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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 5: Baltimore Ravens

Ray+Rice+Baltimore+Ravens+v+San+Diego+Chargers+hVmu_qv00ZUl Getty Images

After barely missing out on the Super Bowl last season, the Ravens kept their roster largely intact and had every reason to believe they’d be Super Bowl contenders again this year. At least, until one of the biggest pieces of their roster took a big offseason hit.

Terrell Suggs, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in April, and there’s simply no replacing him. Suggs insists he’ll be able to return to the field in 2012, but he’s surely going to miss the start of the season, and it’s still possible that he’ll miss the entire year. The Suggs injury raises questions about just how much Baltimore’s perennially great defense will decline.

Still, this looks like a very talented roster, from top to bottom, and at No. 5 in our power rankings, we believe the Ravens will be in the mix all year.

STRENGTHS.

The greatness of the Ravens’ defense extends far beyond Terrell Suggs. Ray Lewis remains Baltimore’s spiritual leader, and although he’s not quite as fast a player as he was in his prime, he’s still a very good linebacker at the age of 37. Similarly, Ed Reed may have lost a step, and he’s been making noises all offseason about possibly walking away from the game, but when the season starts Reed, like Lewis, is going to be on the field and leading a good defense.

And then there’s defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who was ranked in a poll of his peers as the ninth-best player in the entire league. Ngata took issue with that ranking, saying he doesn’t think he’s the Ravens’ best player, but he’s undoubtedly among the league’s elite defensive linemen, and a dominant presence in the middle.

Jimmy Smith, last year’s first-round pick, missed four games early in his rookie season with an ankle sprain and didn’t really get into the swing of the defense until midway through the year, but as 2011 wore on he looked like a very good young cornerback. Smith appears to be another example of Ravens G.M. Ozzie Smith’s knack for finding talent in the draft.

The strength of the offense is Ray Rice, whom the Ravens can cout on to gain 1,300 or so yards and catch 70 or so passes out of the backfield. At age 25 Rice should have a few more good years left in him, so locking him up with a contract extension this offseason was a wise move.

WEAKNESSES.

The biggest question facing the Ravens is whether quarterback Joe Flacco will be a strength or a weakness of this team. It’s not that Flacco is a bad quarterback, it’s that he hasn’t emerged as the kind of high-quality starter the Ravens were hoping he’d be when they spent a first-round draft pick on him in 2008. It’s also alarming that Flacco’s completion percentage, passing yardage and passing touchdowns all decreased from 2010 to 2011, while his interceptions increased — and in a season in which quarterbacks around the NFL were putting up big numbers. Of course, the reality of the quarterback position in the NFL is that we mostly remember a few big plays at a few key moments, and if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped a pass from Flacco in the end zone late in the AFC Championship Game, we’d probably be talking right now about what a big step forward Flacco had taken in leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl. This year the Ravens need Flacco to really take that big step forward.

On the offensive line, age is a concern. Center Matt Birk, left guard Bobbie Williams and left tackle Bryant McKinnie are all getting long in the tooth, and an offensive line that’s getting old is alarming especially for a team whose quarterback can be shaky under pressure.

Unless the Terrell Suggs injury hits the Ravens hard, they really have no weaknesses on defense. But there are glaring weaknesses on special teams. Billy Cundiff is not a good kicker, and that goes beyond missing a potentially game-tying field goal at the end of the AFC Championship Game: Since signing with the Ravens in 2009, Cundiff has gone just 1-for-10 on field goals of 50 yards or longer in the regular season. The Ravens’ coverage units were weak last year, and may be even weaker this year with gunner Haruki Nakamura leaving to sign with the Panthers. Kickoff returner David Reed had a solid average of 29.7 yards a return, but he fumbles too much. Punt returner Lardarius Webb is the strongest link in the Ravens’ special teams, but he’s just OK, not great.

CHANGES.

Losing Terrell Suggs for at least part of the season is a big change for the worse, although if top draft pick Courtney Upshaw turns out to be another great draft pick from Ozzie Newsome, that will go a long way toward getting the Ravens past the Suggs injury.

The departure of starting guard Ben Grubbs and the arrival of Bobbie Williams to replace him has to be considered a change for the worse. Grubbs was a solid starter in Baltimore, and he’ll be missed.

