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Ravens bolster secondary with Justin Bethel, say goodbye to longtime special teams coach

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Ravens bolster secondary with Justin Bethel, say goodbye to longtime special teams coach

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- A whirlwind week for the Baltimore Ravens continued Friday when special teams coach Jerry Rosburg retired after an 11-year run with the team.

The surprise announcement came prior to a news conference that was scheduled to introduce newcomers Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas, who signed as free agents after passing physicals on Friday morning.

On Friday evening, the Ravens reached agreement on a two-year deal with cornerback and special teams standout Justin Bethel, who played last year with Atlanta following a six-year run with Arizona. Bethel was named to the Pro Bowl in 2013-15 for his play on special teams.

Much earlier in the day, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Rosburg and his successor, Chris Horton, took their places behind a table on a stage at the team's training facility. Hired by Harbaugh in 2008, Rosburg ruled over a unit that was perennially among the league's best.

"I can tell you, without Jerry Rosburg here there's no way we would have had anywhere close to the success we've had," Harbaugh said.

Rosburg said there were several personal reasons behind his decision, most notably the desire to spend more time with his wife and three children. He reviewed some of his friendships with coaches and players and proudly looked back at what he accomplished with Harbaugh, his long-time friend.

Rosburg concluded his brief speech by saying, "Thank you and farewell." And then abruptly walked off the stage.

"I thought Jerry was going to take a question or two!" Harbaugh said with a laugh. "That's classic Jerry Rosburg."

Horton was the assistant special teams coach. He played football at UCLA before appearing in 29 games with the Redskins from 2008-10.

Ingram and Thomas agreed to terms with the Ravens on Wednesday. The addition of the former Pro Bowl stars eased some of the sting of losing free agents C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith and John Brown earlier in the week.

Ingram is a bruising running back who played eight years with the New Orleans Saints. The 29-year-old will likely take over as a starter for Gus Edwards, who ran for 718 yards as a rookie last year.

Ingram knew his time with the Saints was done after the team signed free agent Latavius Murray.

"It was tough. I've got brothers in that locker room," Ingram said. "But it was just time for me, at this point in my career, to move on. I feel like I have my best years in front of me."

Thomas, a free safety, will step in for Eric Weddle, who was released earlier this month. Thomas has been selected to play in six Pro Bowls.

He worked out a deal with Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey to get the number he wore in Seattle -- 29 -- which is also his age.

"His mom has a track team, so I might throw a little break that way," Thomas said.

Ingram and Thomas fill key spots, but the Ravens hope they'll also be able to provide leadership in the locker room. That job was handled primarily by Weddle, Suggs and quarterback Joe Flacco, who was traded to Denver this week.

"One of the goals is always to bring in guys who have great character and leadership," first-year general manager Eric DeCosta said. "We've tried to do that in the past. That's something that we prioritize. Ability is important, but so is what they bring to the team. These guys measure up really well in those categories."

DeCosta was a bit discouraged by losing four starters earlier in free agency. By Friday, however, was smiling at a table next to Ingram, Thomas and Harbaugh.

"It's a stressful environment at times, especially when you lose players who are a fabric of your team," DeCosta said. "It's tough to see that happen. But we had a process and a plan how we wanted to approach these guys, and it worked out well for us."

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Breaking down the Jalen Ramsey question and what it could mean for the Ravens secondary

Breaking down the Jalen Ramsey question and what it could mean for the Ravens secondary

If there’s one thing that’s obvious about the Jalen Ramsey situation in Jacksonville, it’s that there are 31 other teams that would like to have him on the team. 

Yes, that includes the Ravens. It’s not breaking news to think every team in the NFL is looking for a former All-Pro cornerback any way they can get him.

Two Ravens players, Matthew Judon and Marquise Brown, already tweeted their desire to bring Ramsey to Baltimore.

The logistics of adding him, however, are a completely separate issue. 

Ramsey, a 2016 first-round pick of the Jaguars, recently requested a trade. He’s reportedly unhappy with his usage in the Jaguars defense and had a spat with his head coach, Doug Marrone, on the sideline last Sunday against the Texans. 

According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, two offers have already been made for Ramsey’s services.

From the Ravens perspective, there’s both pros and cons to what this deal could mean. 

Starting with the positives, it’s clear: Ramsey is one of, if not the game’s best cornerbacks. Adding him to a secondary already with Marlon Humphrey on the opposite side of the field, and Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson at safety, would clearly give the Ravens the best secondary in the NFL — if they didn’t have it already. 

