Crimson Stride Chase Goodbread
Long before [Calvin] Ridley’s speed forged respect from college coaches, NFL scouts and draft analysts, it gained a more subtle notoriety with those from whom teenagers crave respect most: other teenagers.
On a sunny day in Ft. Lauderdale in 2014, he got some. That’s where the Strong Arm Elite 7-on-7 tournament was held, and the Florida Fire roster was buzzing, not from the scheduled games but about the sideshow: a 40-yard footrace featuring eight of the event’s swiftest players, two from each of four teams. On a roster laden with future Division I players -- FSU’s Da’Vante Phillips and Michigan’s Devin Bush among them -- it was Ridley and Antonio Howard who were chosen to represent the Fire.
Players made Howard the presumptive favorite. Now a defensive back at Texas A&M, Howard had been clocked in the 4.3s and was generally considered the Fire’s fastest. But it was Ridley who broke the tape.
”I think we actually raced 60 yards, and that was fine with me, because I get faster as I go,” Ridley said. “The guy is very fast, but on that day, I got him.”
Based off the Bengals selection of John Ross ninth overall in the last draft, Ridley should be a top-15 lock. Calvin is more polished and durable than Ross, and apparently almost as fast. If Goodbread is correct about Ridley’s speed, he could set records at the scouting combine next month.
The Cap Doctor Brian McFarland
ANSWER: Restructuring Williams would create $5.625M in Cap space, but would raise each of his 2019-2021 Cap numbers to over $14M. This is the drawback to restructuring contracts – while it creates Cap space immediately, it also raises future Cap numbers and creates more potential dead money on the books if the player is released later.
The Ravens really don’t have any ideal candidates for a restructure, because they’ve already been restructured (Williams – 2017; Jimmy Smith – 2016, 2017; Jefferson – 2017; Tucker – 2017), or are older (Weddle) or both (Suggs – 2015; Yanda – 2016).
The Ravens practice of restructuring contracts has played a role in their regression due to burdening future salary caps. Brandon Williams contract is a prime example of their shortsightedness. He inked a backloaded 5-year $52.5 million deal last March and then converted $2.7 million of his 2017 salary into a bonus to create $2 million of cap space just six month later. Now it appears the Ravens are going back to the well again this offseason. At this rate the run stuffer could be the most expensive player on the team in 2020 and 2021.
There’s strong evidence suggesting the Ravens are just as likely to find a quality receiver in the second or third round, or even later.
Of the eight receivers who caught passes in the Pro Bowl last month, exactly none were first-round picks. Two were second-round selections, two went in the third round, one apiece went in the fifth and sixth rounds and two entered the league as undrafted free agents.
Offering more evidence, neither of the NFL’s two top rookie receivers in 2017 were first-round picks. The Los Angeles Rams’ Cooper Kupp was an early third-round pick, No. 69 overall, and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Juju Smith-Schuster, a late second-round selection, went No. 62 overall.
Eisenberg makes a compelling argument. The 2018 draft class is loaded with intriguing receivers that are projected to be available on Day 2. From big bodied targets Auden Tate, Marcell Ateman and Simmie Cobbs to quicker prospects such as Deon Cain, Dante Pettis and D.J. Chark, many of these mid round prospects could easily outproduce the receivers with first round grades next season.
Consistently, the Ravens are finding ‘solid contributors’. Ask any NFL team if they can win with star power alone, they will all agree with, “No.” This is good the Ravens can find a guy like Chris Moore, capable of playing a solid WR2 or WR3 role and also producing serious skill in special teams, but you can’t win on these contributions alone. You do need some sort of star power to win. Rather than purchasing them on the market for 100-120% price, draft a player that will finally pan out.
Kyle’s assessment is spot on. The Ravens roster is loaded with good players, but foundational pieces such as C.J. Mosley, Brandon Williams and Ronnie Stanley are routinely left off the top 100 players lists published by various outlets. The lack of truly elite talent was compounded when the top performer on each side of the ball, Jimmy Smith and Marshal Yanda, both fell to season ending injuries last year. The franchise was built on the strength of Hall of Famers such as Jon Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs, stars who elevated the play of the men beside them, allowing the team to conserve their resources for other position groups. The front office should swing for the fences in the 2018 draft, the Ravens need more great players.