NFL Team Report - Baltimore Ravens - INSIDE SLANT
After one rookie minicamp, Baltimore Ravens first-round draft pick Matt Elam is off to a fast start with the Super Bowl champions. Elam intercepted several passes and confidently delivered the defensive signals to his teammates.
During the camp, that ended Sunday, he lined up at free safety, playing with an obvious confidence.
"It went well," Elam said. "I got better every day. I'm improving. I'm very comfortable and very smooth out there. It felt great. I'm very excited to be with the best and start working with the vets. "
A consensus All-American selection from the University of Florida, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Elam was the final pick of the first round after recording 176 tackles, 24 for losses, five sacks, six interceptions and two forced fumbles in three seasons for the Gators.
What impressed Ravens coach John Harbaugh about Elam was how he took charge in the secondary and is quickly becoming knowledgeable about the defensive scheme.
"Matt really picked things up quickly, same for (second-round inside linebacker) Arthur (Brown)," Harbaugh said. "He really did a nice job of communicating in the back end which isn't usual for a rookie. Most rookie defensive backs all defensive players have a tough time with the communication part because they're not confident enough to make the calls.
"He's smart. He picked it up quickly. He jumped back there quickly and made the calls with force. He was very forceful back there and played fast. He looked good."
--The medical outlook remains positive for Ravens starting inside linebacker Jameel McClain.
McClain continues to make progress in his recuperation from a spinal cord contusion sustained last December.
McClain is still awaiting full medical clearance to resume playing football again, but expects that to happen before next season. He's been running and lifting weights and working out at the Ravens' training complex with no restrictions.
"I'm doing good, I'm doing great," McClain said. "I'm running around full speed, working out, lifting weights with no problems, nothing on my end. I can do everything. Everything is positive on my end."
When asked if he's confident that he'll be able to resume his career after getting hurt last season against the Washington Redskins, McClain replied: "If you don't believe in yourself, who else will? Fortunately, this is a good situation for me. Everything is going the way it should."
Although the injury didn't require surgery, it has prevented McClain from being cleared medically yet with rest and strengthening expected to eventually get him back on the field. The severity and location of the injury initially created doubt about his future.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh is cautiously optimistic about McClain's prospects of regaining his health and getting back on the field, where the defending Super Bowl champions need him at inside linebacker following Ray Lewis' retirement and Dannell Ellerbe signing with the Miami Dolphins during free agency.
"That will be important for him," Harbaugh said recently. "But it's just the healing process. There's a certain type of a bruise that happens that caused his issue, but it's going away, on schedule. We don't know for sure, but I'm approaching it as if Jameel is going to be out there."
NFL Team Report - Baltimore Ravens - NOTES, QUOTES
Reaching back to his connections from the decade he spent as a Philadelphia Eagles assistant, Ravens coach John Harbaugh hired Steve Spagnuolo as a senior defensive assistant.
A former St. Louis Rams head coach, Spagnuolo coached linebackers in Philadelphia when Harbaugh was the Eagles' special teams coordinator. They're close friends.
"Steve had a number of opportunities in the league right now, and we're excited he picked the Ravens," Harbaugh said. "He comes to a staff that we believe is very strong, and he makes us even better. His wealth of NFL coaching experience speaks for itself, and he'll help us across the board. We think he can help with every position on the defense, and we'll take full advantage of his knowledge and excellent teaching abilities. The Ravens got better today with the addition of an outstanding coach and person like Steve."
As defensive coordinator, Spagnuolo, 53, was the architect of the New York Giants' Super Bowl XLII defense that defeated the previously undefeated New England Patriots as quarterback Tom Brady was sacked five times.
During the 2007 NFL season, the Giants ranked in the top 10 in eight statistical categories as they led the league with 53 sacks.
Spagnuolo went 10-38 in three seasons coaching the Rams before being dismissed, but has been a part of eight playoff teams, six division title winners and five conference championship teams
He was fired by the New Orleans Saints from his defensive coordinator post in January after coach Sean Payton returned from a season-long suspension stemming from a bounty scandal.
