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News » Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-03-20

Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-03-20

Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-03-20
The Ravens improved their depth by adding two second-tier free agents, cornerback-returner Chris Carr and tight end L.J. Smith.

Carr, who signed a two-year, $5 million contract, should improve the Ravens' return game and replace Corey Ivy as the team's nickel back. Smith, who agreed in principle to a one-year, $1.5 million deal, should add another sizeable weapon in the red zone.

Carr, 25, whose signing came at the same time the Ravens released Samari Rolle, represents a shift at cornerback.

He would become the youngest Ravens nickel back in recent history. Since the 2000 season, it's a position the Ravens have reserved for such veterans as Corey Ivy, Deion Sanders, Corey Fuller and James Trapp.

Carr likely will compete with Frank Walker, who will likely remain the team's spot starter at cornerback.

"Chris is a versatile player who gives us quality depth in the secondary," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He has coverage skills, and he is a sound tackler willing to come up and take on the backs and the linemen blocking for those guys."

After having a limited role on defense with the Oakland Raiders, Carr made significant strides at cornerback last season for the Tennessee Titans. He finished with career highs in tackles (32) and passes broken up (five).

Perception of Carr started to change in November, when he was forced into the starting lineup because he was the last healthy cornerback. After getting picked on early by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carr broke up two passes and made an interception that set up Tennessee's final touchdown in a 24-14 win.

Said Carr: "I think that opened up some eyes that, 'Hey, this guy is good at corner.'"

Meanwhile, Smith, a six-year veteran from the Philadelphia Eagles, would improve a thin tight ends group for the Ravens. The team, which did not re-sign Daniel Wilcox, currently has Todd Heap (who caught 35 passes last season), Quinn Sypniewski (who was sidelined all season with a knee injury) and Edgar Jones (a converted linebacker).

There has been speculation that the addition of Smith puts the future of Heap in doubt. But the Ravens are expected to keep Heap because they would only save $1 million by cutting him.

Like Heap, Smith has been a productive pass-catching tight end when healthy.

In 2005 and 2006, Smith averaged 55.5 catches and 646.5 yards receiving. He caught a total of eight touchdowns.

In the past two injury-filled seasons, he averaged 29.5 catches and 267 yards receiving. He scored a combined four touchdowns.

Smith, who visited the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions this offseason, recently told Philadelphia reporters that teams have expressed concern about his injury history. He missed six games in 2007 with a sports hernia and was sidelined for three of the final four regular-season games in 2008 with a shoulder problem.

The Eagles, who gave $4.5 million to Smith last season as the team's franchise player, did not made an effort to re-sign Smith, the team's second-round pick in 2003. Smith has ties with Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who was a longtime Eagles assistant.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 20, 2009

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E.J. Cochrane Name: E.J. Cochrane
Position: PK
Age: 27
Experience: 1 years
College: Montana State
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