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Ravens roster preview: Specialists


Ravens roster preview: Specialists

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 wrap up the series with the specialists.

Under contract: Sam Koch

Unrestricted free agents: Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker

Restricted free agents: None

Exclusive rights free agents: None

The Ravens have some work to do with the Wolfpack will return intact next season. Kicker Justin Tucker and long snapper Morgan Cox are both set to hit free agency next month, but don't expect that to happen -- in Tucker's case at least.

The Ravens have one more week if they want to use the franchise tag on Tucker, which is expected to cost about $4.5 million. That would keep Tucker off the open market, and the Ravens would then have until July to work out a long-term deal to keep one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history in Baltimore.

That's what the Patriots did last year with Stephen Gostkowski, who received the franchise tag last winter and then signed a four-year, $17 million deal (about $10 million guaranteed) last July. That should give a decent idea of what Tucker's services will cost the Ravens.

Tucker uncharacteristically struggled outside 50 yards this season, going 4-for-10, but he remains one of the league's most clutch kickers. He has 10 game-winning kicks, and his career percentage of .878 still ranks second-best in NFL history (min. 100 attempts).

At the State of the Ravens news conference in January, general manager Ozzie Newsome said, "We would like to have Justin continue to be a part of our football team. We will go to work on trying to get a contract done. We do know what the franchise number is for a kicker, if it gets to that."

The deadline to use the franchise tag is March 1. Unless the Ravens have a deal in place before that, expect them to use the tag on Tucker.

Cox was hardly noticed all season, which is why he made his first trip to the Pro Bowl. It will be interesting to see if a Pro Bowl trip leads to a bigger payday on the free agent market, but it's never a huge market for long snappers, and the Ravens like what they have in Cox and vice versa.

Punter Sam Koch also is coming off his first Pro Bowl season, and is in the second year of a five-year deal he signed last summer. He has set a Ravens record by appearing in 160 consecutive games, and there's no reason to think that streak won't be extended next season.

Overall, the odds are good that the 'Wolfpack' -- as this specialist trio has dubbed itself -- will return intact in 2016. And it will be Tucker's turn to buy dinner, because he's about to land a big payday.

RELATED: Would Ravens consider adding vet CB Cromartie?

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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?