Late For Work 3/15: Ravens Quickly Pursue Backup Plan

JJ: ‘My time as a Raven is up.’ Chargers signing former Ravens. Winston visiting Baltimore.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 9:33 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Ravens Not ‘Sitting Around’ For Grubbs

UPDATE: With Ben Grubbs officially signing with the New Orleans Saints, a deal a reportedly worth $36 million ($10 million guaranteed) over five years, what will the Ravens do with Mathis? He was reportedly visiting with team officials Thursday morning. “Let’s see if Ravens let Evan Mathis leave Baltimore today,” tweeted Hensley.

Baltimore offered guard Ben Grubbs a deal, hoping it would keep him from the free-agent market. Unfortunately it didn’t, as Grubbs is shopping several teams, including the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins.

So the Ravens are doing a little shopping themselves, as they reportedly brought in Eagles free-agent guard Evan Mathis for a visit last night.

“You have to give the Ravens credit for not sitting around for Grubbs,” wrote Hensley. “This is a proactive move to help what has become an improving offensive line.”

Mathis is widely considered the third-best guard on the market, not far behind Grubbs. On the PFT Hot 100, Mathis makes the top 25, just one spot behind the younger Grubbs. Some think Mathis might even be better.

“Mathis might be older than Grubbs, but he’s better, and doesn’t have much wear and tear on his body.  Makes sense,” tweeted ProFootballFocus.

The 30-year-old veteran has played for four teams in his seven seasons in the NFL (Eagles, Bengals, Dolphins, Panthers), but outside of his 2006 season, Mathis didn’t become a consistent starter until he started 15 games for the Eagles last year.

Besides the Ravens, the Colts and Redskins are also reportedly interested in Mathis. The Ravens could have an edge based on the criteria Mathis gave for choosing his next destination.

“I want to be on a good team – I’m a competitor. I want to win a Super Bowl and I just want to play for an organization that has that chance,” Mathis told WNST.

An Alabama alum, Mathis has ties to Newsome and said the Ravens GM is a very good family friend.

“I would love to play for a guy like Ozzie,” Mathis said. “If I didn’t want to play for him, I wouldn’t be taking the visit. I like what the Ravens do, I like what Ozzie has always done.”

Johnson: My Time As A Raven Is Up

After nine years with the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker Jarret Johnson said goodbye to the team that drafted him and the city that loved and embraced him.

On the second day of free agency, Baltimore’s “Iron Man” signed a reported four-year, $19 million deal with the San Diego Chargers.

“It’s been a weird day and a weird process,” Johnson told WBAL radio. “On one side, you’re really excited and thrilled about a new opportunity. On the other hand, you have a lot of relationships and it’s [a team you've] just been through so much with.

“It’s going to be tough to go, but at some point, all good things must come to an end and my time as a Raven is up.

Asked whether the Ravens offered Johnson a deal to stay, the gritty linebacker declined to give details of the process, but said he was impressed with the way General Manager Ozzie Newsome handled the situation.

“They were very respectful about it,” said Johnson. “A lot of teams will give you an offer that is pretty insulting. The Ravens didn’t do that, but they did make it clear that my time was up.”

Double J said he knows the way Newsome operates is what makes Baltimore a successful team. He understands that the Ravens develop young players and groom them to become starters as some veterans move on.

“I leave humbled and very respectful of the Ravens organization and thankful for the opportunity over the last nine years,” he said.

Prior to the opening of free agency, many thought Johnson may leave Baltimore for the Colts to play for his former defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano.

A Pagano did have a hand in luring J.J. from Baltimore, but it wasn’t Chuck. It was his brother, John, who is in his first year as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator.

“That’s part of what made it so easy,” Johnson told the Chargers’ website. “Chuck and I have been tight ever since he got there. I’ve met his brother before. I met John before one of the games a couple years ago and he’s what made this decision so easy. I knew him, I knew about him, I know the kind of guy his brother is, so he’s definitely the type of coach you want to play for.”

While San Diego was a surprise to some, Johnson was just happy he didn’t wind up in Pittsburgh.

“I told everyone that if I went to Pittsburgh I would have to throw up on my jersey every time I played,” he said.

