Synopsis: The other view of Mason retiring may not be entirely so bad. Also, there are confirmed reports from two sources that say that the Ravens are eying Brandon Marshall again (according to Yahoo's Jason Cole).
Very detailed look at our WR corp and then our overall team
Anyways, with all of the young WRs we have on our team why don't we just give them chances before we just X them out and look for a costly WR to upgrade our corp?
Before Mason revealed his plans to retire, he was these young WRs mentor and they knew that the depth chart was pretty much set with Mason, Clayton and Williams as the 3. However, mentioned many times these past few days, these young receivers know the opportunity has presented itself and they are all hungry to claim starting positions.
Mark Clayton has always been in Mason's shadows and considered inconsistent. Clayton comes up with big plays and acrobatic plays every once and a while, but since Mason got the majority of looks Clayton gets bashed for being inconsistent (mind you Clayton did not drop one ball). Clayton has never had the chance to be a number one receiver and I think he will jump on this opportunity. Imagine the rapport Joe Cool could establish with this first round pick ("bust" as many of you would say). At 5-10, he may not be the biggest wide out there is, but when it comes down to it he's very reliable and can be our next great possession WR. As our number 1 receiver we can just have him run his normal crisp routes and always be the "sure" guy and in turn get the sure yards. Obviously we know he can go deep and even catch bombs in double coverage (remember against the Titans?) so he seems like he could become Mr. Cool's new security blanket. At 27 years old, he has 5 years of NFL experience and can grow with Flacco.
While our number one receiver is again our possession receiver, we have so many options with all of our other wide outs (not including the plays we could do in the wild Cat with Clayton as he truly is very athletic). Sure as many of you say, there not yet proven, but everyone has to start somewhere. With them being guaranteed to not be the number one receiver, then they know they won't be constantly double covered so they could actually make some plays while Clayton holds up 2 DBs.
Most likely to win the number 2 WR spot is Demetrius Williams. The 26 year old stands at 6-2 and contains 4 years of NFL experience. If Clayton is our new possession receiver, then Williams could emerge as our all around wide out who specializes in the longer catches (deep threat) and gets the most YAC. Just like Clayton, Williams is young like Flacco (who is 24 years old) and if they manage to build a decent rapport then they could all be a dangerous tandem for years to come. But that stops with the WRs that actually have NFL experience (excluding Washington).
The rest would all be risks. Risks can sometimes be successful though so it could be good letting all these youngsters try.
At number 3, veteran Kelly Washington could make a push for the spot. Being 29 years of age he's 6-3. He never has been a wide out who has gotten many looks in his career, so he lacks in NFL experience (as a wide out). However, being a stud on special teams, it's okay even if he doesn't make the depth chart as a wide out. It would be nice though, to seé Flacco and Washington connecting on some passes, but the odds are not in Washingtons' favor.
This is because youngster Marcus Smith is competing BIG TIME for the third spot. He realizes he most likely won't be able to claim the second spot (only if Williams goes out due to an injury) so third is his best bet. Being 6-1, barring 215 pounds and being 24 years of age he could be a great threat with Flacco. All of the coaches are very high on this kid and he's been putting in extra hours to get in shape and really get his rhythm down with Joe Flax. Clayton and Smith were seen practicing with Flacco weeks back as they were trying to get ready for training camp. Smith may be one of our more solid WRs who has a bigger frame and could be our Anquan Boldin/Brandon Marshall. He had one nice catch during the Titans game last year, but had it called back due to a penalty at the line (not his fault). He is also an all around WR.
Regardless, if he turns out to be what we all think he could be, then those 3 WRs, alone could be a great tandem with Flacco. Smith would actually be better then Marshall because hes younger, better character, work horse (has good work ethic) and wants to be here. Since Flacco and Smith are the same age, they could grow together, just like Flacco could with Williams and Clayton.
Also competing could be Justin Harper. It may only be his second year, but he definitely is not out of the mix for the third spot. Like Smith, the coaches are very high on him and he could be a contender. He's another big receiver at 6-3, being 24 years old (like Smith). Being as big of a receiver as he is, and supposedly having solid hands, he could be the red zone target that we are searching for. So that's another WR, that if he pans out could greatly benefit our team.
Those are just 5 WRs and they could be a nasty tandem if they could all stay healthy and pan out. They could all spread the field for us and make sure D's never stack the box on us. Since most of our guys are young, and Flacco is too, they could all build a rapport together. Wouldn't that be phenomenal having all these options that Flacco could throw too? Our WR corp would be solid and we would be definite super bowl contenders.
On top of them, 25 year old, 6-5 Ernie Wheelright could be a great addition to our corp. Apparently he has blazing speed, but his route running lacks. He is our tallest WR and could really stretch the field for us if he were to pan out.
