AFC North: Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the winningest NFL franchises over the last decade, but they apparently don't look very good while doing it.

According to ESPN's Uni Watch rankings, the Ravens remain one of the worst-dressed teams in the NFL, coming in at No. 23 out of 32 teams.

This is traditionally where the Ravens land in theses uniform rankings, whether it's ESPN or another media outlet. Criticism generally ranges from the purple-black combination, the number design and the bird head logo on the helmet (which is still a step up from the "Flying B" logo in the team's early days).

The Ravens improved one spot from last year's ESPN rankings, but you get the feeling that was simply the result of poor decisions by Washington (continued use of the Redskins logo) and Tampa Bay (awful redesign).

Here is what Paul Lukas of Uni Watch had to say about the Ravens' game-day look:

"OK, we get it -- ravens are black, so this is the rare team whose use of black doesn't feel gratuitous. But that doesn't mean they couldn't scale it back a little. The black pants could use some stripes, and they'd be better if they were paired with non-black socks (which the team used to have, once upon a time) to avoid the leotard effect. On the plus side, here's a detail worth noting: The gold trim on the numbers is a really nice accent."

From my perspective, the Ravens' different uniform combinations vary greatly. The best looks are the purple jersey with white pants (the traditional home combination) and the white jersey with black pants (which should be the team's go-to away look). The worst combination is the purple jersey with black pants, which conjures up the bad memories of Vinny Testaverde and the bad Ravens teams in 1996 and 1997.

If Ravens are ticked off about this ranking, it only gets worse. The Pittsburgh Steelers are considered to have the best uniform and the Indianapolis Colts (aka, the uniform that got away) are No. 9.

Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome was asked Tuesday night about the team's interest in recently released cornerback Kyle Arrington.

"There are a lot of players available right now that I have been on the phone talking to representatives of," Newsome said in a conference call with season-ticket holders.

Newsome rarely gives out much information when talking about the team's plans, but there's a little intrigue at this point. Newsome and coach John Harbaugh both acknowledged the interest to add another cornerback, and the top target is clearly Arrington (pictured) after he was surprisingly released by the New England Patriots on Monday.

In terms of the free agents available, it's Arrington and there's everyone else. He's a tough cover man who is strong in run support and on special teams. Arrington can fill the void at nickelback and serve as quality insurance if Jimmy Smith or Lardarius Webb get injured.

The other viable options are Tarell Brown, a four-year starter for the Raiders and 49ers who is coming off season-ending foot injury, and Carlos Rogers, a 33-year-old defender who was limited to seven games last season because of a knee injury. The Ravens can also bring back the likes of Antoine Cason or Danny Gorrer.

No one is suggesting Arrington is a Pro Bowl cornerback, but he might as well be viewed that way when looking at the alternatives. For that reason, Arrington isn't going to come cheap. He's going to want to get as close to that $3 million that he was originally scheduled to earn this year with New England. Every cornerback-needy team is going to pursue Arrington, and there is still a chance Arrington will return to the Patriots on a cheaper deal, according to ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss.

The Ravens have the cap room to sign Arrington. When Baltimore signed Smith to a four-year, $48 million extension last month, the Ravens reduced Smith's cap number by $3.2 million. The Ravens should use a chunk of that space to get a tested veteran like Arrington.

Cornerback was the weak link last season, and it remains the biggest concern right now. Free agents such as Perrish Cox and Cary Williams -- whose deals averaged over $5 million per season -- were too expensive. Top draft picks such as Kevin Johnson and Marcus Peters didn't fall to the Ravens in the first round.

The Ravens drafted Texas Southern's Tray Walker in the fourth round, but it's unknown how much impact he can provide as a rookie. Baltimore understands the need for experienced depth at that position. When the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012, they were able to withstand the season-ending knee injury to Webb because they still had Williams, Smith and Corey Graham.

