Peters is considered by many as the best cornerback in the draft based on game film, and cornerback is one of the Ravens' biggest needs. Why Peters has been pegged as a late first-round prospect is because of behavioral issues.
He threw a tantrum on the sideline after head-butting an opponent, missed team meetings and got booted from the Washington football program. There was a report that Peters choked an assistant coach during practice last year -- an accusation that he flatly called "false" at the NFL combine last month -- and other reports he got into arguments with a coach days before he was kicked off the team.
Kiper believes Peters can succeed in the right structure, and the Ravens have a long history of maintaining a strong locker room. The Ravens were able to absorb a volatile personality in wide receiver Steve Smith last year. So, you can make the case the Ravens will be able to handle a perceived hothead in Peters.
This pairing makes sense because of the Ravens' troubles in the secondary. The Ravens return their starting cornerbacks in Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, but they both have a long injury history. The lack of quality depth behind them was a major reason why the Ravens lost to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the divisional playoffs.
Peters could immediately compete with Webb for a starting job and, at the very worse, bump Asa Jackson out of the No. 3 cornerback spot. He is a talented cover corner with the size, ball skills and confidence that teams want at that position. Peters looks like a Ravens-type player because of his aggressive style of play. He attacks the ball in the passing game and he is a physical hitter in run support.
There is a chance Peters might not fall to the Ravens. Four teams just in front of the Ravens -- the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 20), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 22), Detroit Lions (No. 23) and Carolina Panthers (No. 25) -- all have a need at cornerback and might consider Peters.
If Peters is available, Kiper thinks it's a no-brainer for the Ravens to take him.
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) for NFL Nation TV’s Spreecast 50 as we catch you up on the latest in free agency and offseason storylines, including the San Francisco 49ers cutting Jonathan Martin and bringing in a bevy of veterans for visits and the Atlanta Falcons getting fined $350,000 and losing a draft pick for piping in noise to the Georgia Dome during games.
Host Paul Gutierrez (49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined by four other NFL Nation reporters throughout the expanded show.
Jeremy Fowler (Cleveland Browns reporter) will give us the latest on Browns general manager Ray Farmer’s four-game suspension and what it means for the franchise, as well as provide an update on Johnny Manziel's rehab stint.
Meanwhile, Harvey and Wells will chime in with a co-Main Event to discuss lame duck coaches, from Marvin Lewis to Chuck Pagano.
The other co-Main Event features Rich Cimini (New York Jets reporter) and Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) as they discuss the latest hissing match and tampering charges flying from the East Coast.
Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.
Yes, he's the quarterback known more for throwing scoring passes to the defense than to his own receivers over the last two seasons. Schaub set an NFL record in 2013 with an interception returned for a touchdown in four straight games while with Houston, and he threw another pick-six last season in a backup role in Oakland.
So why would the Ravens be interested in him? The Ravens want an experienced but inexpensive quarterback who is willing to accept one of the least glamorous backup roles in football. It's a job that won't pay much given the Ravens' limited salary cap space. The Ravens can't offer much as far as playing time because Joe Flacco has never missed a start in seven NFL seasons. The primary backup quarterback in Baltimore has been a mere spectator since 2008, from Todd Bouman to Troy Smith to Marc Bulger to Tyrod Taylor.
The list of quarterbacks who would be lining up for this type of a job is not going to be a long one. Some quarterbacks will want more money, and others will seek a better chance of playing.
The news that five teams have reportedly shown interest in Schaub -- the Falcons, Titans, Jets and Cowboys are the others -- is an indication of how few options there are at quarterback right now.
The best fit for the Ravens is Jason Campbell. He has the arm strength needed for Marc Trestman's offense and has a knowledge of the division after playing in Cleveland and Cincinnati. It's unknown whether Campbell would be interested in the Ravens' backup job.
That brings the conversation back to Schaub, who has the best track record of the remaining free-agent quarterbacks. He won 40 games in a five-year stretch (2008-12) with the Texans, throwing for over 4,000 yards three times. Schaub went to the Pro Bowl in 2012.