The Ravens lacked a decent No. 3 receiver last year, and if Jacoby Jones, signed as a free agent from Houston, can fill that role, that would be great news in Baltimore. Jones, however, has long struggled to hold onto the ball. The best bet for improvement in the receiving corps may be the continued growth of Torrey Smith, last year’s second-round draft pick who didn’t get a single ball in the first two games of the season but then burst onto the scene with a 152-yard, three-touchdown game in Week Three and was a solid starter the rest of the year.

CAMP BATTLES.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano left Baltimore for Indianapolis and brought starting defensive end Cory Redding with him, and there will be a competition in training camp to replace Redding. That competition will feature second-year defensive end Pernell McPhee, who was second on the team with six sacks as a rookie, pitted against Arthur Jones, who’s the better run stuffer of the two.

The Ravens will also have a camp competition for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Joe Flacco. Tyrod Taylor, a sixth-round draft pick last year, will battle former Colt Curtis Painter.

PROSPECTS.

As a team that was this close (hold your thumb and forefinger a millimeter apart, because that’s how close Lee Evans was to holding onto a game-winning touchdown pass in the AFC Championship) to the Super Bowl, the Ravens have to be feeling pretty confident heading into training camp. The nucleus of key players from last year’s roster is back — minus Terrell Suggs, of course.

If the Suggs injury, plus the aging of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, turns out to be too much for the defense to handle, then the Ravens will take a step backward this season. But with another stellar season from the Ravens’ defense, and an offense that gets the ball into Ray Rice’s hands 20-plus times a game, the Ravens should be every bit as good this year as they were last year.

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Doug Baldwin hasn’t signed RFA tender, but still working out with Seahawks

Doug Baldwin AP

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin was tendered at the second round level by the Seahawks this offseason, giving him the right to negotiate and sign an offer sheet with any other team in the league as long as he doesn’t sign the tender.

Baldwin hasn’t signed it, but there doesn’t seem to be much interest in leaving Seattle. Baldwin has signed a waiver allowing him to participate in voluntary offseason workouts with the team even though he isn’t yet under contract for the 2014 season. During an appearance on 710 ESPN in Seattle, Baldwin confirmed that staying in Seattle was the end result he wanted.

“I want to be a Seattle Seahawk and I want to be a Seattle Seahawk for a long time,” Baldwin said. “I love it here, I love the organization and I’m focused on doing what I can to improve and get ready for this upcoming season, whether that’s with a tender or whether that’s with something else that we work out. Hopefully is with a long-term deal, that’s what I’m hoping for, whether that’s this year or next year.”

Baldwin indicated that there haven’t been talks about a long-term deal and the possibility of signing with another team disappears on May 2, so playing out the year on the $2.187 million tender seems like a likely option.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning leaves the field after being defeated by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game in East Rutherford Reuters

The Bills have settled a class-action lawsuit brought by fans who said the team inundated them with text messages; the team will give the fans vouchers to buy items at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin of starting offseason work, “It’s kind of like the first day of school. Everybody loves seeing their old buddies and getting re-acclimated to football.”

Said Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater, “There’s a lot to be excited about. There’s some extremely talented players that we’ve added to the roster along with some extremely talented players that we’ve had here for a while. All that is on paper. It really doesn’t mean anything right now. We haven’t even had one practice together. We have a long ways to go.”

Will the Jets consider a tight end in the first two rounds of the draft?

It might make sense for the Ravens to trade down.

Will Cleveland have to choose between street repairs and refurbishing the Browns’ stadium?

Says Cincinnati’s Wallace Gilberry of former teammate Michael Johnson signing with the Bucs, “He’s still our guy, he’s just wearing different colors. When we play Tampa, he’s not our guy. He knows that. That’s no secret. But he’s our guy.”

Expect the Steelers to draft a linebacker or two no matter regardless of whether Jason Worilds gets a contract extension.

Another mock draft says the Texans will take Jadeveon Clowney.

Will the Colts bolster the secondary in the draft?

Should the Jaguars pass on a quarterback this year and look to the 2015 draft?

Don’t expect the Titans to find a replacement for RB Chris Johnson in this year’s draft.

Said new Colts DE DeMarcus Ware of Peyton Manning, “Peyton’s one of those guys who puts in the effort, not just on the field, but off the field, trying to figure it out. He has a bad taste in his mouth from last season and doesn’t want it to happen again.”

