AFC fatal flaws: Patriots’ blind-side hole, Jaguars’ aerial issue - Matt Harmon
Baltimore Ravens: Tight end
The Ravens made some moves to patch up the hole at wide receiver by adding Michael Crabtree and John Brown in free agency. Baltimore will likely add more WR depth, but tight end is even more of a pressing issue with Nick Boyle and 2015 second-round bust Maxx Williams currently atop the depth chart. Joe Flacco was abysmal on tight-window throws last season and part of that was not having a tight end he could count on. Baltimore’s QB registered a paltry 10.7 passer rating on tight-window throws to Benjamin Watson, while Boyle didn’t catch any such targets sent his way. An athletic move tight end who can post up defenders would go a long way in getting this passing game back on track.
Solution: South Carolina product Hayden Hurst is the No. 1 player tight end on both Daniel Jeremiah and Mike Mayock’s draft boards, and Baltimore should be one of the many teams interested in athletic marvel Mike Gesicki out of Penn State.
The Ravens can find a traditional blocking tight end on Day 3 of the draft, but may need to trade around a bit to acquire the pro ready passing game mismatch they need to elevate their offense to the next level. Elsewhere in the AFC North, Harmon identifies inside linebacker as the Steelers fatal flaw, run blocking as Cincinnati’s and second edge rusher as the Browns largest remaining weakness.
TIGHT END BENJAMIN WATSON REACHED DEAL WITH NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Garrett Downing
Watson is heading into his 15th NFL season, and signing with the Saints is a return to the team where he enjoyed some of his most productive years.
Baltimore’s only tight ends currently on the roster are Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, who are both better suited as blockers.
Losing Watson puts the Ravens in position to receive another compensatory pick next year.
Watson was a reliable check down option for Joe Flacco last season and well respected for his work in the Baltimore community. Over the Cap currently projects the Ravens to receive a fourth round compensatory pick for Ryan Jensen and an additional late round comp pick for Watson.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. mocks OT Mike McGlinchey to the Ravens - Logan Levy
Pairing McGlinchey with Ronnie Stanley would fortify Baltimore’s offensive line for the next couple of seasons. Not to mention, given the market value for offensive tackles, the Ravens could have two very young and talented tackles playing under relatively cheap contracts.
Opinions on McGlinchey are varied. NFL draft guru Mike Mayock regards the Notre Dame blocker as the top tackle in the draft class. However, fellow draft analyst and former Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah ranks McGlinchey as the 35th best overall prospect in the 2018 class, fourteen spots below Texas tackle Connor Williams and only five slots above Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby.
Richard Sherman, Josh Norman blast new “lowering helmet” rule - Michael David Smith
After the NFL passed a new rule making it a 15-yard penalty to lower a helmet into an opponent, Washington cornerback Josh Norman and San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman both expressed frustration that such a rule could pass without the players understanding how it’s supposed to work.
“It’s ridiculous,” Sherman told USA Today. “Like telling a driver if you touch the lane lines, you’re getting a ticket. [It’s] gonna lead to more lower-extremity injuries.”
Norman agreed. “I don’t know how you’re going to play the game,” he said.
Ravens safety Tony Jefferson sent several tweets that showed his own disapproval of the new targeting rule. Jefferson seemed to agree with Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander’s remark that the NFL game is becoming soft.
Drew Brees, Reggie White head All-Free Agent Team - Elliot Harrison
Tight end: Shannon Sharpe
After 10 seasons in Denver, Sharpe was brought in by Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end himself, to get the promising Ravens over the hump in 2000. Sharpe didn’t disappoint, posting 810 and 811 receiving yards in his two seasons with the team.
In the 2000 postseason, Sharpe played like a younger man despite being in his 11th season. He caught a tipped ball against the Broncos in the wild-card game and took it the house for the key score. Ditto the AFC Championship Game, when Sharpe hauled in a Trent Dilfer toss and rumbled 96 yards.
Safety: Rod Woodson
Astoundingly, he became an All-Pro at his new position in his mid-30s.In ‘98, Woodson joined Baltimore on a four-year deal. It was there he transitioned to safety, starting for the 2000 team that won it all. Some feel that group was also the greatest defense ever assembled, with Woodson being a key part.
Former Ravens Preist Holmes and Deion Sanders also made Harrison’s All-Free Agent team. Drew Brees and Andrew Whitworth headline the active players included, while current Eagles guard Brandon Brooks edged out Kelechi Osemele.