Right now, the Ravens have Smith, Webb and some question marks. The hope is for Asa Jackson or Rashaan Melvin to step into the nickelback role, but there are no guarantees of that happening.

It's clear the Ravens need Arrington. It's just a matter of whether they can make it happen.

"We are still looking for defensive backs," Harbaugh said. "There's no doubt about it. We want to add some competition in there. Ozzie is working on that right now. Ozzie has said, 'We're not finished there.'"

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Stingy defense has long been a hallmark of teams in the AFC North.

Last season, though, three of the division's teams were in the lower half of the league's total defensive rankings, allowing an average of 350 yards or more per game. The Pittsburgh Steelers (18th), Cincinnati Bengals (22nd) and Cleveland Browns (23rd) claimed the undesirable honors. Only the Baltimore Ravens, at eighth, ranked among the league's best defensively.

Those rankings were a sharp departure from the year before, when all four teams ranged from third (Cincinnati) to 13th (Pittsburgh) in total defense.

As nearly the entire division tries to reinvent itself defensively this season, which team (of the three subpar defenses from last year) has the best chance of seeing a turnaround in 2015 that could put it in the top 10? ESPN AFC North reporters made their picks:

[+] EnlargeMichael Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesMichael Johnson's return makes the Bengals' defense a strong candidate to return to prominence in the AFC North.

Coley Harvey, Bengals reporter: This seems like a no-brainer. Between the Steelers, Browns and Bengals, Cincinnati's defense has the best chance to make the jump back into the top 10. That's mainly because for so long the Bengals were already there. Remember, they had a top-10 defensive unit for several seasons before a change at coordinator ushered in transition last year. Under former defensive coordinator (and current Minnesota Vikings head coach) Mike Zimmer, the Bengals were seventh, sixth and third in total defense in 2011, 2012 and 2013. While it's easy to pin last year's 22nd ranking on Paul Guenther, who was in his first season as a coordinator, the Bengals' drop-off was the product of a few other factors. They had injuries at key linebacker positions and had trouble replacing one of their top pass-rushers, who bolted in free agency the prior offseason. This year, they anticipate being back at full health throughout the secondary, and that pass-rusher, defensive end Michael Johnson, is back. Unlike the Browns and Steelers, who have to replace veterans at multiple positions this season, the Bengals have to fill only one spot: the left corner position vacated by 36-year-old Terence Newman. Cincinnati has the best chance to be dramatically better defensively this season.

Jamison Hensley, Ravens reporter: Cleveland's defense is ready to reach new heights, and it has nothing to do with the way Danny Shelton lifted up Roger Goodell on draft day. The Browns have the potential to field one of the best secondaries in the league. Three starting defensive backs (Joe Haden, Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson) are back after making the Pro Bowl in 2014. This secondary will be better if free agent Tramon Williams lives up to his contract ($7 million per season) and Justin Gilbert matures after being a disappointing top-10 pick. The sore spots last season were the Browns' run defense and pass rush. That's why the Browns used the No. 12 overall pick on Shelton, a nose tackle, and a second-round pick on outside linebacker Nate Orchard. The Browns produced 31 sacks last year , and Orchard and Shelton combined for 27.5 sacks last season. The improvement on defense doesn't mean the Browns will win more than a handful of games. The Browns are hamstrung by an offense that lacks a quarterback and playmakers. But the Browns wisely invested in their defense in free agency and the draft, and that will propel Cleveland back into the top 10.

