Robert Griffin III is back in the NFL after agreeing to a one-year contract with a franchise a little over 30 miles from where he had his greatest success in the league.
The former Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns quarterback will join the Baltimore Ravens, General Manager Ozzie Newsome said in a surprise announcement Wednesday. Griffin, 28, sat out the 2017 season after his release last March by the Browns, with whom he spent one injury-marred season, appearing in only five games after breaking the coracoid bone in his left shoulder in the Browns’ opener.
Griffin’s response to the deal? “#PlayLikeaRaven” he wrote on Twitter and Instagram.
“He came in last week, worked out — had a real good workout — and we were able to come to an agreement late yesterday,” Newsome said in his Wednesday pre-draft news conference. “He will probably be here early next week to sign the deal.”
Ravens Coach John Harbaugh echoed that, adding that he was “very excited” about the acquisition. “Confident guy. We felt like we needed a No. 2 quarterback [behind Joe Flacco],” he said. “I feel like we got a steal. I felt like he really wanted to be here, be a Raven.”
The partnership has been in the making for a while. Griffin told ESPN last December that he had turned down offers from the Ravens and Arizona Cardinals because the timing and situations weren’t right.
The Ravens, he said then, “offered me a contract right before the first preseason game to start against the Redskins. Selfishly, I could have said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take that. I want to go play against them,’ but I knew I wouldn’t have been ready with that offense, with those guys, to go put my best foot forward. When I step on the field the next time, I want to make sure I put my best foot forward and make sure that, obviously, I stay healthy but I get a nice [rapport] with the team and with the athletes and the coaches.”
The Ravens’ courtship of Griffin could be a major line of inquiry Thursday, when, as reported Wednesday by Pro Football Talk, Harbaugh and Newsome are set to be questioned under oath by Colin Kaepernick’s legal team. Kaepernick, who himself has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, has filed a grievance against the league and is trying to collect evidence to support his assertion that team owners colluded to keep him out of the league after his protests during the national anthem.
Baltimore executives made a very public show of mulling the possibility of signing Kaepernick last summer as a backup to Flacco, but ultimately decided against it, after owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged that the protests were a factor. As PFT’s Mike Florio suggested, lawyers for Kaepernick, who has had a more productive career than Griffin, may ask the Ravens “plenty of questions” about why the latter was more appealing to them.
For his part, Griffin said in a separate ESPN interview last December that he was “100 percent” committed to returning to the league and competing for a starting job.
“I think every quarterback in my situation, being this young, having the success that I’ve had in the league, you want to be a starter,” Griffin said. “That’s what you want. But what am I willing to do? I’m willing to go in and compete to be QB1, because when you’re out of football for a year, you have to have that expectation. Whether I go in as a one or a two, I’m still going in there to compete, but I wouldn’t mind going in and sitting behind an aging vet, learning some things from them, grow with an offensive staff, grow with the team, see the pieces that they can put together and grow as a football player in that way. I’m not opposed to that, but as a quarterback, as a competitor, I want to go in and compete.”
Flacco, who is under contract through 2021 with an opt-out clause after the 2019 season, has started every game for which he has been healthy since the Ravens drafted him in the first round in 2008. He played all 16 games last season and completed 352 of 549 passes for 3,141 yards with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Baltimore finished 9-7 and missed the postseason only when it suffered a dramatic last-minute loss in Week 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ryan Mallett was Flacco’s primary backup the past two seasons, but he is an unrestricted free agent. Josh Woodrum, who spent last season on the Ravens’ practice squad and has never appeared in an NFL game, is the only other quarterback on Baltimore’s roster.
Although Griffin hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since the 2016 season, when he went 1-4 as a starter and threw two touchdowns and three interceptions, he has hardly been out of the headlines. Since leaving Washington, he has gone through a divorce from his college sweetheart (in 2016), become a father for a second time and last month married his girlfriend, Grete Sadeiko.
One former Redskins teammate immediately wished him well on Twitter. “It only was a matter of time,” Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo wrote. “Now make the best of this opportunity.”
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