the day announced a two-year extension for 39-year-old outside linebacker James Harrison.

– Colbert had an interesting take on the how the league’s free-agent pool has evolved over the years. An increased salary cap has allowed teams to keep more of their home-grown talent, and as a result, Colbert said, “you’re seeing less and less quality free agents. There’s an inherent danger in that, because some of the players who are hitting the market with the number of dollars that are available, might not be quite worth what they’re going to get paid because of the supply and demand.”