Which Wide Receivers Could the Ravens Target This Offseason?
Aside from Lamar Jackson's future, the most-discussed topic concerning the Ravens' offseason is an all-too-familiar one for the franchise: Which available wide receivers should the team attempt to add?
At the top of the wish list is three-time Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who reportedly is on the trade block.
But is Baltimore a realistic destination for the three-time All-Pro? Considering the Ravens' salary-cap situation and lack of draft capital, they're not an ideal candidate.
"The Ravens would have $40.1 million in space, according to salary cap website Spotrac, if the 2023 cap were set at $225 million. But that flexibility would disappear as soon as Jackson signed his franchise tag tender," The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer wrote. "Without more salary cap space, a high-profile acquisition could be difficult. … [Hopkins would] be owed a $19.5 million salary in 2023, a big bill for a 30-year-old who's played in just 19 games over the past two seasons."
Russell Street Report’s Rob Shields wrote: "The Ravens won't (and shouldn't) trade their 1st rounder for Hopkins and I don't think anyone else will either. I can see him fetching multiple second-rounders, a two and a three, or something along those lines. The Ravens' lack of a second-rounder this year hinders them in any trade talks. On top of that, I just don't see Eric DeCosta moving any picks for Hopkins. He loves his draft picks and right now, he only has five in this draft. They are not expected to get any comp picks either, so this is it."
ESPN's Bill Barnwell, who named "help at wide receiver" as the main thing the Ravens need to do to improve, mentioned some other wide receivers the team could possibly target. One was JuJu Smith-Schuster, who they reportedly pursued in the past.
"A more realistic option might be DJ Chark (Lions) or Parris Campbell (Colts), both of whom will be unrestricted free agents," Barnwell wrote. "DeCosta might prefer to go after a cap casualty to avoid missing out on a compensatory draft pick, which could lead the Ravens toward possible offseason cuts Adam Thielen, Robert Woods or Michael Thomas. Either way, if they hope to win the North for the first time since 2019, they'll need to supplement a thin receiving corps this offseason."
ESPN Pundit Says One Particular Narrative About Jackson Is an Overreaction
ESPN's Dan Graziano looked at some of the narratives coming out of wild-card weekend and assessed whether each was an overreaction.
Regarding the Ravens, he concluded that the notion that Jackson has played his final game with the team is an overreaction.
"Oh, it could absolutely happen. They could franchise him, he could demand a trade and they could end up in a divorce," Graziano said. "But I still think, given the character of the player and the solidity of the organization, that there's a better chance than not that they cool off a bit, get back to the bargaining table and figure something out. There's a lot to figure out, given the way this year has gone. But Jackson and the Ravens have had a lot more good times together than bad. And once the sting of the playoff loss fades, I think they get back together to try to work this out."
Yesterday, a number of Jackson’s teammates voiced their support for him as they cleaned out their lockers.
Mike Florio: Officials Missed Illegal Block on Bengals' Fumble Return for TD
Mark Andrews nearly ran down Sam Hubbard on the Bengals defensive end's game-changing, 98-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Ravens' loss in Cincinnati Saturday night. Had it not been for a controversial block by linebacker Markus Bailey at the 30-yard-line, the tight end might have made the tackle.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said the officials should've thrown a flag for an illegal block in the back. which the NFL defines as "blocks an opponent (from behind) in the back above the opponent's waist, or uses his hands or arms to push an opponent from behind in a manner that affects his movement, except in close-line play."
"Bailey puts his hand in the middle of Andrews' back and shoves. It should have been a foul," Florio wrote. "Which would have given the Bengals the ball, 10 yards behind the spot of the foul — roughly, the Baltimore 30. If the flag had been thrown, the Bengals would have had a first and 10, at approximately the Baltimore 40. In a 17-17 game. Regardless of what would have happened next, it would have been a lot different than a 14-point lightning strike that ultimately provided the final points in the game."
Fox Sports rules analyst Dean Blandino said not throwing the flag was the correct call.
"A little bit of a push in the back. It was really close," Blandino said for The 33rd Team. "A lot of people thought it should have been a flag. Look, this is a tough one. It's one of those in-between. And when it's in-between, you don't want the official to make that call. You want it to be clear. There was some contact on the side, there was some contact on the back. And if we have to sit there and debate whether it was or wasn't a foul, then it's not clear enough to make that call in that situation. It's close, but I felt like it was a good no-call on that play."
One could argue that Blandino's explanation actually validates the opinion that a penalty should've been called. The NFL rulebook states "the use of hands on the back is not a foul when both of the blocker's hands are on the opponent's side. (If either hand is on the back, it is a foul.)"
By Blandino's own admission – and what our own eyes saw – Bailey shoved Andrews in the back.
Ravens Have Devised 'Perfect Defense to Slow Down Bengals Offense'
The Bengals offense will not face a tougher defense in the postseason than the one they played against on Saturday night, The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz wrote.
"If I were trying to design the perfect defense to slow down this Bengals offense, I would simply point at the Ravens' unit and say 'do what they do,'" Ruiz wrote. "Of course, doing that is a lot easier said than done. First-year coordinator Mike Macdonald already has one of the deepest playbooks in the league. The Ravens run a little bit of everything, and since their midseason trade for linebacker Roquan Smith, they've been running it all at a high level.
"Macdonald views the game through the same lens [Bengals quarterback Joe] Burrow does, and that's what makes him such a formidable adversary. He knows that Burrow knows that he knows. It's Gen Z Manning vs. Belichick, and every football fan should be happy that we'll get to see these two match wits twice a year until some team hires Macdonald to be its head coach. I'm sure Burrow is happy he won't have to face Macdonald again this postseason, because there isn't another defense that plays this particular brand of football — and there certainly isn't one that does it as well as the Ravens."
Three Non-Wide Receivers Ravens Could Select in First Round
We now know the Ravens will have the 22nd-overall pick in the draft, so The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon looked at some potential targets.
Not surprisingly, multiple wide receivers were mentioned, but Doon noted that the team has other needs. Here's a look at three players who aren't wide receivers that Doon believes the Ravens could take in the first round:
Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
"With veteran cornerback Marcus Peters hitting free agency, the Ravens could have a glaring hole opposite three-time Pro Bowl selection Marlon Humphrey. The 6-foot, 180-pound Witherspoon became a star in his junior season, earning first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press and finishing as the No. 2 graded cornerback in the country according to Pro Football Focus."
Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness
"With Calais Campbell potentially retiring and Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul entering free agency, the Ravens need to bolster their defensive line. The 6-5, 275-pound Van Ness, one of the draft's most intriguing prospects, could be the right fit. The redshirt sophomore stood out on one of the nation's best defenses despite never making a start, totaling 18.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks over two seasons."
Florida G O'Cyrus Torrence
"Right guard Kevin Zeitler is entering the final year of his deal, while left guard Ben Powers is entering unrestricted free agency. There's still hope for 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland to grab a starting role, but he's been inconsistent in his first two seasons. The Ravens could use a better pass blocker on the interior, and the 6-5, 347-pound Torrence fits the bill. The Louisiana transfer dominated against SEC competition, not allowing a sack or a hit all season."