Chargers Scooping Up Former Ravens

The Chargers are diving into the former Ravens pool.

In addition to signing Johnson, San Diego has also struck deals with left tackle Jared Gaither (four years) and fullback Le’Ron McClain (three years).

The three players will join linebacker Antwan Barnes, who was drafted by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He started five games in for the Chargers last season.

Redding Also Says Goodbye

Cory Redding also left Baltimore yesterday, signing a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Colts.

He admitted one of the biggest reasons he left was to be reunited with Pagano.

“I believed my time was up in Baltimore and my relationship with Chuck the last two years made this very easy,” Redding said during a conference call with reporters. “That’s why I’m here. It’s mostly on Chuck and my relationship with him and doing something special with the Colts.”

On Redding’s Facebook page, he left a message to Ravens fans, thanking them for an amazing time at M&T Bank Stadium even though his stay in Baltimore was short.

Some fans didn’t seem very happy that Redding decided to leave.

Redding had another message for them: “To all the people who acted like CHILDREN when they heard I was leaving…GROW UP!! This is a business, I did my job so chill out!”

Hensley: Replacing J.J. Harder Than Redding

The Ravens have Pernell McPhee and Art Jones to step up and fill the void left by Redding. They were pushing for more time last season and will likely be ready to compete for the starting role.

Thus, Redding’s departure does “minimal damage to the reigning AFC North champions,” wrote ESPN blogger Jamison Hensley.

Replacing Johnson, however, may not be as easy.

The Ravens have Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle on the roster, but Hensley has his concerns about both.

Losing Johnson is a bigger blow than many think because he was the most underrated player on the Ravens’ defense,” the blogger wrote. “Baltimore will likely try to replace him with Paul Kruger, but I’m not sold on that. Kruger is a pass rusher who will have trouble setting a physical edge against the run.

“The original plan was to eventually replace Johnson with Sergio Kindle, the team’s top draft pick in 2010. But Kindle fractured his skull when he fell down two flights of stairs before his rookie training camp, and he’s never been the same. I believe the Ravens will have to go in free agency to find someone who can do the same things as Johnson.”

Tackle Winston To Visit Ravens

Widely considered the best right tackle on the market, Eric Winston plans to visit the Ravens, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Winston was surprisingly cut by the Houston Texans Tuesday after starting every game last season. He was due a $5.5 million base salary next year and was released with a failed physical designation.

The 28-year-old right tackle believes he will be medically cleared soon after undergoing a scope on his ankle five weeks ago.

“It’s coming back fast,” Winston said. “It’s going to be fine.”

The Ravens adopted a stretch zone blocking scheme last year, which is something that Winston and Ravens fullback Vonta Leach both excelled in during their time in Houston.

Left tackle Bryant McKinne is due a $500,000 roster bonus on Saturday, according to The Carroll County Times Aaron Wilson. The Ravens could opt to not to pay it, let him go and shift Michael Oher back to left tackle.

Winston has already visited with the Miami Dolphins.

Nakamura Visiting Panthers

Backup safety and special teams standout Haruki Nakamura will make his first free-agent visit. He will meet with the Carolina Panthers, according to the Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network.

If the Panthers promise Nakamura more playing time, they could have a good chance of coming to an agreement.

“If I had the opportunity to go somewhere and get more playing time or even possibly start – just to compete to start – I’d be really interested,” Nakamura said last week.

“It’s not just about money, but as far as my career goes, I would like to take the next step in my career.”

Quick Hits

  • untouchablejay4: i’m really sad to see my boy double j go. he’ll always be a raven!!!!!! #classof2003 [Twitter]
  • Artj97: @Redding93 congratulations on the new deal with Indy. Thank you for being a mentor to me and teaching me alot these last two years. You will be missed in the d-line room. #Bigheadboy [Twitter]
  • If the Ravens have interest in receivers/return specialist Eddie Royal, as has been reported, they may have some tough competition from the Chargers. Kevin Acee was told the club feels good about its chances of signing Royal. [Union-Tribune San Diego]
  • CoachBillick: Can’t EVER “replace” Ray Lewis, but Kuechly & Hightower are good ILB in own right. RT @McMorris_21 Anyone in draft to fill R. Lewis’s spot? [Twitter]

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