Without slot cornerback Tavon Young for the season and Jimmy Smith for a few weeks, the Ravens have been pressed deeper than they thought they might have to go with those two absent. Ramsey would come in and immediately fill a hole left behind from injuries. 

Ramsey is still under his rookie contract for this and next season, where he’ll carry a cap hit of 7.429 million dollars this season according to Spotrac. Next year, his final year, he’ll have a cap hit of 13.7 million dollars.

The Ravens have 9.625 million dollars in cap space this season, also according to Spotrac. Meaning, they’d be able to fit him in, should they so desire. Next season, they’re projected to have the ninth-most cap space available in the NFL at 68.127 million dollars. 

With 10 projected draft picks next year, including two-third round picks and three-fourth round picks, the Ravens will have the ammunition necessary to acquire a player like Ramsey. And in a conference with the Chiefs, Patriots and Browns, all of whom boast outstanding offensive weapons, building out the defensive side of the ball could push the Ravens over the edge. 

Baltimore has free agents to take care of at season’s end, like Michael Pierce, Willie Snead, Patrick Onwuasor, Matthew Judon, Patrick Ricard and Jimmy Smith. 

None of those names, however, will command top-dollar in the open market. And with Lamar Jackson still on his rookie deal for this season and potentially three more after this, the time to strike for the Ravens could be now. 

But, like all trade scenarios, there’s another side to Ramsey’s potential acquisition. 

Ramsey has stated his desire to be a lockdown, No. 1 cornerback responsible for shutting down opposing team’s top receivers. The Ravens already have a bonafide top corner in Humphrey, and if the team uses its fifth-year option on him, he won’t have to be re-signed until 2021.

Ronnie Stanley is the biggest fish that the Ravens have to sign, and he’s due after the 2020 season — the same season as Ramsey. Locking up Stanley and Ramsey could prove to be tough, especially considering the fact that both would be at or near the top of the pay-grade for their respective position groups. 

And, for better or worse, Ramsey has been known to be vocal about what he sees on the field and in the organization. 

That could mean a proclamation about how well the defense is playing as a way of being a leader, or it could mean lashing out when things go poorly. Like he showed last week against the Texans, he’s not shy about telling the man in charge about how he feels. Could that be pent up frustration boiling over? Absolutely. But the Ravens will have to be careful with what they decide, considering that past.

They’ve had boisterous personalities before in Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, so the franchise isn’t foreign to what those players bring. 

Even if the Ravens view Ramsey as their top option and would like to make a deal, the Jaguars need to be pleased with the compensation they receive. The Ravens might not be willing to go that far. 

Jacksonville has reportedly been asking for a first-round pick, plus more. The Ravens do have a 2020 first-round pick, but might not be willing to sell off what could end up being another second or third-round pick, or even their 2021 first-round pick. 

Even if the Ravens offer their 2020 first-round pick, at 2-0 already, there’s a decent shot the Ravens pick 20th or higher in the first round. The Jaguars could accept a trade from another team, who they view as having a better chance of picking towards the top of the first round in the next few years. 

So what does all that mean? It means to remain level-headed, whether or not the move gets done. 

Should the Ravens pull the trigger on one of the biggest moves of the 2019 season, or should they sit on the sidelines and keep their picks, there are pros and cons to each decision. The trade, or lack thereof, doesn’t mean the Ravens will win the AFC or mean they’re doomed.

It just means they’ll either have Jalen Ramsey, or they won’t.

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Hollywood Brown tweets at Jalen Ramsey in support of Jaguars CB joining Ravens

Hollywood Brown tweets at Jalen Ramsey in support of Jaguars CB joining Ravens

Marquise Brown has made it clear what he thinks of Jalen Ramsey's reported trade request out of Jacksonville. 

On Tuesday morning, Brown tweeted at Ramsey in support of the All-Pro cornerback joining the Ravens.

Ramsey, a 2016 first-round in Jacksonville, quickly established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the league and was named All-Pro in just his second season. 

Reportedly, the Jaguars are looking for at least one first round pick in return for Ramsey. And after the Steelers traded a first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick, there's good reason to think the Jaguars wouldn't settle for less than that. 

Things are ramping up so quickly, as he had an incident on the sideline last Sunday while the team was in Houston. Video caught Ramsey and Jaguars coach Doug Marrone exchanging words on the sideline, and both had to be separated. 

Whether or not the trade would fit for the Ravens and their organization remains to be seen, as does if the compensation required for Ramsey is worth it. 

On the Ravens side, the need is there. Slot cornerback Tavon Young is out for the season with a neck injury and Jimmy Smith is out for a few weeks with an MCL sprain.

Either way, there's already at least one Ravens player with bringing Ramsey along.

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