Last season, the Saints ranked last in the league and allowed an average of 440.1 yards per game and a total of 4,681 yards for the most yards surrendered in a season in the history of the league.
During the playoffs, Harbaugh hired former Eagles offensive line coach and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo as the Ravens' run-game coordinator.
"The obvious attraction was John and our relationship," Spagnuolo said in a statement. "I love being back working with John."
--It was a whirlwind for the Ravens' rookie class getting acclimated to their new surroundings during their first NFL practices at a rookie minicamp.
For the Super Bowl champions' 10 draft picks, headlined by first-round safety Matt Elam and second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown, and 14 undrafted rookie free agents, there was a lot of information to absorb as the team started a three-day rookie minicamp.
"I'm working to get better each day, and this is just the first step," said Brown, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season at Kansas State. "Honestly, I think the No. 1 thing is learning my role as a linebacker and just attempting and providing what I do to fulfill that role: learning from the guys who are here and learning from the coaches..
"A class act, I walked into the locker room and the first thing I saw was, 'Team, Team, Team.' So, that was definitely comforting to me, just recognizing that it's all about the team."
--Veteran offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie never really wanted to leave the Ravens.
Even as he was taking visits and garnering offers from the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins, McKinnie said he was holding out hope that the Ravens would make him an offer.
And they did Thursday, reaching agreement with McKinnie on a two-year contract with a maximum value of $7 million, according to a source. The Ravens' contract was the best financial offer.
"I'm excited to be back," McKinnie told The Baltimore Sun. "I didn't really want to leave anyway. I like being in Baltimore."
--The Ravens signed 14 undrafted rookies to contracts.
They also waived running back Lonyae Miller and officially announced six rookie contracts previously reported by The Sun: fourth-round fullback Kyle Juszczyk (Harvard), fifth-round offensive tackle Rick Wagner (Wisconsin), sixth-round defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (Notre Dame), sixth-round center Ryan Jensen (Colorado State-Pueblo), seventh-round wide receiver Aaron Mellette (Elon) and seventh-round cornerback Marc Anthony (Cal).
All of the draft picks signed four-year deals with the following values: Juszczyk ($2.46 million total, $300,584 signing bonus), Wagner ($2.304 million total, $144,560 signing bonus), Lewis-Moore ($2.248 million total, $88,232 signing bonus), Jensen ($2.238 million total, $78,680 signing bonus), Mellette ($2.205 million total, $45,896 signing bonus) and Anthony ($2.205 million, $45,896 signing bonus).
They've now spent $2.605 million, 47 percent of of their allotted $5.517 million rookie pool. That leaves $2.911 million remaining to sign Elam, Brown, third-round defensive tackle Brandon Williams and fourth-round outside linebacker John Simon.
The undrafted rookie signings include: offensive guard Jeff Braun (West Virginia, Winters Mill), cornerback Jose Cheeseborough (Florida International), outside linebacker Brandon Copeland (Penn, Gilman), offensive tackle Jordan Devey (Memphis), tight end Matt Furstenburg (Maryland), offensive tackle Rogers Gaines (Tennessee State), wide receiver Omarius Hines (Florida), running back Ray Holley (Louisiana Tech), tight end Murphy Holloway (Ole Miss), defensive end Will Pericak (Colorado), wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard (Towson, McDonogh), quarterback Nathan Stanley (Southeast Louisiana), Troy safety Bryden Trawick and offensive tackle Joe Unga (Midwestern State).
--Former Ravens free safety Ed Reed is already dealing with a medical issue since joining the Houston Texans that will sideline him for at least the remainder of the offseason.
Reed, who signed a three-year $15 million contract, had hip surgery last week to address a labral tear, Texans coach Gary Kubiak told Houston reporters. Reed had hip surgery in 2010 when he was with the Ravens, but didn't miss a start the past two seasons.
--The Ravens have an enviable kicking situation with kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch.