Chiefs DE Mike DeVito is still not over the playoff loss to the Colts.

The Raiders have begun their offseason work.

Chargers LB Donald Butler calls it “a huge disappointment” that he has only played 12 games a year the past couple seasons.

Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar says he’s good to go.

Giants QB Eli Manning says his ankle injury was not basketball-related.

Former Eagles LB Garry Cobb, who now works as a radio analyst and is running for Congress, has made contradictory comments about whether he suffers from memory loss stemming from his football career.

Golfer Notah Begay says Dan Snyder’s support for Native American causes is nothing more than “a gimmick.”

Bears DE Shea McClellin is “a different man” after tough offseason workouts.

One local columnist says the Lions are “scared” to tell Ndamukong Suh he needs to show up to voluntary offseason workouts.

The Packers would like to get more offseason work done, but the NFL limits what they can do.

Will the Vikings pick up Christian Ponder’s fifth-year option?

Here are some pictures of the Falcons’ workouts.

Panthers QB Cam Newton views fellow Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson like a big brother.

Shayne Graham is ready to compete to be the Saints’ kicker.

Bucs CB Johnthan Banks is adjusting to the changes with new coach Lovie Smith’s defense.

The Cardinals may use a high pick on a quarterback.

Will Richard Sherman get more than $12 million a year, which the Patriots and Darrelle Revis have established as the going rate for a top cornerback?

Rams WR Chris Givens says he was cocky as a rookie but is now humbled.

Everyone will watch the schedule announcement to find out when the 49ers’ two games with the Seahawks will take place.

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Phil Costa: I retired at 26 because football took a toll on my body

Phil Costa AP

Phil Costa, the 26-year-old center who abruptly announced his retirement just weeks after signing as a free agent with the Colts, says he did it because football wore him down.

“Unfortunately, the day-to-day physical rigor of the NFL season has taken a toll on my body and has been a driving force behind my decision,” Costa said in a statement, via the Dallas Morning News.

Costa missed most of the 2012 season with the Cowboys because of back and ankle injuries, and he struggled to return to form in 2013. But Costa doesn’t sound like he has hard feelings toward the NFL.

“As I look forward to the next chapter of my life, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have played in the league,” Costa said.

It wouldn’t be surprising if, after some time, Costa decides that he wants to give football another shot. If he really is finished playing, however, we wish him well in whatever he does in the next phase of his life.

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Terrelle Pryor to play a different position? Not so fast says John Schneider

Oakland Raiders v New York Jets Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks made a somewhat curious decision to trade for Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor on Monday.

Seattle sent their seventh-round draft pick, No. 247 overall, to the Raiders in exchange for Pryor. It’s the last tradable pick of the entire draft and the remaining selections are compensatory picks that cannot be dealt. It was a minimal investment for a player the Raiders intended to release before the start of their offseason workout program.

Seahawks general manger John Schneider joined Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on Sirius XM NFL Radio to discuss why the team elected to bring Pryor to Seattle.

We’re always trying to improve competition at every position and we saw this as an opportunity to do that,” Schneider said. “Rare athlete, size and speed. …We’re just excited about his upside and the type of athlete that he is. We knew that if he was released (by Oakland) there was no way we were going to have an opportunity to claim him.”

Basically, Seattle’s thought process was that they couldn’t get an athlete of Pryor’s caliber with the 247th pick anyway, so why not take a shot?

Seattle appeared to be mostly set at quarterback. Russell Wilson is entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract and the team re-signed backup Tarvaris Jackson to a fully guaranteed one-year deal that will pay more than both Wilson and Pryor are set to make next season. It led to a thought that Pryor may be earmarked as a player that may be asked to play a position other than quarterback.

Schneider said that speculation may be a little premature.

“We haven’t had those conversations,” Schneider said. “But if there was ever an athlete that would be able to play a slash role, if you will, it would be this kind of player. That may a little bit fantasy football at this time of the year. He’s a quarterback. He’s been a quarterback, but no we haven’t gotten into that. This guy is a very talented athlete and we can’t wait to put our hands on him and have our staff spend some time with him.”

For now, Pryor will be of an experiment with Seattle. He’ll join B.J. Daniels as the quarterbacks behind Wilson and Jackson’s on Seattle’s roster.

