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Late for Work: Pundits Debate Best Quarterback in AFC North

Bengals QB Joe Burrow (left) & Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (right)
Bengals QB Joe Burrow (left) & Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (right)

Pundits Debate Best Quarterback in AFC North

Comparison may be the thief of joy, but it comes with the territory in the sports world. And with it, one would expect a two-time MVP quarterback to stand above the other signal callers in the AFC North who have won zero MVP's.

But "Move the Sticks’" Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks threw out the accolades when ranking the quarterbacks of the AFC North, coming to a split decision on the No. 1 QB in the North.

"I know this is going to be controversial but I'm okay, I'm going to stand on it," Brooks said. "So, let's go Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson."

"I had Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson," Jeremiah said. "… For those that don't know, when you're in a draft room, you know one thing that never comes up. 'This guy won a Heisman trophy, or this guy was all-conference.' Accolades don't mean anything when we're stacking these guys. So, the MVP's, this is not a part of the way we do business. It's not the way scouts think, it's not the way scouts talk, it's not the way we're going to do it here. So, I'm not going to say I gave Lamar Jackson the nod because he won a couple MVPs. I went with Lamar Jackson over Joe Burrow because I can rely on him, health wise. That was the tiebreaker."

Brooks' counterpoint for taking Burrow over Jackson was postseason performance.

"The thing that does it for me when it comes to Joe Burrow, I would say in a one-game scenario, I am more comfortable with Joe Burrow as my QB1 in terms of style of play and how we're going to get it done," Brooks said. "Throwing it on the perimeter, the way he takes his game up another notch, the way that he's performed routinely in the postseason, I've seen Joe Burrow take his team to a Super Bowl. I've yet to see that from Lamar Jackson. So, to me, the nod came in the postseason performance and postseason pedigree. That's how I separated one and two in the AFC North."

Regardless of the rankings, both concluded the AFC North boasts the best quarterback talent of any division, which further proves it's the best in the NFL. They weren't alone in such thinking either, with’s Eric Edholm ranking the North No. 1 in quarterback play, too.

"On name value alone, this division packs some serious punch. Jackson is coming off his second MVP campaign," Edholm wrote. "Pound for pound, top to bottom, there's a lot to like with the North crop. Hence, the division receiving top billing on this list. … This group ranks first because of the high, firmly established floors of Jackson and Burrow -- when healthy -- as well as the potential for the Browns and Steelers to improve their QB play from a year ago."

Pundit Thinks Ravens Will Regret Signing Lamar Jackson, Justin Madubuike to Big Contracts

The Ravens got their money's worth one season into signing Jackson to a long-term extension as he led the team to the No. 1 seed, the AFC Championship game and won a host of personal accolades. But Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon thinks the Ravens will "likely regret" signing Jackson to the then-highest-paid deal in NFL history.

"While Jackson immediately put together an MVP campaign for the Ravens, he again failed to get them to a Super Bowl," Gagnon wrote. "Now, he'll become more expensive, and the rest of the roster will decline as a result. What's more, we're talking about a somewhat fragile, often-exposed quarterback who has failed to complete two of his last three seasons."

The goalposts for judging Jackson have considerably moved. And if the criteria for judging a contract solely depends on the team winning a Super Bowl, a few more players should be added to Gagnon's list.

Gagnon didn't stop there, also listing defensive lineman Justin Madubuike's new contract as another the Ravens may regret.

"While Madubuike broke out with a career-high 13 sacks and a second-team All-Pro nod in 2023, that was his first campaign with even six-plus sacks or even a single forced fumble," Gagnon wrote. "The 2020 third-round pick could very well be a one-year wonder."

Nothing about Madubuike's game has demonstrated being a one-year wonder. He's developed and improved each year and it culminated in his dominant fourth NFL season. Fewer rotational snaps plus a solid supporting cast last season helped vault Madubuike's breakout, but the signs were there.

As for the contract, interior rushers were highly paid this offseason, with Kansas City Chiefs' Chris Jones and Las Vegas Raiders' Christian Wilkins each signing deals bigger than Madubuike's.

Five Ravens Facing Make-or-Break Seasons

According to Ravenswire’s Glenn Erby, a handful of Ravens are facing critical seasons in 2024. For Erby, the potential of these players is reaching a pivotal point this season.

David Ojabo, Outside linebacker

"Ojabo, a former second-round pick, was an obvious choice for this list, as he has been limited to five games over his first two seasons. Still, he offers pass rush prowess, and Baltimore could struggle to lead the NFL in sacks again."

Broderick Washington, Defensive end/Defensive tackle

"The defensive tackle started five games after signing a three-year contract extension in the offseason, but his defensive snap rate dropped from 52 percent to 38 percent to 33 percent over the last three weeks. Washington had 12 tackles and a fumble recovery in 2023 and will be counted on to replace Clowney's production."

Ben Cleveland, Offensive guard

"The 2021 third-round pick has played well when given the opportunity, but he's never been able to lock down a starting spot. Baltimore has two offensive guard spots open and now is Cleveland's best shot."

Jalyn Armour-Davis, Cornerback

"The 24-year-old cornerback landed on injured reserve in December and has struggled to stay on the field throughout his two-year NFL career, appearing in just 12 of Baltimore's 32 games. The Alabama product has been solid on special teams and could break out in 2024."

Malik Harrison, Linebacker

"Harrison, who was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, will battle Trenton Simpson for Patrick Queen's inside linebacker spot. The 6-foot-3, 259-pound hybrid can play the edge and play on the inside at linebacker. He played in 14 games last season, including eight starts, and made 20 tackles. He has made 120 tackles over his four-year career and played in all but six games."

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