Entering lastoffseason, it appeared the Ravens had a glaring hole in their kick return game.Last year's top returner, David Reed, was sidelined with a torn ACL that willkeep him out at least the first half of this season. His top backup last season, TomZbikowski, went to the Colts in free agency.When the Ravenssigned receiver Jacoby Jones, it was widely viewed that he might take over kickand punt return duties in addition to his role as the No. 3 receiver. Joneshadn't returned any kickoffs since 2010, and has had much more experiencereturning punts, but his 64 career kickoff returns were far more than any othercandidate on the roster.Instead,undrafted rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson grabbed one of the final rosterspots and has emerged as the team's top kickoff return option. Through the firstfour games, Thompson has handled all the kick return duties and ranks 12th inthe league with an average of 25.9 yards a return.Thompsonpossesses what any good kick returner needs: blazing straight-line speed. Inaddition to football, Thompson spent some time running track at the Universityof Florida. He ran a 4.32 40 at the Florida pro day, and it was his speed that first opened eyes at training camp. Thompson, likemany kick returners in this era of the touchback when kickers are launchingballs from the 35-yard line, has shown no hesitation to bring a kick out fromdeep in the end zone. And Ravensspecial teams coach Jerry Rosburg said at his weekly news conference onThursday that in general, that's fine with him."We wanthim to be aggressive," Rosburg said. "We dont want him to be backthere scared we want to be aggressive."Thompson has aseason-long return of 49 yards against the Eagles, and he has come ahalf-second from breaking a long one several other times. Rosburg notedthat Thompson ran into a bit of trouble against Cleveland when he returned akick from 8 yards deep and was stopped at the Ravens' 11-yard line. Rosburgexplained that the hang time on that kick probably should have led Thompson totake a touchback, but that overall his decision-making has been good."Generallyspeaking, we give him license to make those decisions and be in attackmode," Rosburg said. "Thats the way we want to play.
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.
Ravens giving WR Michael Crabtree a three-year, $21 million deal, including $15 million in first two years and $11 million guaranteed ($7M signing bonus), per source. Deal could be worth up to $20 million in first two years.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2018
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.
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.
WR Ryan Grant, who reached agreement with Baltimore on a $29 million deal, failed his physical and his Ravens deal is null and void, per sources. Grant will have to find another deal with another team willing to pass him on his physical.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2018
Baltimore failed former Washington WR Ryan Grant on his physical over an ankle injury that dated back to the Redskins' final regular-season game, per source. Grant's time in Baltimore is over before it began. He remains a free agent.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2018
At a press conference Friday morning, GM Ozzie Newsome called the void a "medical decision" that Newsome had no control over.
Newsome: "I did not get the results of Ryan's physical until about 4 o clock yesterday." Said team consulted with many doctors around the country. "It's not a football decision. It's a medical decision that I had no control over."— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) March 16, 2018
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.
Former Raiders' WR Michael Crabtree is scheduled to visit Friday with the Baltimore Ravens, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2018
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?
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