After beating out Billy Cundiff as a rookie last summer, Tucker connected on 30 of 33 field goals. That included four kicks from 50 yards or beyond. Plus, he hit the game-winning field goal in double overtime to defeat the Denver Broncos in an AFC divisional round playoff game.
A former Pro Bowl alternate, Koch had a career-high 47.1 average and a 40.8 net last season.
So, acquiring competition to push them in training camp isn't an easy bit of salesmanship for the Ravens.
"It will be pretty tough to find competition for those two guys right now," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "There aren't too many guys that want to come here and kick or punt. I don't think they see it as being a very fruitful opportunity. But, we will find somebody to help us - somebody that wants a chance to kick or punt in the National Football League. I'd like a guy who could do both, if possible -- punt and kick. You'd love to have a lefty, so you can see how hard that is to come across. But, we will get the best guy we can."
--Ravens veteran free-agent offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie was offered contracts by the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins, but then agreed to a two-year deal with the Ravens.
The Dallas Cowboys had also contacted McKinnie, a former Pro Bowl blocker.
McKinnie, 33, had been an unrestricted free agent who started every game in the playoffs after being replaced at left tackle during the regular season by Michael Oher.
The 6-8, 354-pound New Jersey native has been working out regularly in South Florida. McKinnie has battled conditioning and weight issues in the past.
McKinnie was contacted by the Chicago Bears when free agency started, but they quickly reached a deal with former New Orleans Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod as their new left tackle.
During the playoffs, McKinnie excelled and drew praise from Ravens coach John Harbaugh for stonewalling several top pass rushers during victories over the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers to win the Vince Lombardi trophy.
--Maryland tight end Matt Furstenburg eached an agreement to join the Ravens. He headlines the Ravens' undrafted rookie free-agent class.
He ran an impressive 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.62 clocking for the second-fastest time among the tight ends. The New Jersey native caught 16 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns in his senior year and was the lone Terrapin invited to the Combine.
QUOTE TO NOTE "It was good, it was good to get the plays down and memorize it and learn it and make the right corrections. I just try to compete out there. I'm just trying to jump into it and really get it down." -- Ravens undrafted rookie free agent tight end Matt Furstenburg, a former University of Maryland player.
NFL Team Report - Baltimore Ravens - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Ravens' picks:
Round 1/32 - Matt Elam, S, 5-10, 210, Florida
The All-American defensive back and younger brother of NFL safety Abram Elam should provide toughness and range to a secondary that lost Ed Reed to the Houston Texans and cut Bernard Pollard. He's expected to immediately compete for a starting job at strong safety, but will also cross-train at free safety.
Round 2/56 - Arthur Brown, LB, 6-0, 241, Kansas State
Brown has drawn comparisons to a young Ray Lewis because of his lack of ideal size, speed and emotional, relentless style of play. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year figures to immediately start at one of the inside linebacker spots in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme.
Round 3/94 - Brandon Williams, DT, 6-1, 335, Missouri Southern
Anchor style nose tackle and Division II All-American who bench-pressed 225 pounds 38 times at the NFL scouting combine. Athletic for his size and can do a handstand and walk, performed well at Senior Bowl and will challenge Terrence Cody for playing time.
Round 4/129 - John Simon, OLB, 6-1, 257, Ohio State
Gritty, hard-nosed Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year had career-high nine sacks last season. Should compete for a situational pass rusher role at rush linebacker behind former Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Round 4/130 - Kyle Juszczyk, FB, 6-1, 248, Harvard
Excelled at Senior Bowl and took a dozen visits after starring in Ivy League as pass-catching fullback. Ravens figure to utilize him at fullback, tight end and H-back and expected to eventually replace Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach.
Round 5/168 - Ricky Wagner, T, 6-6, 308, Wisconsin
All-Big Ten Conference tackle has played left tackle for past two seasons after playing right tackle. Former prep basketball player isn't an elite athlete, but could also get a look at guard.
