Trade Targets Before NFL Trade Deadline
The NFL trade deadline is tomorrow at 4 p.m., and with Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta being a proponent of trades, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec considered the possible trade options for the Ravens.
Before doing so, Zrebiec noted the Ravens' cap situation. Baltimore already made a couple big-name free-agent additions with Jason Pierre-Paul and DeSean Jackson.
"According to the NFL Players Association salary cap report, the Ravens are operating with just over $3 million of cap space," Zrebiec wrote. "That will certainly limit what DeCosta and Co. can do, although there are ways to make a deal work on both sides. The Ravens also aren't expected to be awarded any compensatory picks for the 2023 draft, meaning they don't have the draft capital they've had in past years."
Zrebiec listed his trades into three categories, with the most-likely options under "Right player, right price?"
Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans: "The speedy, yet diminutive wideout has already been traded three times in his career. It wouldn't be all that surprising if it happened again in the coming days," Zrebiec wrote. "The Texans aren't on the verge of contention, and their general manager Nick Caserio is a forward-thinking decision-maker. Cooks has two years left on his contract with a base salary of $18 million in 2023 and $13 million in 2024, so that poses some challenges. It's tough, though, to dispute the production. The 29-year-old has had over 1,000 receiving yards in six of his last seven seasons."
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos: "Of all the receivers being bandied about before the trade deadline, Jeudy might make the most sense for the Ravens," Zrebiec wrote. "The 2020 first-round pick is a big-play receiver who has another year remaining on his rookie contract. The Broncos already have quite a bit invested in their receiver room, and it has not produced good results. Jeudy and Lamar Jackson are also good friends, so perhaps he'd welcome a move to Baltimore to play in an offense that's not regarded as wide receiver-friendly. The cost for Jeudy may not be much more than a Day 2 pick at this point."
Zrebiec also listed some star players under a category deemed "Doesn't hurt to dream," including Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Brian Burns and wide receiver D.J. Moore, Denver Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and, interestingly, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool.
Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers: "The Ravens and Steelers have found a compromise on two trades before, but it doesn't seem likely in this case," Zrebiec wrote. "One, it's far from a lock that the Steelers will trade the wide receiver who is still under contract through next season. And two, do you really think if they did they'd be all that comfortable sending him to Baltimore, especially when the two teams meet twice over the final month of the season?"
Ravens Are the 'Team to Beat in the AFC North'
After defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday, the Ravens (5-3) guaranteed they'd end up in first place or tied for first in the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals by the end of Week 8. The Ravens' win sparked ESPN's Jay Williams to ask Max Kellerman if the Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC North on their podcast Keyshawn, JWill & Max.
"It's exactly the same as when the season started," Kellerman said. "Come on, sober analysis says the Steelers weren't going to win the division. The Browns weren't going to win the division because they didn't get Deshaun [Watson] until late in the season. It was going to come down to the Ravens because of two things. Lamar Jackson and [Head Coach John] Harbaugh. You got a great quarterback and a great coach together, they're usually in the mix. And the Bengals, who came one play from winning the Super Bowl last year because they are loaded."
Williams agreed and expressed how he feels good about how the Ravens have progressed and what lies on the horizon.
"Look, at the end of the day I think Lamar Jackson and company are going to be [in the playoffs]. The defense looked better [on Thursday], it's continued to progress in the right direction. Also, as a Giants fan, let's remember [Defensive Coordinator Don] 'Wink' Martindale was there for a very long time. So, we talk about the Pats, we talk about 'hey, well they have a new OC and a lot of their offensive scheming has changed.' Well, that's the same for Baltimore with that defense already being depleted and now trying to revamp around that. So, I think they are trending in the right direction. It's not going to happen overnight."
NBC Sports’ Peter King also has the Ravens as the highest-rated team in the AFC North, ranked No. 9 and one spot above the Bengals in his mid-season check in.
"The Mark Andrews shoulder injury is concerning, but Lamar Jackson loves rookie alternative Isaiah Likely," King wrote. "Here's an edge: None of Ravens' next eight foes are over .500."
Ravens Ranked No. 1 For 'Deepest NFL Roster'
Throughout the 2022 offseason, the Ravens made a concerted effort to add both high-end talent and stock-pile depth. Those additions, along with numerous players returning from last season injury, have ESPN’s Aaron Schatz ranking the Ravens No. 1 for deepest NFL roster.
"The best way to identify the quality of depth on the Ravens' roster is to note how many games the team has won over the past couple of years despite a ton of injuries," Schatz wrote. "(Last year, the Ravens set a record in Football Outsiders' adjusted games lost metric, and they would have set that record even in a 16-game season.) The Ravens have already had to dig into their depth this season with players such as J.K. Dobbins and Kyle Fuller on injured reserve, plus edge rushers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo missing at least the first half of the season."
Along with winning games, Schatz pointed to clear areas of depth on the offense and defense.
"The offensive line has quality backups, including Patrick Mekari and Ben Cleveland. The Ravens beat the Patriots a couple of weeks ago despite being forced to use a fourth string left tackle and fourth-round rookie Daniel Faalele," Schatz wrote. "The cornerback depth includes Brandon Stephens, who was a starting safety half of last year, and fourth-round rookies Damarion Williams and Jalyn Armour-Davis. Malik Harrison never quite worked out as a starting linebacker, but he makes for good depth, as does veteran A.J. Klein. Jason Pierre-Paul is a second-string edge rusher for this team."
There may be a correlation to boasting a deep roster and being successful as the top five deepest teams on Schatz' list (Ravens, Bills, Eagles, Patriots, Cowboys) are a combined 28-10, whereas the thinnest five teams (Rams, Cardinals, Giants, Panthers, Vikings) are 20-18.