It's the last two seasons that are so unsettling. Schaub got benched in Houston in 2013 and got beat out by a rookie for the starting job in Oakland last season. In meeting with Schaub, the Ravens need to get a handle on where Schaub is mentally more than anything else.
The Ravens' backup spot is a need after Taylor signed with the Buffalo Bills in free agency. Coach John Harbaugh can't hand over the No. 2 role to Keith Wenning, who spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad. But Flacco's durability lessens the priority of finding a backup QB. That's why Schaub could fit what the Ravens are looking for at that position.
Not a burner like Smith, Strong uses his size (6-foot-2, 217 pounds) and strength to make the contested catches. He can also turn short passes into big gains because he's so physical after the catch. And he's more of a natural pass-catcher than Smith.
Strong is considered a safe first-round pick, which is important after two arrest-filled offseasons for the Ravens. He often gets high grades for his work ethic.
The reason Strong would fall to the bottom of the first round is his lack of flash. It takes time for him to reach his top-end speed, and he doesn't create a lot of separation. McShay has rated Strong as the draft's 27th-best prospect and the No. 5 wide receiver.
Strong would immediately start alongside Steve Smith and could elevate to the clear-cut No. 1 target for Joe Flacco by 2016. Right now at receiver, the Ravens have Smith and a bunch of role players like Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro.
The Ravens have only taken two wide receivers in the first round: Travis Taylor (2000) and Mark Clayton (2005). Strong declared for the draft after a stellar junior season when he caught 82 passes for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In McShay's fourth mock draft, the Ravens had their choice of Strong or Washington cornerback Marcus Peters in the first round. This would be a difficult decision for the Ravens. Strong and Peters both are impact players at positions of need.
Quarterback Matt Schaub is expected to sign with a new team this week, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The Ravens and Falcons are in the market for an experienced quarterback to back up established starters Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, respectively. The Jets' quarterback situation is more unsettled, with the inconsistent Geno Smith expected to get most of the reps in offseason work while Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to recover from a broken leg he suffered last season.
Injury concerns have seemingly put the Baltimore Ravens' tight end position in limbo.
The Ravens are still unsure whether Dennis Pitta plans to return for the 2015 season after hip surgeries in consecutive years, and they don't know when two potential free-agent targets (Jermaine Gresham and Zach Miller) will get on the field this offseason. All that's certain is the Ravens need to add experience at tight end after Owen Daniels left for the Denver Broncos in free agency.
Miller could be this year's version of Daniels, a veteran who comes on a one-year deal after injuries forced him to miss most of the previous season. A cap casualty of the Seattle Seahawks, Miller is four months removed from his second ankle surgery in less than a year. There's a chance he could ready for training camp at the end of July. Miller, 29, caught 33 passes and scored five touchdowns in 2013.
Gresham, 26, is the top available free-agent tight end, but he had surgery for a herniated disc in his back in the middle of March. This could sideline him until the start of training camp. In five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Gresham averaged 56 catches and nearly five touchdowns per season while going to two Pro Bowls (2011 and 2012). If he is signed after June 1, he wouldn't count against the Ravens' compensatory pick formula.
The only healthy tight ends returning from last year's team for the Ravens are Crockett Gillmore and Phillip Supernaw, who have a combined one start in the NFL. Gillmore had a solid rookie season, but he doesn't have the quickness or suddenness to get separation on a consistent basis.
The Ravens have been linked to Minnesota's Maxx Williams, the consensus top tight end in this year's NFL draft. But the Ravens might be more inclined to address wide receiver or cornerback in the first round, and Williams probably won't drop to the Ravens at the bottom of the second round. The lack of impact tight ends in the draft has placed more of an emphasis on signing a veteran free agent.
The tight end position wasn't supposed to have this void. It was only a year ago when the Ravens signed Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract that included $16 million guaranteed. But Pitta's 2015 season and career are in doubt after hip surgeries in consecutive years.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh couldn't provide any update on the status of Pitta.
