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Late for Work 1/25: NFL Executives Predict Ravens as Landing Spot for DeAndre Hopkins

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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) runs a pass route during an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz.

NFL Executives Predict Patriots or Ravens Will Trade for DeAndre Hopkins

With three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins reportedly on the trade block, the Ravens continue to be mentioned as a potential destination for the Arizona Cardinals star.

ESPN asked a selection of top league executives to make bold predictions for the offseason, and Hopkins landing in Baltimore was among them.

"In Hopkins, the Ravens would be getting a true vertical threat for Lamar Jackson, who many coaches say needs a rangy target," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote. "If Baltimore is serious about keeping Jackson, it's time to get him more firepower on the outside."

Fowler noted that any team interested in Hopkins would likely be able to acquire him without giving up a first-round pick.

"At age 30 with a $19.4 million base salary, Hopkins might not merit a first-round pick in return (like he probably did in 2020 when Houston shipped him to Arizona for a second-round pick and David Johnson). The Cardinals would be wise to eat some of the money to facilitate a deal," Fowler wrote.

The Ravens do not have a second-round pick in this year's draft to trade, after dealing that to Chicago for Roquan Smith. Executives also pointed to the Patriots as a possible landing spot for Hopkins.

"Bill Belichick is a huge admirer of Hopkins' game and needs a game-changing receiver in the worst way. He's also one of the league's most active traders," Fowler wrote.

Ravens Enter Offseason at an Inflection Point

The Ravens have earned a reputation as a model franchise, but even teams with a solid foundation and tradition of success face inflection points.

The Ravens enter the offseason at such a point, The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker wrote.

Walker noted that the last time the Ravens were in this position was 2018. After having made the playoffs six times in seven seasons, they missed the playoffs three years in a row.

The Ravens responded by drafting Lamar Jackson, who stepped in for an injured Joe Flacco midway through the season and led the Ravens back to the postseason.

"After that promising relaunch, [Head Coach John] Harbaugh handed the offensive reins to Greg Roman, asking him to build a 'revolutionary' attack around Jackson's next-generation run-pass skills," Walker wrote. "Sure enough, the Ravens stormed the league in 2019. Jackson was Most Valuable Player at age 23. Baltimore had its next great sports hero. Another trip to the Super Bowl felt inevitable.

"And now, here we are three years later, wondering why the Ravens have won just one playoff game with Jackson at quarterback."

Undoubtedly, there are plenty of franchises who would love to trade places with the Ravens. Baltimore has had just two losing seasons in Harbaugh's 15 years as head coach, and an inordinate amount of injuries played a large role in both of those seasons.

However, when playoff appearances and winning seasons are the norm, there is angst when the years between deep postseason runs start to pile up.

"It's strange to speak with such anxiety about a Ravens team that just made the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons, that rediscovered its mojo on defense and pushed the Cincinnati Bengals — who might win it all in a few weeks — to the brink," Walker wrote. "But we do not know what we will see when they line up for their season opener in eight months.

"Harbaugh will be in charge on the sideline. The defense, with in-their-prime centerpieces Roquan Smith and Marlon Humphrey and adaptable young coordinator Mike Macdonald, will be good enough to keep them in games. But will it be Jackson, Tyler Huntley or a fresh draft pick operating an offense re-imagined by Roman's replacement? Until we know the answer to that question, we cannot predict with any confidence where this franchise is headed."

The Ravens have made it clear that they want Jackson in Baltimore for next season and beyond. There are already key players in place on both sides of the ball.

"There are pieces to be excited about here," Walker wrote. "J.K. Dobbins, frustrated as he was with his lack of carries in the Ravens' playoff loss, reestablished himself as a great runner after he returned from a cleanup surgery on his knee. Mark Andrews remains one of the league's best tight ends, and rookie Isaiah Likely showed he could be a dynamic pass catcher in the games he played without Andrews. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman flashed as a deep threat before a Lisfranc injury cut his second season short. The Ravens sorted out their troubles on the offensive line. Add Jackson and another viable wide receiver — easier said than done — to that stew, and the right chef would be ready to cook.

"It's also worth noting that Harbaugh made an astute choice in handing his defense to the 35-year-old Macdonald, who pulled back from [Wink] Martindale's all-out attacking and showed a gift for tailoring his game plan to each opponent. If the Bengals win the Super Bowl, we will remember how Macdonald's defense stifled Joe Burrow and company three times in three matchups and nearly cut off Cincinnati's postseason march at its root. The Ravens did not give Burrow obvious looks to attack, and they made Cincinnati's playmakers feel every tackle. For all the questions around Jackson and their offense, the Ravens came out of 2022 feeling fine about their defensive future."

Which Free Agent Can the Ravens Not Afford to Lose?

Pro Football Focus' Brad Spielberger named one free agent each team can't afford to lose. Any guesses on which player he chose for the Ravens?

"The Ravens simply live and die by Lamar Jackson on offense," Spielberger wrote. "In seven games to end the season without Jackson under center, the Ravens never once reached 20 points, with their -0.158 expected points added per play over the stretch ranking 26th. Through Week 12, the offense ranked eighth in EPA per play, at .028.

"It's typically smart to ignore most offseason commentary from head coaches and general managers, but Baltimore's John Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta seemed genuine with their remarks at an end-of-season press conference, emphatically stating Jackson is the future of this franchise."

Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Linderbaum Make PFWA All-Rookie Team

Safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum received yet another accolade, as both first-round picks were named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team.

Baltimore Beatdown's Spencer Schultz said the selection of Hamilton and Linderbaum "is quite an accomplishment [for] General Manager Eric DeCosta, the Ravens personnel and scouting departments, as well as the coaching staff." The Ravens were one of seven teams to have multiple players on the team.

"Hamilton and Linderbaum are just 21 and 22 years old, respectively," Schultz wrote. "Hamilton, who declared for the NFL Draft as a true junior has already displayed the physicality and athleticism required to compete at the highest level. Linderbaum, who played over 1,000 snaps for the Ravens, looks every part of a player who can lock down one of the Ravens' most tumultuous positions over the last decade."

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