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Ravens roster preview: Linebackers


Ravens roster preview: Linebackers

It's clear that coming off a 5-11 season, the Ravens have some tough decisions to make regarding their 2016 roster. To be sure, injuries were a huge part of the story this past season, but there figures to be significant roster turnover after one of the worst seasons in team history. And as always, the salary cap will have a major influence on how the Ravens go about constructing their 2016 roster.

Over the past two weeks, we have been examining each Ravens position group with an eye toward 2016. Who stays? Who goes? Today we look at the linebackers.

Note: For the purpose of this discussion, we will limit the roster to those players on the final 53-man roster and injured reserve. (Here's an explantion of free agency terminology.)

Under contract: Arthur Brown, Elvis Dumervil, C.J. Mosley, Zach Orr, Daryl Smith, Za'Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs

Unrestricted free agents: Chris Carter, Albert McClellan, Courtney Upshaw

Restricted free agents: None

Exclusive rights free agents: None

RELATED: Ravens will be eyeing wide receivers at combine

The Ravens had already identified fast edge rushers as one of their primary offseason needs -- and that was before the Broncos Super Bowl run further underscored their value.

The Ravens entered last year with three linebacker starters on the high side of 30 and could do so again if Terrell Suggs (33), Elvis Dumervil (32) and Daryl Smith (33) all return.

Cutting Suggs or Dumervil would saddle the Ravens with a sizeable amount of dead money -- more than $8 million in Suggs' case and almost $5 million in Dumervil's. The Ravens will keep both players, hope they still have enough left in the tank and can show some good young pass rushers the ropes.

Of the three 30-somethings, Daryl Smith would seem to be the most likely to be cut loose. The Ravens would save about $2.6 million against the cap and would be saddled with less than $2 million in dead money. And perhaps more important, the Ravens already have a cheaper successor on board in Zach Orr, who as last season progressed increasingly spelled Smith on passing downs because of his better speed and coverage ability.

Make no mistake, Smith remains a steady, blue-collar player who fits well with the Ravens. He led the Ravens with 121 tackles and had three sacks, starting every game. But when the Ravens begin the tough task of cutting players to free up some cap room, Smith could be one to go.

Courtney Upshaw also could be gone, although the pending free agent isn't likely to haul in the kind of money Pernell McPhee or Paul Kruger did. (Both received five-year deals in the range of $38 million to $40 million.)

Upshaw simply hasn't shown the pass-rush ability that leads to that kind of fat payday -- he has five sacks in four years -- and it's possible he'll find a soft market and will be back. The Ravens still like him as a edge-setter against the run, but they won't set a price point any higher than that, and it's possible another team will. In that case, the Ravens will wish him well and move on.

Ideally, the Ravens will draft a premier edge rusher early in the draft who can learn behind Dumervil and Suggs, which is what they are hoping they have in Za'Darius Smith. He showed flashes as a rookie last year and finished with 5 1/2 sacks.

On the inside, C.J. Mosley remains the anchor, either with the veteran Smith or Orr or someone else alongside him. Mosley wasn't as consistent last year as his Pro Bowl rookie year, but he still had 115 tackles and four sacks.

Two other names to watch are Albert McClellan and Arthur Brown. McClellan is a pending free agent, but he has been a special teams ace for the Ravens who can play any linebacker position in a pinch. Expect the Ravens to bring him back.

As for Brown, will the Ravens keep hoping he'll finally give some return on their investment? Remember, they traded up in the second round to draft Brown, and yet he's hardly been able to get on the field. If Smith goes, Brown might have his best chance yet to show he belongs. Then again, he's had three years to do that and it hasn't happened yet.

MORE RAVENS: If Ravens don't re-sign Osemele, where will he go?

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Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

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Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have signed WR Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal on Friday according to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.

The deal is apparently worth $21 million, according to Adam Shefter.

After being released by the Raiders Thursday following the signing of Jordy Nelson, Crabtree heads to the Ravens less than 24 hours later.


The 31-year-old is coming off a 2017 season when he recorded 58 receptions for 618 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016 he posted 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since 2015, the Texas Tech product has scored 25 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most in the NFL. Crabtree and Steelers WR Antonio Brown are the only NFL players to post at least eight touchdown catches in each of the past three seasons.


In all, Crabtree has played nine NFL seasons – six of them with San Francisco (2009-14) and three with Oakland (2015-17). The former first-round draft pick (10th overall, Texas Tech) has registered 579 receptions for 6,870 yards (11.9 avg.) and 51 touchdowns in 125 career games (122 starts).

“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Crabtree’s 51 receiving scores rank 10th among active wide receivers, while his receptions (579) are seventh, and his receiving yards (6,870) are 12th.

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

The most obvious move in the NFL this offseason was the Ravens signing a new wide receiver (or three). It was less obvious why the team decided to commit so much money to former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant.

Grant has long been beloved by his coaches and teammates, but the results have never been there on game day. He has some potential to improve if given a larger role in a team's offense, which he likely would have had in Baltimore, but it never made much sense to offer him a 4-year contract worth nearly 30 million, with $14.5 million guaranteed.

Thankfully for fans who were uninspired by the reported agreement, Grant was unable to pass his physical and will not be joining the team.


At a press conference Friday morning, GM Ozzie Newsome called the void a "medical decision" that Newsome had no control over. 

NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that Grant is recovering from a Grade 2 sprained ankle that would need two months rest.

You have to feel for Grant, who by all accounts has worked his tail off for many years just waiting for his chance. It's never easy missing out on nearly $15 million dollars guaranteed, but Grant should be able to find work with another team.

The timing of this news, coming so soon after former Raider Michael Crabtree became available, seemed fishy to some.

At Friday's press conference, Newsome also said the team would have still pursued Crabtree if they signed Grant. 

It's probably not fair to suggest that an NFL franchise would actually so publicly back out of a deal just because another option came along, as any team with that reputation would struggle to attract future free agents. That said, it could end up working out splendidly for the team.

Besides, if all else is equal, shouldn't a team located in Baltimore be going after a guy named CRABtree?