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Doug Marrone recently had cancerous mole removed

Bills Patriots Football AP

Bills coach Doug Marrone has disclosed that he recently had a cancerous mole removed from his skin.

“During a recent doctor’s visit, it was discovered that I had a cancerous mole on my skin, which has since been removed,” Marrone said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “The only follow up required is to have my moles checked every three months and that basically is the end of the story. The recent extraction procedure will have no effect on my ability to coach the team moving forward.”

Marrone, 49, did not specify the location of the mole or the type of cancer, which was discovered during a recent doctor’s visit.  Some forms of skin cancer, like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are very treatable, if caught early.  Even the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma, can be cured if detected and treated before it spreads.

Jim Johnson, former Eagles defensive coordinator, died due to melanoma in 2009 at the age of 68.

Marrone’s situation serves as an important reminder to examine all skin at least once per month for any abnormal moles or growths.  Ask your doctor to do a skin examination during check-ups and physicals.  And be sure to get any suspicious areas checked as soon as possible by a dermatologist.

As my dermatologist said in January after slicing from my leg a small growth that turned out to be benign, “A little paranoia can save your patients’ lives.”

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Kony Ealy says he is the best defensive end in the draft

Kony Ealy AP

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is widely considered the top defensive line prospect in the NFL Draft. Clowney could even be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

However, another pass rusher from the SEC believes he is the best defensive end in this year’s draft class.

According to Tom Pelissero of the USA Today, Missouri defensive end Kony Early says that he believes he is the best at the position in this year’s draft class.

“I feel like I’m the best guy in this draft, period,” Ealy said. “And that’s not a cocky thing — that’s just a confidence thing. It’s not just talk. It’s been proven. My numbers show for it. My size and speed and agility show for it. What else can you want?”

Ealy is also considered to be a first round selection and did produce more statistically than Clowney did last season. Ealy had 9.5 sacks for the Tigers while Clowney posted just three sacks for South Carolina. However, college production doesn’t necessarily equate to the highest projection when it comes to the NFL.

Nevertheless, Ealy is still extremely confident in his own abilities.

“There’s no knocking [Clowney],” Ealy said. “But I’m the best defensive end in this draft. I may not have a whole lot of hype, but I don’t [need] anybody to acknowledge me.”

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Gil Brandt suggests draft-and-trade scenario for Texans at No. 1

Manziel Getty Images

Ten years after the Chargers made Eli Manning the first pick in the draft and then shipped him to the Giants for Philip Rivers plus more, a similar strategy could be unfolding in 16 nights at Radio City Music Hall.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com suggests that the Texans could take defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall selection, and then trade him to a team that takes a predetermined player with its own first-round pick.

The approach makes much more sense than the Texans trading down to a specific spot before the draft, since that would invite speculation from other teams regarding the player the Texans would target, along with a possible leapfrogging of the Texans.  By taking then trading Clowney, the Texans would more likely to get the guy they want later, since the team that takes the player the Texans would pick may not be expected to pick that player.

Appearing on Tuesday’s PFT Live, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle explained that, in his view, the Texans will take Clowney or quarterback Johnny Manziel with the first overall pick.  If they decide on Manziel and if Manziel remains in play until the team to which Clowney would be traded can get him, the Texans would emerge with Manziel plus more.

And if the team that would trade for Clowney can’t get the other player the Texans want, the Texans presumably would keep Clowney — or possibly trade him to someone else for a different package.

For the full appearance and insight from McClain, click the box below.

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Bills website posts, then deletes, article announcing that coach Doug Marrone has cancer

Marrone Getty Images

In an unusual development that the team has not yet explained, the Bills website posted on Tuesday an article with the following headline:  “Coach Marrone announces he has cancer.”

The article, which consisted of two sentences and then a spot for a quote from Marrone, said that the unspecific cancer is “not aggrive [sic]” and “highly treatable.”

Attributed to Anna Stolzenburg in a screen shot posted by Deadspin, the link that previously contained the article currently is blank.

Media publications routinely prepare content in advance of an event that is expected or likely.  While it’s possible someone was simply playing an extremely unfunny prank, it’s also possible that the team was preparing to disclose that Marrone is fighting a highly treatable form of cancer.

One way or the other, the Bills need to address the situation, sooner than later.

