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Ozzie: Ravens quickly targeted TE Watson

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Ozzie: Ravens quickly targeted TE Watson

OWINGS MILLS -- With Crockett Gillmore dealing with shoulder injuries and Nick Boyle facing a 10-game suspension, tight end suddenly became a position of need for the Ravens in free agency.

And it didn’t take long for general manager Ozzie Newsome to figure out he wanted to target veteran Ben Watson.

Newsome said the Ravens watched tape of about eight potential free agent tight ends, and “after the first 10 plays (watching Watson) I go, ’That’s the guy we want.’ “

Indeed, the Ravens signed Watson to a two-year deal worth a reported $8 million as soon as free agency began on Wednesday -– a dramatic departure from Newsome’s usual patience early in free agency.

Watson, 35, is coming off a career year, with 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns in his third season with the Saints.  Watson’s production last year nearly equaled that of the Ravens three tight ends –- Gillmore, Boyle and Maxx Williams totaled 83 catches for 833 yards and five touchdowns.

At Watson’s introductory news conference at the Under Armour Performance Center on Thursday, Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end himself, called Watson’s production last season “unbelievable,” and also emphasized his durability, noting he played over 90 percent of the offensive snaps for the Saints.

Newsome acknowledged that Gillmore’s shoulder surgeries and Boyle’s suspension ”kind of changed how we would approach free agency. Tight end, at one point, was not a priority but it became one because of those two situations. We were lucky to be able to match our need to a person like Ben."

“Our coaching staff was convinced this was the perfect fit for what we want to do offensively,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re a balanced offense. He’s a run blocker, he’s very productive in the pass game, he can run all the routes, he makes plays in tight areas, he makes third-down conversions.”

Watson, a Norfolk, Virginia, native, said he was excited to join an organization he has squared off with plenty of times in a career that has included six seasons with the Patriots, three with the Browns and three with the Saints.

““This is an organization that I think very highly of,” Watson said.

“To have stability at head coach, to have stability in management, and also in ownership, this is a great opportunity to be a part of a winning tradition.”

Newsome also praised Watson’s character, saying he was “at the top of the charts” and will be a mentor for the team’s young tight ends. “He’ll offer so much to those young guys.”

MORE: Ravens creating cap space by restructuring deals

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Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

We've known the Ravens' 2018 preseason and regular season opponents for some time now, but the NFL finally released their full schedule with exact dates and times.

As they do every year, the Ravens will be seeing the Bengals, Steelers and Browns twice. 

For the ninth consecutive year, Week 16 and 17 will be divisional games with playoff implications.

The Ravens will also be playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio, bringing an extra preseason game to their schedule.

In the regular season, the birds will be flocking south to take on the Panthers, Falcons and Titans. They haven't seen the Panthers or Falcons since 2014 - both ending in wins - and came up just short against the Titans in their 23-20 loss last season.

The Ravens will only have to travel to the west coast once when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who they last saw in 2015 and earned a 29-26 win.

Not including AFC North rivals, the last time the Ravens saw their remaining five home opponents they came away with wins. Hopefully history will repeat itself.

Prime-time games, which the Ravens have two of, will kick off at earlier times than in the past. Monday Night Football will now start at 8:15 p.m. while Thursday and Sunday Night Football will start at 8:20 p.m.

Ravens 2018 Regular-Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sunday, 9/9 vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 2: Thursday, 9/13 @ Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, 9/23 vs. Broncos. 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, 9/30 @ Steelers, 8:20 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, 10/7 @ Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday 10/14 @ Titans, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sunday 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Saturday 12/22 or Sunday 12/23 @ Chargers, TBD

Week 17: Sunday 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.


PRESEASON 

Hall of Fame Game: Thurs., 8/2, vs. Chicago Bears (Canton, OH), 8:00pm (NBC).

Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 2: Mon. 8/20,  at Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football, ESPN).

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins*

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30 at Washington Redskins

* - Game date and time not yet determined

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

With 10 days until the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to visit the Ravens this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner is a projected first-round pick as he has proven to have success in the air and on the ground. 

While at Louisville, Jackson had 9,043 passing yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. His NFL draft profile compares him to Michael Vick. 

RELATED: BEST QUOTES FROM RAVENS PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE

The Ravens are in search of Joe Flacco's successor, but spending a first-round pick on a quarterback when there are other glaring needs is up in the air. However, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of drafting a quarterback in the first-round.

At their pre-draft press conference, GM Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta kept reiterating we could be surprised by who they pick at No. 16, if they do at all. 

While Jackson's numbers are impressive, he continues to be considered a late first-round pick as his build isn't up to typical NFL QB standards and scouts are concerned with his accuracy. What he does have in his favor is speed.

While fans are hoping for an offensive weapon, having Jackson learn under Flacco for a year (and maybe RGIII?) could rev up some excitement. 

RELATED: RGIII READY TO MOVE FORWARD AS NEW, GROWN PLAYER