Late For Work 3/23: Another Special Teamer Coming?

Plus why Ginn didn’t work out, more calming from Dick Cass, the numbers behind free agency.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 9:22 am | Categories: Late For Work, Ryan Mink

Ravens Eying Special Teams Standout Ekejiuba

The Ravens already reportedly landed a special teams ace in defensive back Corey Graham early this morning.

Could they be interested in another?

The Carroll County Times’ Aaron Wilson reports the Ravens also hosted linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba, a Pro Bowl alternate three years ago who is coming off shoulder surgery.

“With Isaiah Ekejiuba visiting and Corey Graham joining Ravens, they’re serious about boosting special teams,” Wilson tweeted.

Ekejiuba, 30, is a 6-foot-4, 260-pound former undrafted free agent out of Virginia who walked on as a wide receiver but later switched to linebacker and was given a scholarship after shining on special teams.

He played for the Oakland Raiders for five years and Detroit Lions for two. He has 60 career tackles, including 10 two seasons ago, and two forced fumbles.

Wilson says Ekejiuba “could operate as a potential replacement” for linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Nobody has ruled out a return for Ayanbadejo either. Yesterday, Ayanbadejo tweeted, “I don’t need #Megatron money but I sure in the hell wouldn’t mind it!”

On the first night of free agency, Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks reported that the Ravens are “thought to be seeking elite special teams players.” Looks like that may be coming to fruition now.

The Ravens had problems on special teams coverage last season, something that doesn’t please Head Coach John Harbaugh – a former special teams coach – or Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

Only one team (Indianapolis) allowed more yards per kickoff return than the Ravens (29.2), and only eight teams allowed more yards per punt return than Baltimore (11.9). The Ravens allowed three return touchdowns.

Why Didn’t Ravens Sign Ginn?

Of three reported free-agent visits to the Ravens’ training facility, each of the players has landed elsewhere. The latest was wide receiver/return specialist Ted Ginn Jr., who last night opted to re-sign with the San Francisco 49ers.

The explosive returner averaged 27.6 yards per kickoff return and 12.3 yards per punt return last year, the third and fourth-highest totals in the NFL, respectively.

He would have helped the Ravens’ special teams unit, but instead now joins guard Evan Mathis (Philadelphia Eagles, five years, $25 million) and defensive end Mark Anderson (Buffalo Bills, four years, $27.5 million) as visitors who signed outside of Baltimore.

Ginn said the 49ers “are my heart” and that he liked the idea of playing with new San Francisco wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.

He said he had “a plan” with San Francisco General Manager Trent Baalke and Head Coach Jim Harbaugh before leaving the 49ers’ facility this past season. That plan seemed to be to see if Ginn could get more money elsewhere.

Pundits say that has been the issue standing between the Ravens and landing some of their targets – money. And it’s the answer to fans’ questions about why free agents aren’t landing in Baltimore.

“Some fans have called out GM Ozzie Newsome for dozing, which is pretty ridiculous,” writes CSNBaltimore.com’s John Eisenberg. ” The reality is the Ravens’ hands are tied by the salary cap.

According to the Carroll County Times’ Aaron Wilson, the Ravens are exactly $4.664 million under the cap with 42 players under contract. That number would be lower after the reported Graham signing.

The Ravens have to be careful with their money.

Eisenberg says they must even hold some of that back in case they come to terms with running back Ray Rice or quarterback Joe Flacco, or if another team tries to make a run at cornerback Lardarius Webb and Baltimore is put in the position of having to match an offer to keep him.

Webb is an example of a young player Ravens brass has said they want to retain. They did the same with players such as Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in years past, which is why there isn’t much money remaining.

“Quite simply, the Ravens have been victimized by their own success,” Eisenberg says. “They managed to keep their top players and make the playoffs four years in a row, but this quiet off-season is the other shoe dropping – the inability to splash and play in the league’s free agency pool.”

More Comfort From Cass

Yesterday, I reported that Ravens Team President Dick Cass told Baltimore business owners at a breakfast speech that they shouldn’t worry about the Ravens’ lack of activity.

There was more to what he said.

“You have the same angst every year about our free agency,” Cass said, as reported by the Baltimore Business Journal. “We simply can’t afford to keep all of our players and fit them under the salary cap.

“The basic message to all you guys is don’t worry. In the immortal words of Little Orphan Annie, the sun will come out tomorrow.”

Cass also described the Ravens’ 2012 home schedule as “brutal” and said the Ravens pull in less than $270 million in revenue, less than many law firms.

“We don’t run the Ravens to maximize profit,” he said. “We run the Ravens to win football games.”

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