UPDATE 11:13 p.m. ET:  Marrone has disclosed that he recently had a cancerous mole removed.

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Woodley declares Raiders to be a playoff team

Woodley Getty Images

It’s still 0-0 time in the NFL, with every fan of every team able to conjure hope for the coming season, plausible or otherwise.  Raiders fans, already buoyed by an aggressive pursuit of veteran free agents, got more reason for hope on Tuesday from one of the new arrivals.

“I can definitely see [us] as a playoff team,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley told 95.7 The Game on Tuesday.  “Last year going back and watching some film on the Raiders, there were a lot of opportunities here where they just didn’t close it out.  Some games good in the first half; they just didn’t close it out at the end of the game.  So now we just have to learn how to close out games and it’ll be more wins than losses.”

The Raiders closed it out against Woodley’s old team, the Steelers.  Otherwise, the Raiders had plenty of struggles.

This year’s potential struggles become a lot more tangible on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. ET.  Though the Raiders’ opponents for 2014 have been known since the moment the 2013 regular season ended, the specific list of weeks and dates and times comes soon.

Perhaps that’s when Raiders players and fans will realize that, in 2014, the Raiders play three games against last year’s Super Bowl teams.  Five games against the four conference finalists.  Nine games against teams that made the playoffs in 2013.

And 12 games against teams with non-losing records a season ago.

That’s the end result of facing the Broncos twice, the Chiefs twice, the Chargers twice, the Seahawks, the 49ers, the Patriots, the Cardinals, the Rams, the Jets, the Bills, the Rams, the Dolphins, and the Browns.

Yes, every year is different.  For the Raiders, every year since 2003 has been the same.  This year’s schedule suggests it won’t be easy to break the cycle.

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Snyder says team name isn’t an issue, Halbritter disagrees

Snyder AP

When it comes to the Redskins name, the two sides have become as entrenched as they can be.  The question becomes whether enough folks who don’t have an opinion — and enough of those who have an opinion but not a strong one — will ever swing one way or the other.

Until then, the team will continue to defend the name, and the opponents of the name will continue to challenge it.

On Tuesday, owner Daniel Snyder revisited the topic, from the perspective of the foundation that recently was created to assist Native American tribes.

“We understand the issues out there, and we’re not an issue,” Snyder said in rare public remarks, via the Associated Press.  “The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it’s time that people focus on reality.”

Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter has responded to the remarks.

“If Dan Snyder thinks it is acceptable for a billionaire to market, promote, and profit off of a dictionary defined racial slur, then he’s living in an alternate universe,” Halbritter said in a press release.  “If he wants to focus on reality, here’s a reality check:  The longer he insists on slurring Native Americans, the more damage he will keep doing to Native American communities, and the more he will become synonymous with infamous segregationist George Preston Marshall, who originally gave the team this offensive name.”

The opposition to the team’s name, which has lingered for more than 20 years, gained momentum in 2013, fueled in part by Snyder’s aggressive “all caps NEVER” position on when the name will change.  A high-stakes P.R. game has followed, with the Redskins spending plenty of money and effort to shape their message, and the opponents of the name spending plenty of money and effort to fight the name.

The issue will continue to percolate until the name changes, or until the opponents grow weary of the effort.  It doesn’t appear that either will happen any time soon.

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NFL announces 30 players will attend the draft

NFL logo and set are seen at New York's Radio City Music Hall before the start of the 2013 NFL Draft Reuters

More players than ever before will attend this year’s NFL draft.

The league announced today that 30 prospects have confirmed they will attend, the most ever. That includes four quarterbacks — Blake Bortles (Central Florida), Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) — as well as top prospects like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Auburn tackle Greg Robinson and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. (It’s a sign of the times that no running backs were among the 30 players invited.)

The other players confirmed to attend this year’s NFL Draft: LSU receiver Odell Beckham, Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, Indiana receiver Cody Latimer, USC receiver Marqise Lee, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews, Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews, Virginia tackle Morgan Moses, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Texas Christian cornerback Jason Verrett.

Bringing more players to the draft gives the NFL more opportunities to promote its stars of the future, but it also makes it more likely that several players will go through the awkward experience of remaining in the “green room” throughout the first round and into the second or third round. It’s even possible that a player among the 30 invited could drop all the way to Day Three of the draft.