Pat McManamon, Browns reporter: Being from Cleveland, it would be nice to say the Browns here. Their secondary is sound, they invested heavily in the defensive line in the draft and free agency, and they added linebacker Nate Orchard to go with Barkevious Mingo, Paul Kruger, Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson. That's a good place to start. The problem is that the Browns ranked 32nd against the run last season with a defense that was much like this one. Until the Browns actually stop the run, they can't be considered top-10. Pittsburgh is going through transition, from Dick LeBeau to Keith Butler. From Troy Polamalu to Mike Mitchell. From a stellar linebacking crew to young guys who are developing (Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones). That's a lot of change for any group. Which leaves Cincinnati as the last team standing -- and the most logical choice to improve. The Bengals re-signed Michael Johnson after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him. That fortifies a line that includes Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Domata Peko. Vontaze Burfict is a force, and the Bengals as a unit got better as the 2014 season went on -- a natural occurrence after the departure of Mike Zimmer to become Vikings coach. In the first half of the season, the Bengals gave up 23.8 first downs, 357.4 yards and 23.4 points per game. In the second half, the numbers dropped to 18.4 first downs, 323.4 yards and 19.6 points per game. With Atkins one more year removed from ACL surgery, the addition of Johnson and the players as a whole becoming more comfortable with coordinator Paul Guenther, Cincinnati will be the team that jumps back into the top 10.

If you like it when the Baltimore Ravens are the underdogs, you probably should stop reading right now. The Ravens continue to be the trendy pick this offseason to win the AFC North.

Football Outsiders selected the Ravens to win the division in its unofficial projectionsInsider Monday, which comes a week after the online sports gambling website Bovada made Baltimore the favorite in the AFC North.

The Ravens are predicted by Football Outsiders to finish 9-7, which would edge the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals by one game. The Cleveland Browns are expected to end up in their usual spot at the bottom of the standings with a 5-11 record.

Football Outsiders came up with these projections by starting with its Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and then accounted for last year's injury numbers, major free-agent moves and a few other indicators.

This projection falls in line with what many analysts are thinking. The AFC North should once again come down to a close race between the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. Baltimore is now a popular choice for good reason. The Ravens had arguably the best draft in the division (some of my colleagues would disagree), and they finished one game behind the division champion Steelers despite a bad run of injuries at cornerback.

If the Ravens can get production from their top two rookies (wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams) and stay healthy at cornerback, Baltimore should be regarded as the team to beat in the AFC North. The Steelers are going through a transition on defense, and the Bengals still have erratic Andy Dalton at quarterback.

In taking Football Outsiders' projections one step further, the Ravens would play host to the New England Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. Football Outsiders has the Miami Dolphins winning the AFC East if Tom Brady is suspended multiple games. This would mark the first time the Ravens would play a postseason game against the Patriots in Baltimore, where I'm fairly certain the pressure of the footballs will be checked thoroughly.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens suffered their first major injury of the offseason, and it continued a bad trend at cornerback.

Undrafted rookie cornerback Julian Wilson broke his lower leg on the first day of rookie minicamp, ending his season. No position was hit harder by injuries last season than cornerback. The Ravens placed five cornerbacks on injured reserve last year, including two of their top three (Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson).

Wilson's injury occurred during a closed practice to the media. According to coach John Harbaugh, Wilson fell awkwardly while covering a receiver.

“He’ll move on from that," Harbaugh said. "He’ll still be with us and be part of us. But he’s got a lot of potential as a player. I was disappointed in that sense."

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens are considering staying on the West Coast for the second week of the regular season.

The Ravens would cut down on one of the four long flights this year if they remained out west after their season opener in Denver and before their game at Oakland. Baltimore would need to find a hotel, practice fields and workout facilities for an entire week.

"We have not made a final decision on staying out there," coach John Harbaugh said. "We’re leaning in that direction, especially in the first week."

This sounds like it will be a one-time occurrence for Baltimore. The Ravens are unsure whether they will do it again in October, when they play at San Francisco on Sunday and then have a Monday night game at Arizona.

"It’s a little bit of a longer trip," Harbaugh said.

Ravens officials requested the NFL to schedule their away games at Oakland and San Francisco in consecutive weeks so they could remain in the Bay Area for a week. But the league decided to split up those games for all four teams who play at Oakland and San Francisco in 2015.