"I think we’ll know more in the summer, hopefully," Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings last week. "In the end, it’s going to be up to Dennis."
There is no urgency because Pitta's $4 million salary in 2015 is guaranteed, so the Ravens aren't going to cut him. He'll either be placed on the physically unable to perform list or injured reserve if he decides not to play this season.
At this point, the Ravens have to proceed as if Pitta isn't going to play again. But injuries to the top free-agent tight ends have put the Ravens' plans on hold.
A look at how the Baltimore Ravens currently stand with their depth chart nearly three weeks into free agency:
RG: Marshal Yanda, Urschel
RT: Rick Wagner, Hurst
Breaking it down: The Ravens are only set along the offensive line. There is a need to upgrade at wide receiver and tight end through either free agency or the draft. It's unlikely that the Ravens will go with Aiken or Brown as a starting wide receiver. The Ravens have limited options in free agency (Michael Crabtree or Greg Jennings) but have several choices in the first couple of rounds in the draft. It would be beneficial for the Ravens to bring in an experienced tight end (perhaps Zach Miller after he's medically cleared) because Gillmore and Supernaw have a combined one career start. The Ravens might also draft a running back somewhere in the first three rounds.
OLB: Terrell Suggs
Breaking it down: The biggest question marks are depth at cornerback and in the pass rush. The Ravens don't have a proven No. 3 cornerback after Smith and Webb, both of whom have an extensive injury history. There is a drop-off in the pass rush after Suggs and Dumervil. The Ravens are hoping Upshaw can replace Pernell McPhee, who provided pressure up the middle as well as on the edge. This would be the right time to add a young pass-rusher from the draft because Suggs and Dumervil are both over the age of 30 and Upshaw is entering the final year of his contract.
P: Sam Koch
PR-KR: Campanaro or Jackson
Breaking it down: Tucker is one of the top kickers in the game and Koch bounced back last season. The Ravens need to find a replacement for Jacoby Jones, who was the team's returner for the past three seasons. Campanaro appears to be the top candidate to take over as returner, but coach John Harbaugh wouldn't commit to him at the NFL owners meetings last week. Jackson is another option on the current roster.
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was ranked as the 12th-best player in next year's free-agent class by ESPN's Field Yates. What's even more impressive is Smith getting rated as the No. 1 cornerback, a position that commands top dollar in the NFL.
It's just hard to believe the Ravens will allow Smith to get to free agency in 11 months. There are likely two options with Smith: The Ravens are either going to sign him to an extension or they're going to put the franchise tag on him. Smith, 26, is too valuable to let walk. He's got the combination of size and athleticism that teams covet at cornerback, and he's entering the prime of his career.
The Ravens showed how much they wanted to keep Smith in 2015 when they exercised a fifth-year option that pays him $6.898 million this year. The franchise tag is going to be steep -- it was $13.1 million for cornerbacks this year -- which increases the urgency for the Ravens to sign Smith to an extension.
The starting point for any negotiations with Smith is going to be what Byron Maxwell received from the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. Maxwell signed a six-year deal that averages $10.5 million per season and includes $25.5 million guaranteed. He's a good comparison because he's similar to Smith in terms of age, size and performance.
Smith has to be the Ravens' priority in what will be an important free-agent class for the team. Notable Ravens players who are entering the final years of the their contract include guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele; kicker Justin Tucker; punter Sam Koch; safety Will Hill; and linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
The Ravens were reminded of Smith's importance when he went down with a season-ending foot injury in the middle of the season. Without Smith, the Ravens were 5-4 the rest of the season (which includes the game at Cincinnati in which Smith was hurt) and couldn't stop the New England Patriots' Tom Brady when it counted in a divisional playoff game.
No team knows the value of Smith more than the Ravens.
The month of March traditionally has been a tough one for the Baltimore Ravens. It's also been an extremely flattering time.