But most of the players invited will hear Roger Goodell call their names during the first round. And as the NFL continues to grow the draft into not just the league’s biggest offseason event but one of the major parts of the sports year, more players than ever before will be there.

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Kurt Coleman says he turned down better deals to sign with Vikings

Kurt Coleman

Kurt Coleman thought Minnesota was the best place for him, even if the Vikings’ offer wasn’t the best one he received in free agency.

Coleman, a safety who signed with the Vikings last week, accepted a deal in Minnesota that pays a salary this year of $900,000, with nothing guaranteed. Coleman said both the Colts and the Jets offered him some guaranteed money, and that he got one offer with a higher base salary as well.

“But for me it was more important about finding the right opportunity and the right staff and an organization that believes in you,” Coleman told the Pioneer Press. “And I think in the long term I’m betting on myself to succeed, and I think I will. The money wasn’t there that I wanted, but that’s OK because I know that it will come around. . . . It’s about reasserting myself as a starter in this league and being a top performer as a safety.”

Even though the Vikings’ starting safeties from last season, Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford, are still in Minnesota this year, Coleman believes there’s a better opportunity for him to have an impact in the Vikings’ defense than there would have been anywhere else.

“Of course, I want to start,” Coleman said. “I’m a competitor. I want to get out there and I want to start and I want to be the best player that I can be, and I think I have plenty more room to grow.”

If Coleman grows into a player who can contribute to the Vikings’ defense, then Minnesota got a great deal.

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Lovie Smith praises his players for choosing to show up for voluntary work

Smith AP

NFL rules prohibit coaches from chastising players who choose not to show up for voluntary work.  But the rules say nothing about praising those who do.

On the first day of a voluntary minicamp, two weeks after the offseason program launched, new Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said that his new team has had perfect attendance in the offseason program, so far.

“Yes, everyone is here,” Smith said.  “Everyone has been here all offseason really and that’s what you expect.  It’s voluntary work, but if you want to get better, why would you pass up an opportunity?  I appreciate that from the team — again they want to do something.  All you can do at this time in April is just show up each day and get better and they’ve done that.”

The Bucs have a minicamp now because teams with new coaches are permitted to have an extra voluntary camp.  Smith recognizes the value of that.

“I think it’s a must,” Smith said. “That’s the good part about being a new staff, when you get this extra minicamp in.  It’s one thing to watch guys on video, but you want to see them on the football field to know in a lot of ways.  Of course, we want to see our roster but, too, with the draft coming up, to see exactly what we need.  Maybe we’re not as strong or maybe we’re a little scrawny at some of the positions.  And that’s what they’ll tell us during these next two days.

“So I can’t tell you how much it helps.  And, for the team, they’re wondering, ‘What is it like?  What’s the practice routine?  How are these guys going to coach?’  And they know that now.  So we’ve gotten a lot of those questions answered quickly.”

We won’t get answers about whether the Buccaneers are any better until September, when the real games start.

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Rolando McClain added to reserve/retired list

Rolando McClain AP

Ravens linebacker Rolando McClain has been placed on the reserve/retired list, according to the NFL’s Tuesday transaction log.

McClain told ESPN on Monday that he was ending his comeback attempt after a season away from football.

The Ravens signed the 24-year-old McClain last April, but the former Alabama star retired a little more than a month later. The Raiders’ first-round pick in 2010, McClain started 38 games in three seasons with Oakland, but off-field issues and a dispute with coach Dennis Allen marred his tenure.

For the time being, the Ravens retain McClain’s rights should he decide to return again to football.

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Alex Smith talks going slowly, could pick up after the draft

Alex Smith, Cortez Allen AP

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith acknowledged on Tuesday that talks aimed at extending a contract that expires after the coming season are underway.  And indeed they are.

But a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the discussions are moving very, very slowly.

The discussions could, and likely will, pick up after the draft.  If/when an agreement is reached, look for the deal to have a value in the neighborhood of $14 million to $17 million per year.  Which would be a very good contract for a guy who was the first pick in the 2005 draft and who was at times regarded as being a borderline bust.

Smith has busted out in a big way the last few years.  While it feels like he’s been around forever, Smith still isn’t 30 years old.

That’s true.  I checked.  Twice.  He turns 30 on May 7.

And he’s made plenty of money in the NFL over the last nine years.  He could be making a lot more, soon.

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