Trying to reduce another long flight is not an unprecedented move. Jim Harbaugh, the brother of Ravens coach John Harbaugh, kept the 49ers on the East Coast a couple of times when San Francisco had back-to-back games there.

"We’ve got a couple of sleep-study doctors and time-zone doctors and things like that, that we’re talking to," Harbaugh said. "We just want to do the smartest thing – whatever it is. We’ll probably have a decision on that within two weeks, I’d say."

Who is the better safety: Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu?

[+] EnlargeEd Reed
AP Photo/Gail BurtonEd Reed, a Baltimore Raven for 11 seasons, notched 64 interceptions in his NFL career.

As two of the top defensive playmakers of their generation decide to call it quits this offseason, this debate should be retired, as well. Reed and Polamalu played the same position but with dramatically different styles.

Reed was the deceptively sneaky center fielder who baited quarterbacks into turnovers. He played mind games with quarterbacks and always stayed one step ahead of them by relying on keen instincts.

Polamalu was the hard-hitting, in-the-box safety who played with reckless abandon. He made his biggest impact around the line of scrimmage or by incredibly jumping over it to shut down a play before it actually began.

Reed's brilliance was that offenses never knew where he was going to be. The amazing part of Polamalu's game was that no team had a problem locating the Pittsburgh Steelers safety and his long hair but still couldn't slow him down.

Baltimore Ravens teammates often referred to Reed as "Smooth," a nod to his fluid and graceful playing style. Polamalu was often called "The Tasmanian Devil" because of his frantic movement and maniacal effort.

So who is truly the best? There is no right answer. It depends on preference and which playing style you admire the most.

This really shouldn't be a discussion. It's not a situation like Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning. Reed and Polamalu complement each other. If you're building the ultimate defense of this generation, Reed is the best free safety and Polamalu is the top strong safety.

Both were dynamic talents who changed the way the football world viewed safeties. Their strength was anticipation and beating an offense to the spot as if they were in the huddle when the play was called.

"They both play the game with great instincts. They both love the game," linebacker Ray Lewis said in 2011 when asked to compare Reed and Polamalu. "They are the two safeties who turn the game into an offensive possession when they have the ball in their hands. It's an honor to sit back and watch two of the best safeties to ever play the game."

Reed and Polamalu won many games and championships for their teams with big plays at big moments as they roamed the secondary. They're bound together in NFL history by how they changed games and the position itself. Reed and Polamalu are both the best, and any team would've jumped at the chance to have either one of them in his prime. That's why it's fitting they're walking away from the game in the same offseason, retiring just 28 days apart.

Bud DupreeJeff Haynes/AP Images for PaniniBud Dupree could have been a top-10 pick, but fell to the Steelers at No. 22.


The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have made a habit of drafting well, and this year is no different.

A poll of the AFC North writers in ESPN’s NFL Nation said the Steelers had the best draft in the division, with the Ravens close behind.

Pittsburgh finished first, with two first-place votes and two seconds. The Ravens were close behind in second, with with two first-place votes but adding a fourth-place vote to go with a second.

The voting results, with one point for first place and four for fourth:

  1. Pittsburgh (6 points)
  2. Baltimore (8)
  3. Cleveland Browns (12)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (14)

Here’s the appropriate commentary:

Jeremy Fowler (Steelers): Every team in the division had a successful draft. No losers here. But as Jamison should know, Ozzie Newsome's the king. Receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams and defensive tackle Carl Davis are perfect for what Baltimore wants to do, a collision of need satisfaction and best player available. Pittsburgh did much of the same. Bud Dupree could have gone as high as No. 8; the Steelers got him at 22. Rebuilding the secondary with shorter, playmaking cornerbacks is a calculated risk, to be sure, but it should pay off. The Bengals and Browns are a wash -- both were solid. Does Cincinnati really need two tackles in the first two rounds, Coley? I say yes. The team is placing the onus directly on Andy Dalton, getting him versatile Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft, too. The Browns got several potential starters out of their 12 picks, led by impressive linemen Danny Shelton and Cam Erving, but Pat knows my beef here. Ignoring a loaded wideout pool and failing to take a playmaker of any kind in the first 75 picks could be a regrettable move.

