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Late For Work 5/22: Jimmy Smith Capable of Pro Bowl?

$10 million separates Rice and Ravens. Top 5 AFC North WRs. Owners to vote today.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 at 8:59 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Jimmy Smith Capable of Pro Bowl?

“Leap Year” players.

That’s what ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper calls guys who had a decent (not spectacular) rookie year, but could make a big jump in their second year.

Ravens 2011 first-round draft choice Jimmy Smith is one of Kipers “Leap Year” picks, after a sprained ankle on the first play in the Ravens’ season opener prevented him from taking a defensive snap for the first five games of the season.

If he can remain healthy, Kiper can even see Smith playing well enough to get Pro Bowl consideration.

“He wasn’t healthy to start the year, and Lardarius Webb rightly drew a lot of the attention,” Kiper wrote. “But with QBs looking to stay away from Webb, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a healthy Smith play at a Pro Bowl level in 2012. The guy has a ton of talent; he just needs to stay healthy and get comfortable in the system.”

Smith will have to beat out returning starter Cary Williams for the No. 2 CB spot before he can be considered for the Pro Bowl. With veteran OTAs beginning today in Owings Mills, Smith is expected to get plenty of action because Williams is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip.

Regardless of how the competition shakes out, the Ravens could boast one of the best secondaries in the league next season. Webb believes he can be a Pro Bowler or even an All-Pro. Combine the Ravens’ three corners with an experienced safety corps led by future Hall of Famer Ed Reed and recently re-signed Bernard Pollard and big things could happen.

“Last year was Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams‘ first year playing,” Webb said after he signed his six-year deal in April. “I think the secondary changed completely. This year, they’ll be a year older and a year better. They can do nothing but get better. These guys are growing and understanding the game. We’re getting used to playing next to each other. With me, Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams and then Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed, there are not five guys better.

“We have the best secondary in football.”

$10 Million Separates Rice, Ravens

Right after The Baltimore Sun gave a glimmer of hope that the Ravens and running back Ray Rice might be headed in the right direction in negotiations, ESPN took away that hope a few hours later.

Jeff Zrebiec reported early yesterday morning that some progress has been made, only for Adam Schefter to say that no progress has been made despite continuing talks between the two sides.

Team officials and agent Todd France are reportedly struggling to find middle ground.

Blogger Jamison Hensley says the Ravens want to slot Rice along the lines of recent deals for the Texans’ Arian Foster and the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy, each getting almost $21 million guaranteed. Rice may want a contract closer to the one given to the Titans’ Chris Johnson, who got $30 million guaranteed.

“Until the sides can bridge a $10 million difference in the guaranteed money, there will be no progress made toward a new deal,” Hensley wrote.

Top 5 AFC North WRs

Ravens receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin will be the fourth- and fifth-best receivers in the AFC North this coming season, says Hensley.

Predicting the progress and decline of each receiver, Hensley believes Smith will take Boldin’s spot as the Ravens’ top receiver.

The Top 5 in the division in descending order are: A.J. Green (Bengals), Mike Wallace (Steelers), Antonio Brown (Steelers), Smith and Boldin.

“The second-round pick from a year ago finished only behind Green and Julio Jones in receiving yards by a rookie last season,” Hensley wrote of Smith. “[He] has a chance to become the Ravens’ top wide receiver this season. He clicked with Joe Flacco downfield, covering at least 25 yards on five of his seven touchdowns.

“Boldin hasn’t put up the numbers the Ravens envisioned when they traded for him. (His 57 receptions were his lowest in seven seasons.) Still, he remains the toughest receiver in the division and steps up in the big games (led Ravens in the playoffs with 10 catches for 174 yards).”

Owners To Vote On Pads, Trade Deadline, IR Change

NFL owners are scheduled to vote today on a variety of proposed rule changes, including one that could spark some controversy.

The group will vote on a proposal that could make wearing thigh and knee pads mandatory for all players, including those at skill positions like wide receiver and corner. Some players consider the thigh, hip and knee pads too bulky and claim they slow them down when speed is a must at their position.

“The rule’s genesis stems from the belief that players would be afforded better protection, which falls in line with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s safety initiatives,” wrote FoxSports.com’s Alex Marvez. “For example, some players who suffer bruised quadriceps muscles have been found not to be wearing thigh pads.”

If the proposal is passed by at least 24 of 32 owners (75 percent), the NFLPA plans to file a grievance with an arbitrator, according to Marvez.

Owners will also vote on propositions to move the regular-season trade deadline from Week 6 to Week 8, and to allow one player to return from the injured reserve list during the season.

Quick Hits

  • RavensInsider: Ravens’ new salary-cap figure: $1.492 million under limit including Ray Rice’s $7.74 million tender, draft picks, undrafted rookies, etc. [Twitter]
  • RickyWilliams: I was just looking at some pics from Baltimore. I will always have great memories from last season. Baltimore, like UT was football heaven. [Twitter]
  • DJBerry20: @CaryWilliams29 Ozzie needs to be the be the GM for the lakers cause they dont have an eye for talent in LA [Twitter]
  • I’m with Tryod Taylor and Michael Oher – a staple in any household is a box of Top Ramen. I was raised on the delicious goodness.  … MichaelOher: If you don’t have a box of these on deck then your wrong!! … TyrodTaylor: @MichaelOher gotta have chicken or shrimp lol [Twitter]  
  • NFL Players Union President and former Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth sent a letter to his membership Monday outlining the gains they made in the collective bargaining agreement reached last summer with the league. Foxworth stressed safer working conditions and more lucrative contracts. [Associated Press]
  • Receiver LaQuan Williams emerged as the biggest surprise from the Ravens’ undrafted rookie class last summer. But his fight isn’t over as he once again has to prove he’s worthy of making the team. [Carroll County Times]

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