The start of this offseason was been like so many others in recent years, when teams show how much they covet Ravens players by paying a premium price for them on the free agent market. Wide receiver Torrey Smith, pass rusher Pernell McPhee, tight end Owen Daniels, safety Darian Stewart and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor raked in a total of $43.4 million in guaranteed money over the first three weeks of free agency.
This is a major compliment to the Ravens' ability to cultivate talent because none of the three homegrown players were drafted in the first round: Smith (second round), McPhee (fifth round) and Taylor (sixth).
Smith and McPhee both landed contracts in the top 12 in terms of most guaranteed money given to free agents this year. Daniels, Stewart and Taylor all were among the top 10 in guaranteed money for free agents at their position this offseason.
These five players earned a combined $4.12 million in base salary last year with the Ravens. Two months after the season ended, they signed free-agent contracts that included bonuses in excess of $15.5 million. This doesn't even take into account the two-year, $5.5 million deal signed by returner Jacoby Jones, who was a salary-cap cut.
This has become a tradition for the Ravens, who have had six of their unrestricted free agents sign contracts with more than $10 million in guaranteed money over the past four offseasons: guard Ben Grubbs ($15.9 million guaranteed money from Saints), inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe ($14 million guaranteed from Dolphins), outside linebacker Paul Kruger ($13 million guaranteed from Browns), defensive lineman Arthur Jones ($16 million guaranteed from Colts), Torrey Smith ($22 million guaranteed from 49ers) and Pernell McPhee ($15 million guaranteed from Bears).
Here are the contract details for the four Ravens' unrestricted free agents who signed elsewhere this week:
WR Torrey Smith, 49ers: Five years, $40 million with $22 million guaranteed and an average of $8 million per year
LB-DE Pernell McPhee, Bears: Five years, $38.75 million with $15 million guaranteed and an average of $7.75 million per year
TE Owen Daniels, Broncos: Three years, $12.25 million with $3 million guaranteed and an average of $4.083 million per year
QB Tyrod Taylor, Bills: Two years, $7 million with $1.2 million guaranteed and an average of $3.5 million per year
S Darian Stewart, Broncos: Two years, $4.25 million with $2.25 million guaranteed and an average of $2.125 million per year
ESPN's Insider group evaluated what every NFL team has done so far in free agency, and the Baltimore Ravens received a grade of "C." That's extremely fair given that the Ravens have signed only one free agent from another team (safety Kendrick Lewis) and watched four starters (defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith, tight end Owen Daniels and safety Darian Stewart) go elsewhere.
It's always difficult to judge the Ravens at this point in the season. Their history is not making big signings in the first wave of free agency. Much of their team building comes through the NFL draft and modest free-agent pickups after March. The Ravens didn't sign Daniels and running back Justin Forsett until April.
At this point, the more accurate grade for the Ravens is incomplete. What the Ravens do over the next couple of months in free agency and in the draft will determine if they return to the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons. If the Ravens lined up right now, Kamar Aiken would be the No. 2 wide receiver, Crockett Gillmore would be the starting tight end and Asa Jackson would be the No. 3 cornerback. These positions need to be addressed.
Some will point out the Ravens didn't sign or draft a right tackle after Michael Oher left in free agency last year, and they filled his starting spot with someone already on the team. That is true. Rick Wagner solidified the right tackle spot with no previous starting experience and even proved to be an upgrade over Oher.
But the Ravens also ignored the cornerback position last year, and that ultimately became their downfall in the playoffs. They banked on Jackson and Chykie Brown to replace Corey Graham as at the team's No. 3 cornerback, and neither were able to do so. Jackson underperformed even when healthy, and Brown struggled so much that the Ravens eventually cut him.
So, how they filled right tackle shows the Ravens can promote from within but how they miscalculated at cornerback shows the importance of needing a dependable fallback plan.