Jamison Hensley (Ravens): How did the Ravens not get selected for the best draft this year? It feels like my AFC North colleagues are conspiring against Baltimore here. If nothing else, the Ravens should have been No. 1 based on trading up in the second round to steal the draft's best tight end away from the Steelers. The fact that the Ravens teamed up with Bruce Arians, who was forced out of Pittsburgh, to get Maxx Williams should give them extra bonus points. The Steelers didn't get a coveted cornerback in the first round and took Dupree, who could follow Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds as underachieving pass-rushers. The Browns were still the Browns, failing to come out of the draft with a quarterback or a top-tier wide receiver. And the Bengals are still the Bengals, taking risks with players who have character issues (Paul Dawson and Josh Shaw). Coley, how could the Bengals ignore their needs at edge rusher and wide receiver?

Pat McManamon (Browns): Waah, waah, waah. Cry me a Chesapeake from the guy in Baltimore who would probably defend Art Modell in Cleveland. Go have some more crabby cakes, Mr. Hensley. Besides, I voted Baltimore second. Coley Harvey was the guy who had them last in the division. I gave Pittsburgh the top vote because they continue to approach the draft in ways other teams should emulate, combining need with talent and always seeming to come up with a solid, sound group. I was sitting next to Jeremy Fowler when receiver Sammie Coates' highlight reel came on TV during the draft. Without knowing who picked him, Fowler pointed out Coates would have been a good pick for the Browns. The tape showed a big, fluid guy who could catch the ball and make plays. "Who took him?" Fowler wondered, then a second later saw the team. "Pittsburgh," he said. "Figures." I love Ozzie Newsome and I credit Baltimore for the trade up for Williams, but do we give them too much credit for the no-brainer that was Perriman when he fell in their lap? Would the Ravens take Ken Dorsey if one of the Mannings was on the board? The Browns had a solid draft, but even as solid as it was, they still lag behind their three division rivals -- in draft and on-field results. As for Cincinnati, Coley, I see no issue with drafting two tackles when Andrew Whitworth is 33 and coming up on a contract decision. It's called planning. It's cold and heartless, but with this approach the Bengals have been to the playoffs four years in a row and five of the last six.

Coley Harvey (Bengals): Are we looking at this division’s draft through the same lenses, guys? I’m not sure I’m ready to anoint the Ravens the winners of the AFC North draft derby. At least not yet. Here’s the thing, like Jeremy said, there really were no losers in this draft. I’d certainly put the AFC North’s draft class up against any of the others. Because I felt each team’s draft classes were so close, I based any close calls upon who had the best first round. When you talked to scouts and personnel folks before the draft, many felt there were only about 15 players worthy of first-round grades. Players 15-50 were a mass of second-round options who could have been picked virtually anywhere in that range. So, using that logic, there were only 15 players who should be true immediate impact players. I have the same concern about Dupree long term, Jamison, but I really liked that pick for Pittsburgh, not to mention the Coates pick you and Jeremy liked, Pat. Similarly, Cleveland had a strong start taking Shelton and Erving in the first round. It was a sign the Browns are trying to beef up in the trenches. (What about at receiver, though?!) Perriman may fit the Ravens’ needs better than some of the smaller receivers who were still on the board at 26, but he still seems a reach. People I talked to before the draft really liked his speed out of pads, but questioned his game quickness. As for the Bengals, yes, Pat, Whitworth needs to put on the big-boy pants he says he has. And he will. Sure, taking two offensive tackles in Rounds 1 and 2 seems crazy but this was all about gearing up for a future of trying to win the always physical AFC North. Jeremy’s right, it’s a good crazy. Speaking of, Pat, I’m not that loco, am I?

