Late For Work 5/3: Did AFC North Not Get The Memo?

Ravens have a decision to make at RB. Baltimore reacts to passing of late great Junior Seau.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 at 9:08 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Did AFC North Not Get The Memo?

Were you surprised to hear Ravens Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta say that the Ravens are not currently looking to add another wide receiver?

Looking at an overall AFC North trend, maybe you shouldn’t be.

“The NFL is a passing league now, but most of the AFC North apparently hasn’t received that memo,” wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

While the pass-happy teams continue to win Super Bowls in recent years – the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants – offseason moves throughout the division suggest to Hensley that AFC North teams are taking an old-school approach.

The Ravens put the franchise tag on running back Ray Rice and traded up in the third round to take Temple running back Bernard Pierce. One of the Bengals’ biggest free-agency moves was the signing of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and then they used one of their first-round picks on run-blocking guard Kevin Zeitler. The Browns spent the draft’s third-overall pick on Alabama running back Trent Richardson. The Steelers are the only team not to make a recent move for a running back, but Hensley says they’re hinting at becoming more balanced.

“The Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all ranked 19th or worse in passing last season,” wrote Hensley. “What have they done to improve that? Nothing really.”

The Ravens have their franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco, but he is short on proven receivers behind Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith.

Without a proven No. 3 on the roster, onlookers have considered juicing up the passing game a top post-draft priority and assumed the team would still be in the market for another Flacco weapon.

But as DeCosta said, the Ravens expect big things next season out their young receivers, including Tandon Doss, David Reed and LaQuan Williams. Sixth-round Miami selection Tommy Streeter is now another receiver in the mix.

Baltimore has already tried to bring in veteran receivers the last two years to bolster the passing game. In 2010, the Ravens signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth. They didn’t produce as expected.

Last offseason, they traded for Lee Evans, but he failed to churn out big numbers after returning from injury and let a game-winning touchdown pass slip through his hands in the AFC championship.

With little game exposure, Baltimore fans and media aren’t privy to what coaches may have seen from the young receivers on the practice field. Maybe they know something outsiders don’t.

Or they could change their mind and still bring in a veteran if it’s the right player at the right time for the right price, as General Manager Ozzie Newsome always says.

Despite DeCosta’s assertion that the Ravens aren’t in the receiver market, The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec believes they eventually will be this offseason, naming Jabar Gaffney (who actually was just signed by the Patriots) and Jacoby Jones as possible targets.

“The Ravens don’t have much money to spend, but I still could see them bringing in a veteran receiver either before or during training camp,” Zrebiec wrote.

Ravens Have A Decision To Make At RB

Even after trading up and drafting Pierce in the third round last weekend, Zrebiec believes there is still a big decision in front of the Ravens.

With Pierce and second year players Anthony Allen and Damien Berry as the only running backs behind Rice, the Ravens lack veteran experience on the depth chart.

“Here is a question that the Ravens will have to answer in the coming weeks: Will they be comfortable going into the season without an experienced backup behind Ray Rice?” Zrebiec wrote.

Baltimore has grown accustomed to having a proven veteran as Rice’s insurance policy with either Ricky Williams or Willis McGahee backing him up the last three years.

Even though Ravens brass is strapped for cash under the cap, Zrebiec says there are plenty of affordable options on the market including Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai.

The options may be sitting there, but it looks like the Ravens have already made their decision and will roll the dice on their young running backs, just as they are doing with their young receivers.

“I think this year we’re content,” DeCosta told fans at a Baltimore Sun forum last night. “We like the young backs we have. … We’d prefer to spend the money at another position.”

Baltimore Reacts To Passing Of Late Great Junior Seau

Legendary San Diego Chargers homegrown superstar Junior Seau passed away in what police believe to be an apparent suicide at the age of 43.

Seau was an emotional leader whose passion for the game was a force for good to many current and former Ravens players, coaches and Baltimore-area journalists.

They shared their condolences via Twitter.

  • brendon310: RIP to an amazing man and teammate jr seau! He called everybody buddy and lit up a room like no other. A sad day for the NFL.
  • brendon310: Jr Seau asked in his suicide letter that his brain be researched to prevent tragic incidents from happening to NFL retirees #champion
  • RapSheet: DC Dean Pees on Seau: “It’s so hard to think he’s gone because he was so full of life. He was a personality.”
  • DonteStallworth: Damn!! That COMPLETELY breaks my heart man…I learned so much from you “buddy buddy”…one of my favorite people & favorite teammates!!
  • Artj97: Man that’s crazy one of my all-time favorite player is gone. #R.I.PJunior
  • GerrySandusky: We rarely see the emotional darkness others carry. The few times I interviewed Junior Seau, he struck me as joyful, passionate, full of life
  • BJack50 [Brad Jackson]: Still in shock over #55 suicide! I use to imitate the seau leg kick just sad! #BackerBackerPride
  • vleach44: #RIP Junior Seau
  • ProFootballTalk: Lorenzo Neal reflects on the pressures of being Junior Seau.

Quick Hits

  • “The Ravens will sign kicker/punter and undrafted free agent Justin Tucker, who hit 40 of 48 field goals during his last two seasons at Texas,” wrote Zrebiec. “Nothing against Tucker, but I’d still expect them to bring in a little more formidable and veteran competition for Billy Cundiff.” [The Baltimore Sun]
  • “If the Ravens really liked [Wisconsin center Peter] Konz as much as we thought they did, they would have been willing to trade up five or six spots in the second round to make sure they got him,” Zrebiec added. “I guess the moral of the story is don’t believe everything you hear around draft time. Teams, especially ones that take the draft as seriously as the Ravens do, simply aren’t going to expose their hand until it’s absolutely necessary.” [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Browns linebacker Scott Fujita was suspended three games for his participation in Bounty Gate while he played for the New Orleans Saints. That means he should be back for the Browns-Ravens Week 4 matchup. [ESPN]
  • To argue that the Pats’ Spygate-era Super Bowl titles aren’t ‘stained,’ as John Harbaugh said, is lunacy. Gregg Doyel says Patriots fans are attacking the messenger because they can’t dispute the facts. [CBSSports.com]

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