This is why there is concern about the current holes at wide receiver, tight end and cornerback, and the Ravens don't have much cap room ($8.3 million) to splurge at those positions. The limited cap dollars forced the Ravens to become budget shoppers this offseason. The Ravens were interested in a handful of free-agent cornerbacks, but they couldn't come close to the $7 million average per year deals.
The few moves the Ravens have done are all positive ones. Forsett, the NFL's No. 5 leading rusher from a year ago, was re-signed to one of the best value deals in free agency. Lewis was an under-the-radar pickup that fills a need a safety. This is certainly a solid start, but the Ravens know they need to do more. Coach John Harbaugh indicated at the NFL owners meetings that the Ravens want to be proactive in free agency.
It wouldn't be surprising to see the Ravens make a run at a wide receiver such as Michael Crabtree or Greg Jennings. No one would be shocked if the Ravens signed a veteran tight end such as Zach Miller or traded for one. There are still moves to be made. Plus, the Ravens have 10 picks in the draft, where this franchise has always done its best work.
The Ravens rarely get an "A" in free agency, and they probably would've be given a grade lower than a "C" this year if not for their track record of winning. And, given that history, it's better to wait until after the draft to accurately evaluate where the Ravens stand.
For the second time in two months, the Ravens stressed the importance for Elam to become a better football player in 2015.
General manager Ozzie Newsome bluntly said this at the end of February at the “State of the Ravens” news conference, and coach John Harbaugh reiterated it at the NFL owners meetings earlier this week.
Last season, Elam lost his starting job and his confidence, or it might have been the other way around. The lowlights included failing to wrap up ball carriers and getting beat deep on pass plays.
Elam was tied for 12th among all NFL defensive backs with 16 missed tackles, even though he played only half the snaps as many of the qualifying players, according to Pro Football Focus. He allowed an average of 16.3 yards on 17 catches, which ranked ninth-worst among safeties.
Pro Football Focus rated Elam the ninth-worst safety in the league in 2014.
“He’s got to become a good player,” coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings earlier this week. “That’s his burden to bear, along with us as coaches to do everything we can to help him get there. We’re going to do our best to make that happen.”
As a rookie in 2013, Elam had his problems while starting 15 games. The biggest criticism was the lack of impact plays (one interception, three passes broken up and no forced fumbles). But he wasn't considered a major liability like he became last season.
In Week 3, Elam not only allowed Taylor Gabriel to get behind him for a big pass play but he forgot to touch down the Browns receiver after he fell to the ground. In Week 8, he missed five tackles in a loss at Cincinnati, which included him whiffing on wide receiver Mohamed Sanu on a 48-yard catch. In the playoff loss at New England, he missed a tackle on wide receiver Danny Amendola, who ran past him along the sideline for a touchdown.
“I just want to get better and improve my game,” Elam said at the end of the season. “That’s really all I can say.”
The Ravens aren't used to disappointing first-round picks, especially on the defensive side of the ball. With the exception of Elam, the other nine defensive players taken by the Ravens in the first round -- Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Duane Starks, Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Jimmy Smith and C.J. Mosley -- have either reached the Pro Bowl or played a key role in helping the franchise win a Super Bowl.
The Ravens' lack of confidence in Elam showed this offseason, when they used the little cap room they had on signing Kendrick Lewis to start alongside Will Hill at safety. But the Ravens will give Elam a chance to make an impact this season.
"Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year," Newsome said last month. "He has to be."
PHOENIX -- Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month that everyone will probably find out before April whether running back Ray Rice will get a second chance to play in the NFL.
With April quickly approaching, Rice has had no reported talks or visits with any teams. Defensive linemen Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald were signed this month after they faced domestic violence charges, but Rice is still searching for a job after being reinstated four months ago.
At the NFL owners meetings, two coaches with ties to Rice -- the Ravens' John Harbaugh and the Colts' Chuck Pagano -- both said they hope Rice gets a second chance. Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who was Rice's offensive coordinator in 2012 and 2013, said he believes some team will give Rice a second chance.
But no team has stepped up to do it. There have been 16 running backs who have signed deals in the first 15 days of free agency, including the Raiders signing Trent Richardson and his 3.3-yard per carry average.