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Here's a look at who benefited and who did not from what the Baltimore Ravens did in the 2015 NFL draft:

WINNERS

RB Justin Forsett: His grip on the starting job got stronger after the Ravens waited until the fifth round to select a running back. There would've been more immediate competition for the featured back role if Baltimore had come away with Melvin Gordon (first round), T.J. Yeldon (second round), Ameer Abdullah or Tevin Coleman (third round).

CBs Lardarius Webb, Asa Jackson and Rashaan Melvin: The Ravens were looking to bring in someone they could immediately plug in as a top-three cornerback, but the draft board didn't fall their way. Baltimore selected developmental cornerback Tray Walker in the fourth round, which means Webb remains the starter and Jackson and Melvin are the front-runners for the nickelback job. It would be a different story if Kevin Johnson or Marcus Peters had slipped to the Ravens in the first round.

QB Joe Flacco: The Ravens didn't just give their strong-armed quarterback one deep threat. Baltimore added three targets who can stretch the field. Three draft picks -- Breshad Perriman (20.9), Maxx Williams (15.8) and Darren Waller (15.8) -- all averaged over 15 yards per catch last season. This should fill that vertical void left by the departures of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.

LOSERS

WR Marlon Brown: After the Ravens didn't replace Torrey Smith in free agency, it looked as though Brown was going to regain his starting job. But the Ravens used the No. 26 overall pick on Perriman, and eight of the Ravens' past nine first-round picks have become starters as rookies.

Return game: Coach John Harbaugh wouldn't commit to a returner on his roster during the NFL owners meetings in late March, and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said the Ravens wanted to find a returner in this year's draft. But Baltimore didn't use any of its nine picks on a prospect with any return experience. After cutting Jacoby Jones in the offseason, Jackson and Michael Campanaro remain the leading candidates to return kicks.

TE Phillip Supernaw: The Ravens were expected to take a tight end at some point in the draft. It was the drafting of two tight ends that really put Supernaw on the bubble. The Ravens could keep a fourth tight end to go along with Williams, Crockett Gillmore and Nick Boyle. But there would be no spot available if Dennis Pitta decides to return.

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A few quick thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' fourth-round draft pick.

The pick: Javorius "Buck" Allen, RB, USC

My take: The Ravens were probably looking to take a running back earlier in the draft, but the board didn't fall their way. The fact that the Ravens waited until the fourth round to draft a running back only solidifies Justin Forsett's grip on the starting job. This is the second straight season that Baltimore has taken a running back in the fourth round (Lorenzo Taliaferro was a fourth-round pick last year). Now, Allen and Taliaferro will battle it out for the Ravens' backup job. Allen was the 10th running back selected in this year's draft.

Well-rounded: Allen was more than just USC's leading rusher the past two seasons. He's a productive receiver, finishing third on the team last season with 41 catches. Allen has the potential to develop into an every-down back. He was the only player in the country to record 13 games of at least 100 yards from scrimmage.

Downhill runner: Allen's reputation is he won't lose any yards, but he won't create many, either. There's no dancing at the line of scrimmage. Allen sees the hole and hits it. That decisive style should work well in the Ravens' stretch zone blocking scheme. He's an upright runner who doesn't gain as many yards after contact as he should.

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A few quick thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' fourth-round draft pick.

The pick: Za'Darius Smith, defensive end-linebacker, Kentucky

My take: The Ravens are bringing in Smith to replace pass-rusher Pernell McPhee, who signed with the Chicago Bears this offseason. At 6-foot-4, 274 pounds, Smith has similar size and strength as McPhee. Smith even said the Ravens constantly mentioned McPhee during his talks with Baltimore. What stands out about Smith is his high motor, and the Ravens love players who are relentless. He won't impress anyone with his speed, but he's a pure power-rusher. In two seasons at Kentucky, he had 10.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.

