Quick Links

Ravens roster preview: Webb's contract looms large for CB group


Ravens roster preview: Webb's contract looms large for CB group

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 cornerbacks.

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 a rundown of free agency terminology.)

Under contract: Kyle Arrington, Will Davis, Jimmy Smith, Tray Walker, Lardarius Webb, Julian Wilson

Unrestricted free agents: Shareece Wright

Restricted free agents: None

Exclusive rights free agents: Jumal Rolle, Sheldon Price

The Ravens had major issues in the secondary for the second straight season and finished with just six interceptions -- the lowest total in the league and a new franchise record-low.

Adding a shutdown corner with superior playmaking and ball skills is high on the list of offseason priorities, and it will surprise no one if the Ravens go that route with their No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft.

It became clear during the season -- and coach John Harbaugh admitted as much -- that Lardarius Webb, now 30, simply doesn't have the tools any more to be an outside cornerback. Webb's future with the team will be one of the more interesting offseason storylines to watch.

At the "State of the Ravens" news conference, general manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed what was gradually apparent last season: Webb's future is at safety -- if anywhere.

Webb is set to earn $6 million this year and has a cap hit of $10 million -- which would be among the highest in the league among safeties and, as of now, is the second-highest on the team. His production simply does not match that cost, so something has to give.

Webb will probably need to take a pay cut. If he refuses and is released, the Ravens would be saddled with $6 million in dead money but would free up $4 million in cap space.

Either way, Webb is no longer viewed as a cornerback, meaning Jimmy Smith (54 tackles, team-high 3 INTs) will be returning at one corner, and the other starting corner spot is up in the air.

A plug-and-play, elite draft pick would be one option. Re-signing Shareece Wright might be another. Wright struggled mightily early with the Ravens -- he was torched by his former 49ers team in his Ravens debut -- but he steadily improved as the season went on and ultimately became the starter outside opposite Smith. He did not end up with any interceptions, but he finished with 40 tackles and five passes defensed, and the Ravens are expected to make a reasonable offer to keep him. Plus, he's a high school teammate and longtime friend of Jimmy Smith, so staying with the Ravens has a lot of appeal.

Kyle Arrington was increasingly phased out of action, even as a slot corner, and his future seems iffy at best. Cutting Arrington, 29, would clear about $1.4 million in cap space.

The Ravens have a lot of other younger, less proven options on the roster including last year's fourth-round draft pick Tray Walker. The Ravens admitted he was a project when they drafted him, but the fact that Walker hardly saw the field last year suggests the Ravens reached badly in drafting him when they did. The question now is whether the former Texas Southern player can start to show the potential the Ravens saw in him.

Will Davis is expected to return from a torn ACL and could be a factor as well. He has some promising moments before his season-ending injury.

One other subtext this year: The Ravens have a new secondary coach in Leslie Frazier. After last season's struggles, and with Webb moving to safety, Frazier has his work cut out for him, but he brings 17 years of NFL coaching experience to the room.

[RELATED: Will Pitta retire or return to Ravens in 2016?]


Quick Links

Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

AP Images

Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."


Quick Links

Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

AP Images

Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There are no dreary work days for Don Martindale, who has overwhelmingly embraced his new role as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

After serving for five seasons as the team's linebackers coach, Martindale was promoted to coordinator in January after Dean Pees left the post.

Enthusiastic doesn't even begin to describe Martindale's attitude about being in charge of the defense.

"Ever since we've made this transition, it's been a joy to just come through those gates every day. I love it," Martindale said after Wednesday's mandatory minicamp practice.

This isn't the first time Martindale has been put in charge of molding a defense. In 2010, he watched over a unit in Denver that was the worst in the NFL in both yards and points allowed per game.

Given a second chance, the 55-year-old Martindale is putting together a defense that will rely heavily on the instinct of several of its most proven players, most notably safety Eric Weddle and linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley.

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," Weddle said. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

Martindale called Mosley "the quarterback" of a fluid unit that can make a snap-change from drop-back coverage to an all-out blitz. In that regard, Mosley believes this defense is superior to the one that in 2017 yielded 18.9 points per game, sixth-best in the NFL.

"The way we're able to use our core guys, put them in different spots and do some of the same things just from different positions, it's more creative, I would say, than where we were last year," Mosley said.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh promoted Martindale rather than go outside the organization because he wanted to extend his vision of a defense that has evolved since his arrival in 2008.

"All we're doing is forwarding John's plan," Martindale said. "We're remodeling the package. It's still Ravens football, it's still Ravens defense, but we've streamlined it. It's the elegant simplicity. Guys are playing really fast."

Asked for his take on Martindale's defense, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg replied, "They're fast and they're furious."

Sure, things might be different once the pads go on at training camp, but at this point, Martindale's boss likes what he sees.

"We're doing a lot of neat things on defense, things that are really good," Harbaugh said. "More than ever, we're putting it on our players to make decisions in real time."

Martindale has a new title, but old habits die hard.

"For the most part, it's been the same," Mosley said. "He always comes in and says, `I have to lead the linebacker room,' and sits down and gets to talking like he's back at linebacker coach."

Told of Mosley's disclosure, Martindale smiled and said, "I've been trying to stay out of there, but you can't help but go in. That's home. I have a good time in the secondary room as well."

And just about everywhere else.

"Where we're going with this thing is really exciting to me," Martindale said, "and I know it's exciting to the players."

In other training camp news, cornerback Jimmy Smith was a surprise participant at practice, going through a light regimen of individual drills just six months after tearing his left Achilles tendon.

"I don't know if Jimmy's like half Wolverine, but he's healed up in half the time of regular human beings," Weddle said, referring to the amazing recuperative powers of the Marvel super hero.