27 year old, 5-11 Yaman Figurs is probably the fastest guy on our entire team and would be a great wide out if he wasn't afraid to get hit. If you were to watch him in practice, you would see his hands are actually solid and that he can stretch the field. However, in crunch time we have all seen him freeze up and miss a ball to avoid being hit. It may be to late to have him in our forecast, but if he straitens up and plays his cards right...and pounces on this opportunity (because he knows if he doesn't do well this year hes gone) then maybe we will have a super-fast wide out who can stretch the field.
I am really impressed by this rookie Eron Riley though. At only 21 years of age, he measures at 6-3 and weighs in at 200 pounds. He has to time to learn and practice before he becomes a starter, but being as young as he is, he could become a starter for Flacco and then our future QB.
Now all of this is dependent on how these guys do in training camp, but if they play like they did in college then we actually do have a very solid WR Corp who just happens to be un-proven. Imagine these guys proving they are NFL quality WRs and all these guys step up?
Now many people will say, oh but most of them are injury prone as it is. That's when D-Will was 3rd string. Now with the opportunity to be second string or higher, lets see if he can remain healthy. This is an extra motivator that these guys haven't had before, so they are going to be trying this much harder. They are so much more hungrier, so they are all going to be trying to do the best that they can. Each time one tries to play better then the others, the rest of them will see they are falling behind and step up. Mark my word (no pun intended towards Clayton), they will keep pushing each other, not only through training camp or preseason, but through this entire year! Every time one receiver makes a mistake, the others will try to pass them and show off there skills to the coaches why there better, which in turn will motivate the others to step up and will be an on going cycle this entire year. They will be working as hard as they can and it will truly bring out the best in all of them.
*also D-Will knows if he gets injured again, this will be his final year with the Baltimore Ravens. This alone will motivate him, along with the other wide outs competing with him for his spot.
Also, we could finally have 5 WRs on the field as Harbaugh said the other day in his press conference/interview. By having such successful WRs our running game would greatly improve which would make our offense a very solid corp and in turn strengthen our defense by allowing them to rest for longer periods of time.
Now if you don't want any of these wide outs and want to just go for a trade then listen to this. As of now we stand at 8 million under the cap (almost 9). If Mason retires we are at 11 million under the cap. A guy like Brandon Marshall wants around 7 million a year, so if Ozzy and FO manager to make a deal with the Broncos, then we could offer Marshall 7-8 million this year and still have 3-4 million left over this year BEFORE we make cuts in training camp. By the start of the season, if we sign Marshall we would have about 6-7 million in free cap space. That's enough to resign some players this year, or hold onto it case someone gets injured and we need to sign someone off the street.
As of now, next year will be uncapped which will allow us to re-sign all of our players. If the FO decides they don't want to resign the guys who contracts are suppose to be up next year, they don't have to because (now I'm pretty sure about this) but they will become either a RFA or won't enter free agency. I believe it protects players from hitting the open market which will allow us to have complete freedom with our players.
Oh, but then there's the chance we could have a cap right? Well, since we have so many players hitting the open market, we will be 30+ million under the cap next year and that's just as how it stands if the cap is the same as this year. If history is correct, then they will raise the cap and we will have even more then that next year. So its definitely in the realm of possibility to make a trade for an Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall.
Ok, now after all that, think about the Baltimore Ravens now. You have on of the greatest owners owning this franchise. He also happens to be one of the richest owners. Then, you have a very talented Ozzy Newsome as your GM who has O.J. Brigance and Eric Decosta working under neath him (just to name a few). Then, you have John Harbaugh, a man of integrity who demands it out of every single one of his players coaching your team. To support him you have Cam Cameron as your Offensive Coordinator and Greg Mattison as your Defensive Coordinator. This staff can create a dynasty in its self with the players we have.
Now to the actual team. Leading our new offense would be an experienced, 2 year veteran in Joe Flacco who is only 24 years old. He is the new face of this franchise and is creating a new ERA with Coach Harbaugh. To back him up, for the first time ever, we have a solid group of back ups for QB. Troy Smith who is a very capable NFL QB and the young John Beck. Joe Flacco and Troy Smith can go into wild cats together and do new plays that Cam Cameron invents which we have never had the luxury of doing before.
At running back you have seasoned vet McGahee who can carry this team along with a young Ray Rice. Both of these can continually pound the rock and have help from FBs Jason Cook and LeRon McClain. The three (Rice, McGahee and McClain) make a dangerous three headed monster and McClain is a great Red Zone threat who plows over defenders. I'm not even including Matt Lawrence, Jalen Parmele, or the rookie Cedric Peerman who is guaranteed to get playing time (he will make the team). They take much pressure off of Joe Flacco and can catch out of the back field and can also block.
The O-Line is much improved over the course of last year and is much younger. Joe Flacco will be protected well for years to come as he has Jared Gaither as his LT. 6-9 Jared Gaither is a monster and eats up any defender who comes his way. We are all certain that Gaither has Flacco's blind side secured. Next to him he has Ben Grubbs who is a superb LG. Man of the year, Center Matt Birk, will help Joe Flacco read certain defensive schemes and blitzes. We will need to fill his spot in 3 or 4 years after he retires but for the time, he solidifies our line. Next to him is Marshal Yanda who is most likely one of the toughest guys on our team. And now, we have rookie Michael Oher as our RG. All of these guys are young (except Birk) and will be in the league for years to come.