Still learning: Smith didn't start playing football until 2010, building himself up from the junior college ranks into a two-year starter in the SEC. His inexperience can show in his awareness and how quickly he dissects plays. His teammate Bud Dupree, who went No. 22 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, got most of the national attention leading up to the draft, but Smith is bigger and stronger at the point of attack.

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- As soon as the Carolina Panthers had made their pick, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome couldn't pick up the phone fast enough to call Breshad Perriman and inform the Central Florida wide receiver that he was the No. 26 overall pick.

In fact, Perriman broke the news on Twitter that he was selected by the Ravens before the pick was officially in.

In terms of fit, the Ravens couldn't have asked for a better offensive prospect to fall to them. Baltimore desperately needed an explosive playmaker, and Perriman is perhaps the most explosive playmaker in this draft.

Perriman averaged 20.9 yards per catch last season and 33.1 yards per touchdown. He caught a touchdown in seven straight games last season. He ran the 40-yard dash at his pro day in 4.24 seconds, which is faster than anyone at this year's combine.

The Ravens had Perriman ranked No. 14 on their draft board, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Perriman has the potential to be a Dez Bryant type of a receiver. It's simple: The Ravens needed someone to strike fear into defenses, and Perriman will cause the Steelers, Bengals and Browns to take a few extra steps back.

“It was a good DNA match for us,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said.

Some will consider this a risky pick. Perriman doesn't always look like a natural pass-catcher. He has suspect hands, and he dropped 14 percent of his passes last season (anything more than 8 percent is typically an issue).

The Ravens expressed no concern over Perriman's hands or concentration because they did their homework on him. Their coaching staff spent all week dissecting the top wide receivers in this year's draft and broke down Permian's catches and drops for an hour early Thursday morning.

"We came away feeling very good about his hands," coach John Harbaugh said. "I know the question regarding his hands and he has a certain number of drops. But most of those drops were last year and early this year. This is a developmental receiver who’s gotten a lot better the last two years. We think he’s on the rise."

The knee-jerk reaction is to label him another Torrey Smith. But Perriman is faster than Smith (a 4.44 time in the 40). He's two inches taller and has a much bigger wingspan. But he's also a receiver who isn't afraid to go across the middle and will gain yards after contact.

Perriman really showed up on the Ravens' radar in early February, when Newsome watched tape of Perriman. He immediately suggested that DeCosta should do the same.

"I saw a big, fast, physical stallion," DeCosta said. "He compliments our guys very well."

Injecting speed into the Ravens' wide receiver group was more than a need. It was a requirement in this year's draft.

After losing Smith in free agency, the Ravens were left with a 35-year-old Steve Smith and a bunch of possession receivers. The Ravens' history of drafting receivers has been the biggest smudge on their impeccable reputation, but it would be a disservice to a strong-armed quarterback like Joe Flacco to ignore the wide receiver position early in the draft.

The other options at wide receiver didn't stack up to Perriman. Arizona State's Jaelen Strong had size but lacked speed. Ohio State's Devin Smith had speed but lacked height. And Oklahoma's Dorial Green-Beckham had the tools but carried too much baggage.

The only receiver the Ravens were willing to take at No. 26 was Perriman, and they weren't sure he was going to last. Four receivers were selected in the top 20 picks, and other targeted players (running back Melvin Gordon, cornerback Kevin Johnson and cornerback Marcus Peters) were all gone by the 18th pick.

NFL draft's first round receiversESPN Stats & Info


If Perriman wasn't there, the Ravens acknowledged that they were going to look to trade back.

"We were sweating it quite a bit," DeCosta said. "Our board got wiped. The last couple of years, we’ve had that happen to us. This year, we finally got something fall our way. We were getting wiped out, but fortunately he was there.”

Now, if Perriman can eliminate the drops, it will be the defenses in the AFC North who will be sweating.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- With a cast protecting his surgically repaired left wrist, Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley said he is unsure what he'll be able to do in offseason workouts this spring.