Round 6/200 - Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE, 6-4, 298, Notre Dame
Accomplished player tore his right ACL in national championship game loss to Alabama. Figures to be a medical redshirt as a rookie, essentially, since he just had surgery three months ago.
Round 6/203 - Ryan Jensen, C, 6-3, 317, Colorado State-Pueblo
Plays with a nasty streak and is quick (5.28 40-yard dash) and strong (bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times). Drew interest from multiple NFL teams, including the Patriots, and is slated to back up Gino Gradkowski at center after primarily playing tackle in college.
Round 7/238 - Aaron Mellette, WR, 6-2, 217, Elon
Imposing small-school standout could provide red-zone threat immediately. Mellette caught 11 passes with one touchdown against Vanderbilt and played in the Senior Bowl.
Round 7/247 - Marc Anthony, CB, 5-11, 196, California
Productive and tough, but faces uphill climb to make the 53-man roster and will need to beat out Asa Jackson and Chris Johnson to do so. Could be a quick special-teams contributor if he makes the cut.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (5)
--TE Billy Bajema is a blocking tight end who could return potentially for the veteran minimum.
--LB Ricky Brown spent the season on injured reserve with a concussion and isn't expected to play football anymore.
--S Sean Considine is a valuable special-teams player who could be in the plans at some point if he's willing to play for a minimum salary.
--NT Ma'ake Keomeatu, 34, would like to continue playing for a few more seasons after revitalizing his career last season after being out of football the previous year due to weight and injury issues. Kemoeatu is regarded as unlikely to return.
--DE Ryan McBean spent the season on injured reserve with a broken ankle. He has said he would like to return, but it's unclear if the team wants him back.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (2)
--TE Ed Dickson (tendered at 1.323M with third-round pick as compensation) is one of the best blockers on the team.
--TE Dennis Pitta (tendered at 1.323M with second-round pick as compensation).
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (1)
--LB Adrian Hamilton.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--FB Kyle Juszczyk (4/130): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--T/G Ricky Wagner (5/168): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (6/200): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--C Ryan Jensen (6/203): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Aaron Mellette (7/238): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Marc Anthony (7/247): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Anthony Allen: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Damien Berry: Not tendered as ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Josh Bynes: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LS Morgan Cox: Potential RFA; $2.5M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB.
--QB Joe Flacco: Potential UFA; $120.6M/6 yrs, $29M SB.
--DT Bryan Hall: ERFA; terms unknown.
--T Ramon Harewood: Not tendered as RFA; terms unknown.
--S James Ihedigbo: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Chris Johnson: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Arthur Jones: RFA tendered at $2.023M with second-round pick as compensation; $2.023M/1 yr.
--DE Albert McClellan: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--T Bryant McKinnie: UFA; $7M/2 yrs.
--WR/KR David Reed: Potential RFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DL Chris Canty: FA Giants; $8M/3 yrs, $2.8M guaranteed.
--LB Elvis Dumervil: FA Broncos; $26M/5 yrs, $7.5M SB/$11M guaranteed.
--QB Caleb Hanie: FA Broncos; $715,000/1 yr.
--S Michael Huff: FA Raiders; $6M/3 yrs, $1.5M SB.
--LB Rolando McClain: FA Raiders; $700,000/1 yr.
--DE Marcus Spears: FA Cowboys; $2.75M/2 yr, $600,000 SB.
--LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (released).
--C Matt Birk (retired).
--WR Anquan Boldin (traded).
--LB Dannell Ellerbe: UFA Dolphins; $35M/5 yrs, $7M SB/$17M guaranteed.
--LB Paul Kruger: UFA Browns; $40.5M/5 yrs, $6M SB/$20M guaranteed.
--LB Ray Lewis (retired).
--S Bernard Pollard (released).
--S Ed Reed: UFA Texans; $15M/3 yrs, $5M guaranteed.
--G Bobbie Williams (released).
--CB Cary Williams: UFA Eagles; $17M/3 yrs, $10.5M guaranteed.
--S Tom Zbikowski (released).