Then we come to our WRs which I have talked about before. Imagine the amount of mayem and fear we could cause with a WR corp like that. It would be a phenomanal corp and tandem for years to come. As a number one we would have Brandon Marshall. We all know how big he is and how young he is. He could easily take on 2 DBs and would free up the pressure they would put on our other WRs and limit how many guys they stack the box with. Our Running game would greatly improve with Brandon Marshall. The rapport he would build with Flacco would be great as he could be our deep threat, security blanket for Flacco and guy we rely on for YAC. His build would be considered a Raven, if only he had the character of a Raven (a man of integrity, which he is certainly not).
Mark Clayton could claim the number 2 spot and take over for Mason's old role. As Marshall goes out for deeper passes, Clayton can be our sure guy as I have said before and just pick up whats needed. He also can go deep.
Williams, Smith, Figurs, Harper, Wheelright, Riley, Washington can all battle for 3 4 and 5. We would have a great tandem of WRs and they could all grow together, with Flacco. Washington could retire soon, but the rest of them will be in the league for a long time, so Flacco will be able to get used to each of them.
This offense would be insane and we would become an offense like the Colts, without over paying for our offensive guys and still maintaing a superb D. We would score so many points that it would take so much pressure off our D and they would excel without having to worry that they have to stop the opposing offense every single time.
With Haloti Ngata, Justin Bannan and Kelly Greg back our line is be solidified. McKinney and Divens could also step in and form a rotation with the rest of them. Our front 3/4 would be unstoppable and put the pressure on opposing QBS and lines and demand double coverage. This would free up space for the linebackers to run through and sack QBs. At the same time, our line can stop the run that tries to come our way. Paul Kruger should also be a situation player and cause more havoc for opposing offenses.
Our LBS are very deep this year. With Gooden and McClain pushing each other for Bart Scott's old role. Gooden, who most likely will win this position battle will step up and show we won't lose a step without Bart Scott. He will stop the run, blitz, cover TEs and do everything he needs to, to be successful. The entire season though, McClain will get playing time too and continue to pressure him for the starting spot.
Then you have Lewis, Johnson and Suggs all playing at linebackers. They can pass rush and stop the run beautifully. With Suggs getting all that money, he wants to show everyone he is worth it, while Lewis is playing with a chip on his shoulder since no one offered him any serious money this offseason. Antwan Barnes is a beast waiting to be let go and I think he will show the Ravens this year he is not injury prone. Jason Phillips should also get some playing time.
At CB we have the most depth we have ever had. While we don't have an official #1 cornerback, we have many 2's and 3's. Fabian Washington stepped up last year, so expect him and Dominque Foxworth to start. They will be two, undersized but blazingly fast CBS chasing around WRs. They certainly aren't shutout in the way the rest of the NFL views them, but considering the CBs role in the Ravens system, as long as they can tie up the WR then they are shutouts to us. When they both ran the 40 yard dash, they ran the fastest times (look it up) which is a reason why Al Davis drafted Fabian Washington in the first place. SInce they are the fastest, we will have the fastest CBs in the league (what a great tandem huh?!). With Samari Rolle as a backup and Frank Walker/ Derrick Martin/ Evan Oglesby/ Lardarius Webb/ Chriss Carr all competing, the depth is deep. These are all great CBs and I finally feel safe if there are any injuries at the CB spot. Personally, I'd rather Walker not have a starting spot, but may I say, damn he's a good nickel/dime corner.
At safety we have Dawan Landry and Ed Reed. This is a great pair of safties and will be around for many years, as we know Reed will be a long for a while as he "Reeds" those Qbs and continues racking up all his INTs. Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zibikowski are the back ups at safety and are two fierce players. Each one of them hits hard and are sure replacements for Landry and Reed. Both are ball hawks and we will have to see how it plays out.
Then on special teams we have Sam Koch punting balls deep down the field. Obviously, one of the best/youngest punter in the league we will have to lock him up long term. He's also a great holder for our kickers.
This year we don't have Matt Stover as our Place Kicker but we have two young studs. Steven Hauschka and Graham Gano. Favored to win is Gano, but Hauschka actually has NFL experience. Both of these guys have great legs, but Gano can kick 60 yarders while Hauschka limits at 60. Both kick the ball out of the endzone so expect to see many touchbacks this year.We look very solid on special teams this year.
So my question to you is, if we get Marshall will that push us over the top? You just saw most of our positions. We were an AFC Championship team last year, but now don't have Mason. Do you think if we get Marshall that we will be Superbowl Contenders/Winners? I say yes, and think we already are. We will be like the Steelers and year in and year out compete. Just remember, Lewis and Reed aren't getting any younger.