Baltimore Ravens' Most Under and Overrated Offseason Additions
The Baltimore Ravens have added a handful of new faces to plug up the holes on the roster and, as usual, general manager Ozzie Newsome has managed to do a great job of finding the right players. This list is separated into under and overrated players, but in all honesty, there aren’t many offseason additions that are particularly overrated.
There are, however, a couple that might not be ready to fulfill the expectations that Ravens Nation has for them, and those are the players that will be discussed as the “overrated” ones.
On the contrary, there are others that could end up surprising us with how effective they can be. They won’t be stars of the team, but they will provide reliable depth (which is more than the Ravens could say last year) and exceed our expectations.
Underrated: Jeremy Butler
It’s hard to be overrated when you’re an undrafted free agent—it’s somewhat of a surprise if you actually make the final 53-man roster. But the Ravens have a history of finding success with their priority free agents, and Jeremy Butler looks like he could be the next one.
The fact that he’s listed here isn’t supposed to increase your expectations. He will have to work very hard and improve a lot between now and the final cutdown to even make the final squad, but all reports indicate that he’s been one of the most impressive receivers out of the group that is competing for the final WR spots (including Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams, Gerrard Sheppard to name a few).
Bo Smolka of CSNBaltimore.com observed that many of those wideouts had some issues holding on to the football—not Butler:
While many receivers—including [Marlon] Brown—had troubles with dropped passes during the Ravens OTA workouts over the past month, Butler consistently made plays. He made athletic catches over the middle, in traffic, and down the sideline. While third-string quarterback Keith Wenning and other rookies worked on a far field in 11-on-11 drills, Butler remained with the No. 1 and No. 2 offense.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley said the same thing in his notes from minicamp:
Wide receiver Jeremy Butler continues to make plays this offseason. The rookie from Tennessee-Martin is trying to become the latest undrafted success story for the Ravens. Butler is making more catches than the other players who are competing for one of the last receiver spots on the team such as Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson and LaQuan Williams. Butler's path got easier when the Ravens waived Aaron Mellette, too.
Four of those WR spots are locked up by Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown, and Butler may just be the next best receiver on the roster. At 6’2”, 224 pounds, he’s a big target that can make contested catches.
He’ll need to impress in preseason games to survive the roster cuts, but he could end up being a valuable piece of the receiving corps moving forward.
Overrated: Sammy Seamster
This isn’t to say that Sammy Seamster is a bad player or anything like that. I just feel like the expectations for his rookie season may be getting out of hand.
He’s the most enticing UDFA of the cornerbacks because of his tantalizing physical tools. For that reason he stands a decent chance of making the roster so the Ravens can groom him into a long-term contributor in the secondary.
But it is probably too much to consider him a factor to replace Corey Graham as the third corner this season.
He has the frame (6’0” and 200 pounds) to develop into a big-bodied corner, but he wasn’t even a full-time starter at Middle Tennessee State and is a very raw prospect that will need some time to refine his technique.
He should be evaluated as a long-term project, and anything he provides this season is a huge bonus.
Underrated: Justin Forsett
Justin Forsett was taking a lot of first-team reps at running back during the beginning of OTAs. The roles eventually returned to what everyone expected, with Ray Rice taking back the lion’s share of those reps, but it’s clear that the coaching staff is impressed with Forsett.
First of all, he knows Gary Kubiak’s system well and knows which defensive cues to read as he’s making his cuts.
Secondly, he’s an underrated running back than can do it all. You’re probably not in great shape if he’s your primary runner, but he’s an experience runner with the speed to make some plays in space and great hands out of the backfield.
Nobody should expect Forsett to rush for over 1,000 yards or anything like that, but he’s a quality backup that can be counted on in the event of injury to one of his comrades in the backfield.
As Forsett told Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com, he is focused on being ready when he’s needed:
My mentality is to just seize the moment when it comes. I have to be ready when my number is called. I’m preparing for that opportunity.
Forsett was an overlooked addition that has the wherewithal to play a large role in the offense if necessary.
Overrated: Darian Stewart
Darian Stewart was hardly the big name Ravens fans were hoping for to fill in as the starting free safety this season. That’s not to say that he can’t do a good job in the role, but it’s a relatively high expectation for a player that has struggled to stay on the field and hasn’t been much better than average when he has been a consistent starter.
Again, that’s not to say that he won’t have a great year. By all accounts, Stewart has looked impressive alongside Matt Elam in the backfield, and the Ravens have a tendency to bring out the best in overlooked castoffs from other rosters (e.g. James Ihedigbo and Daryl Smith).
It is most likely, however, that Stewart is the weakest link in the Ravens secondary that defensive coordinator Dean Pees needs to cover for.
Underrated: Owen Daniels
I wasn’t over the moon when I found out that the Ravens had signed tight end Owen Daniels. The rumors began swirling immediately after the Houston Texans released him, but did Baltimore need a player that closely resembles Dennis Pitta?
Like Pitta, he’s not a great run-blocker and the majority of his contributions will come through the air. While that’s not the best thing for the running game, there’s a good chance that he can compensate for it with his skills as a pass-catcher.
He’s very familiar with Gary Kubiak’s offensive philosophy and was a Pro Bowl player just two seasons ago, hauling in 62 receptions for 716 yards.
That kind of production is a lofty expectation, but given Kubiak’s propensity for relying heavily on two-tight end sets, it would hardly be surprising to see him replicate (or at least come close to) the combined production of Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson last season (56 receptions for 616 yards and 4 TDs)—hopefully with significantly fewer dropped passes; the duo dropped nine passes in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The big caveat here is that such a good season requires Daniels to stay healthy all year, which certainly isn’t a given.
According to Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com, Daniels feels healthy right now, and that’s a good sign for the offense:
I’m kind of getting older now, but my body feels good after coming off last year. The injury is a non-issue. I had to knock some rust off the first couple days after not playing football since last October, but I’m feeling better as I go along through OTAs.
If that is in fact true, Daniels could end up being a major factor in the offense as a secondary option for Joe Flacco behind the three-headed core of Pitta, Torrey Smith and Steve Smith Sr.