Baltimore Ravens

John Harbaugh explains why Patriots' Rob Gronkowski was 'nightmare' to cover

John Harbaugh explains why Patriots' Rob Gronkowski was 'nightmare' to cover

Rob Gronkowski definitely made for a lot of sleepless nights for NFL head coaches and defensive coordinators.

The New England Patriots star brought a rare blend of speed, strength, size, pass-catching skill and blocking ability to the tight end position in his nine pro seasons. He announced his retirement Sunday on Instagram, ending one of the most remarkable careers in Patriots history.

One man who spent a lot of hours game-planning to stop Gronkowski is Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. He recently explained to Patriots.com's Don Banks what made Gronkowski so tough to slow down.

“But seriously, seriously the guy did it all," Harbaugh told Patriots.com's Don Banks. "He blocked, you couldn’t tackle him, he was a hard guy to cover. He just changed the math. He changed the math. He was just a nightmare to try and defend.’’

Harbaugh later added: “Especially when you put him with guys like (Julian) Edelman or (Tom) Brady. The fact that when he gets one step, who can cover the guy? You want to play zone? You want to play man? He’s blocking people. There’s really no answer for him. We did have a little success at times and we were able to defend him occasionally, but….’’

Gronkowski played just two regular-season games against the Ravens in his career, and he tallied three receptions for 45 yards and zero touchdowns in those matchups. He was far more effective versus Baltimore in the playoffs, compiling 12 receptions for 195 yards and a touchdown over two games (New England won both). 

The Patriots' offense will never look the same without Gronkowski, and you can bet New England's top competitors in the AFC are breathing a small sigh of relief knowing their game-plan sessions before games against the Pats should be a little less stressful.

Click to read all of Gronk's NFL records>>>

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Welcome to the AFC East, LeVeon Bell; he joins the Jets

Welcome to the AFC East, LeVeon Bell; he joins the Jets

The Jets have made their free agency splash by agreeing to a four-year deal with former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell that could be worth up to $61 million, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

Bell, 27, sat out all of last season in a contract dispute with the Steelers, refusing to play under the franchise tag which would have paid him $14 million. In 2017, he rushed for 1,291 yards on 321 carries with nine touchdowns and had 85 catches for 655 yards and two TDs and is considered one of the NFL's elite running backs. In five seasons, he's gained more than 5,000 yards, with 35 rushing TDs, along with 312 catches, 2,660 receiving yards and seven TD career TD catches. The three-time Pro Bowl selection reportedly chose the Jets over the Baltimore Ravens as his free-agent destination.

The former Michigan State running back tweeted his reaction to the deal:

The Patriots will now have to contend with Bell at least twice a season in the AFC East. He'll no doubt be a key part of a Jets offense with second-year quarterback Sam Darnold under now former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, who has taken over as Jets coach after being fired in Miami.


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Ravens reportedly trading Joe Flacco to Broncos; impact on Patriots?

Ravens reportedly trading Joe Flacco to Broncos; impact on Patriots?

The ongoing quarterback experiment in Denver is taking another interesting turn.

The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to trade quarterback Joe Flacco to the Broncos, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Wednesday. Denver will send a "mid-round" draft pick to Baltimore in return, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

The deal can't be made official until the new league year starts on March 13, but Denver head coach Vic Fangio's connection with Flacco during his one season in Baltimore apparently played a role in the deal.

The Broncos have rotated through mediocre quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired in 2015, with Case Keenum slogging the club to a 6-10 record last season.

Whether Flacco can turn their fortunes around remains to be seen. The 34-year-old veteran is a Super Bowl MVP with a proven track record of playoff success but appears to be in the back nine of his career; he played in just nine games last season while battling a hip injury and remained on the bench in favor of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Ravens' AFC Wild Card Round loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

The New England Patriots will play the Flacco-less Ravens this season but not the Broncos. Denver general manager John Elway apparently is hoping Flacco can help his team return to prominence in an AFC dominated by the Patriots, who have reached the Super Bowl in four of the last five seasons.

The Patriots hardly should be concerned about the Broncos as a threat, though; Denver still is just the third-best team in its division behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers, and a 34-year-old Flacco won't exactly move the needle.

Where the Flacco trade could impact New England is in the 2019 NFL Draft. Many expected the Broncos to target a quarterback in the first round of the draft -- including NBC Sports Boston's own Phil Perry -- but Denver appears to have addressed that issue via trade.

👉 Click here for Phil Perry's 2019 NFL Mock Draft

That means an extra QB could be on the board by the time the Patriots draft at No. 32 and potentially eye Tom Brady's heir apparent.

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