COMMENTARY | The 2013 season is almost here for the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The team's 10 draft picks and undrafted free agents will report to the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md, on Sunday.
The rest of the team will report by Wednesday, with the first full-team practices kicking off on Thursday leading up to the preseason opener in Tampa Bay on August 8.
For the Ravens, the "dead period" of the NFL calendar leading up to training camp has been nothing short of an eventful process.
Here are some of the latest news and rumors regarding the Ravens:
Matt Elam Signs Four-Year Deal
The Ravens' last unsigned draft pick, safety Matt Elam, finally signed his rookie contract on Thursday. The deal is reportedly for four years, with a fifth-year option.
The deal is worth $6.767 million, with a signing bonus of $3.301 million. The reasoning behind Elam's lengthy process to sign his contract is because he opted to not sign an agent. With the rookie wage scale, draft picks have little leverage in contract negotiations, so Elam's contract was almost set in stone before discussions between him and the Ravens even began.
Vonta Leach's Return Still A Looming Possibility
As each day goes by, it becomes more and more apparent that the Ravens have a legitimate shot at re-signing veteran fullback Vonta Leach, who they released in June after the sides couldn't come to an agreement on a reduced contract.
The longer Leach remains on the market, the more his value goes down, and ultimately he may not find a better offer than what the Ravens presented to him prior to his release. According to The Baltimore Sun, Leach remains in contract discussions with the Miami Dolphins, however he hasn't ruled out a return to Baltimore.
Right now, rookie Kyle Juszczyk is slated to be the team's starting fullback. However, Juszczyk is a more versatile player who could be better utilized as a tight end and slot receiver, opening the door for Leach to re-assume fullback duties.
Ravens Face "No Pressure" As Defending Champions
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith appeared on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" and addressed the issue of whether or not the Ravens face pressure as the defending Super Bowl champions.
"I feel like there's no pressure at all," Smith said. "Because nobody expected us to be there in the first place, so the defending title thing is kind of overblown."
The Ravens have never been a team to have a target on its back by opposing teams, however being the defending champions could change that. Only time will tell whether or not NFL teams' perception of the Ravens have changed.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He is a Baltimore Ravens contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and is the co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly Ravens podcast.
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