"I'm going to do everything I can. I don't know how much physically I can do," Mosley said. "I'm definitely going to be out on the field."

Mosley, the first Ravens rookie to reach the Pro Bowl, first appeared on the injury report with a wrist issue heading into the Week 14 game at Miami, but he never missed practice because of the injury. He is unable to do any lifting in the Ravens' offseason workout program, which started Monday.

"Everything is progressing," Mosley said. "So I haven't had any major setbacks so far."

Mosley, the No. 17 overall pick in last year's draft, was the only player in the NFL with at least 125 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions in 2014. He finished as the leading tackler for a defense that ranked sixth in fewest-points allowed.

It was nearly a perfect rookie season except for the fact that he finished second to St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"At the end of the day, as far as accolades, I wanted that award. Aaron Donald, he earned it," Mosley said. "We went against each other for three awards coming out of college, and he got all three of them. One day, I'll beat up for an award."

Mosley wants to use this offseason to get stronger, which he'll be able to do when the cast comes off. He also wants to expand his knowledge.

"There are still a lot of things to learn as far as a young defensive player and getting in touch with Daryl Smith more and seeing what helped him progress each year in his long career and can help me out," Mosley said.

FlaccoMitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco and the Ravens will play in five prime-time games this season.


Breakdown: The bad news is the Baltimore Ravens play five of their first seven games on the road. The Ravens are only home twice (Week 3 against the Bengals and Week 5 against the Browns) through the month of October. It's the first time this has happened to Baltimore since 2000, when the Ravens overcame that brutal start and won the franchise's first Super Bowl. The good news is the Ravens are at home for six of their final nine games. Baltimore leaves home once in the final four weeks of the season, which puts the Ravens in position to make a strong push toward the postseason. The only problem is none of those four teams (the Seahawks, Chiefs, Steelers and at the Bengals) had a losing record in 2014 and three of them reached the playoffs. There is plenty of optimism toward the Ravens considering they received five prime-time games. It was only a year ago when the Ravens were on national television three times, their fewest since 2009.

Complaint department: Where to begin? The Ravens wanted back-to-back games in the Bay Area to remove one cross-country flight. Instead, the Ravens open the season with trips at Denver and Oakland and then travel to San Francisco and Arizona in consecutive weeks in October. The Ravens wanted a rare home Monday Night Football game. Instead, Baltimore plays at Arizona in Week 7 and at Cleveland in Week 12 on Monday night -- the ninth and 10th times the Ravens play on the road in their last 11 MNF games. The Ravens travel to Miami on a short week following the Cleveland game. For good measure, the Ravens must travel on another shortened week when they play at the Steelers on a Thursday night game in Week 4. This one is deserved because Baltimore hosted Pittsburgh on Thursday night the past two seasons. Still, it makes you wonder whom the Ravens ticked off in the league office.

Finishing with the division: One of the strangest quirks in last season's schedule was the fact the Ravens played only one AFC North team in the final eight weeks of the season. This year, the Ravens have a chance to make up ground on their division rivals, squaring off against all three in the last six weeks of the regular season. It's even more interesting with the Ravens finishing up at home against the Steelers and at the Bengals. All three teams are expected to battle for the AFC North title once again. The Ravens seem to thrive in facing AFC North teams when it matters the most. Since coach John Harbaugh became coach in 2008, the Ravens 39-21 (.650) against the division in November and December. That's the best record among AFC North teams over that span.

Strength of schedule: 11th, .539

Ravens Regular-Season Schedule (all times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, at Denver, 4:25 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Oakland, 4:05 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Week 4: Thursday, Oct. 1, at Pittsburgh, 8:25 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, Cleveland, 1 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Monday, Oct. 26, at Arizona, 8:30 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, San Diego, 1 p.m.

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, St. Louis, 1 p.m.

Week 12: Monday, Nov. 30, at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, at Miami, 1 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, Seattle, 8:30 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, Kansas City, 1 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

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