What works against Rice is there are available free-agent backs such as Pierre Thomas and Stevan Ridley who don't carry the off-the-field baggage, and there are impact runners who can be drafted in the first four rounds. The biggest concerns about Rice as a player are his career-worst 3.1-yards per carry average in 2013, his age (28) and his wear and tear (fourth-most carries in the NFL from 2009 to 2013) at a position where teams are always looking to get younger.
The major hurdle, of course, is his domestic violence incident on Feb. 15, when he struck his then-fiancee unconscious in the elevator of an Atlantic City elevator.
"I think each team looks at their situation individually and looks at each player individually," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "I think that's why you see players get second chances. It's just a comfort level the club, the organization from the top down ends up with that particular player and that situation because as we know when you take these things on, the fire storm that can come with it. Everybody has to be on board. It reaches such a broad place of who it affects. It affects a lot."
One team that would make sense for Rice is the Lions. Detroit released running back Reggie Bush, and Caldwell has familiarity with Rice.
Asked if the Lions would be interested in Rice, Caldwell said Wednesday, "I don't foresee that, to be plain and simple. There has to be a need and a fit in all areas. At this point in time, he's not a fit for us."
Caldwell said he believes some team will sign Rice, and Harbaugh hopes that will be the case.
"I still support the Rice family, and Ray Rice as a friend and want to see what's best for him," he said. "Like anybody you've been close to, you want things to work out well for them. That's the way we feel about Janay and Ray."
Pagano, who knew Rice from his four seasons as a Ravens' assistant, said Rice deserves a second chance. The Colts, however, chose to running back Frank Gore, 31, instead of Rice this offseason.
"I hope and pray that Ray gets an opportunity, because I know there's still gas left in the tank, so to speak," Pagano told CBS Sports. "And if somebody gives him that opportunity, I know he'll make them proud, and I know he'll make good on that opportunity."
There are plenty of coaches saying Rice should get a second chance, but it's still unknown whether a team will actually give it to him.
PHOENIX -- Whether you want to call it the Ravens rule or the Patriots rule, no team will be able to employ the same tactic that the New England Patriots used in their divisional playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens two months ago.
The league passed a rule Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings aimed at the Patriots' eligible-ineligible receiver substitution scheme, and the Ravens should feel some measure of vindication. Now, an offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver who reports as ineligible must line up within the tackle box. If a player fails to notify the referee of a change in his status or the player with an eligible number reports as ineligible and lines up outside the tackle box, a 5-yard penalty for illegal substitution will be assessed.
Ravens officials didn't speak specifically about the rule proposal this week, but coach John Harbaugh voiced his objection to what he called a "substitution trick" by the Patriots after the playoff loss in January. Ravens president Dick Cass said the team voted in favor of the change because it was submitted by the NFL competition committee, which includes Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
In the AFC divisional playoff game, the Patriots removed an offensive lineman and replaced him with a player who was wearing the number of an eligible receiver on three plays in the second possession of the second half. Ravens players were confused about which Patriots to match up with in coverage, and Harbaugh drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for running onto the field and screaming in objection.
"The league will look at that type of thing, and I'm sure that they'll make some adjustments and things like that," Harbaugh said in January.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady quipped after the game that "Maybe those guys ought to study the rule book and figure it out."
Now, the rule book has changed. Here is the newly minted Rule 5, Section 3, Article 1:
"Reporting Change of Position. An offensive player wearing the number of an ineligible pass receiver (50-79 and 90-99) is permitted to line up in the position of an eligible pass receiver (1-49 and 80-89), and an offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver is permitted to line up in the position of an ineligible pass receiver, provided that he immediately reports the change in his eligibility status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team.
"He must participate in such eligible or ineligible position as long as he is continuously in the game, but prior to each play he must again report his status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team. The game clock shall not be stopped, and the ball shall not be put in play until the Referee takes his normal position."