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Late for Work 2/10: Ravens Signing Cap Cut at Wide Receiver 'More Likely' Than Trading for Top Target

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C.

Ravens Signing Cap Cut at Wide Receiver 'More Likely' Than Trading for DeAndre Hopkins or Keenan Allen

There is no question the Ravens need and intend to upgrade at wide receiver this offseason. However, acquiring an established star at the position is easier said than done given the uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson's contract situation.

"It's tempting to envision Lamar Jackson returning to the Baltimore Ravens offense and throwing deep downfield to DeAndre Hopkins or Keenan Allen," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. "But the biggest obstacle to getting an established wide receiver for Jackson this offseason might be the quarterback himself.

"The Ravens won't have much salary-cap room to sign a top-notch target or trade for one if they have to put the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson next month. All of the Ravens' $26 million cap space will get taken up by Jackson's $45 million franchise tag, which means Baltimore will have to cut players and rework contracts to fit him under the cap."

The free-agent class for wide receivers this offseason is thin, with the top pending free agents being Jakobi Meyers, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Allen Lazard. Smith-Schuster is the only one of the three to have ever made the Pro Bowl or had a 1,000-yard season (he did both in 2018).

However, there are several intriguing potential trade options and cap-cut candidates. In addition to Hopkins and Allen, veterans such as Brandin Cooks, Adam Thielen, Michael Thomas, and Robert Woods could be available because their teams are in salary-cap strain.

Pulling off a trade could be difficult, though, because the Ravens only have five draft picks this year, including just one in the first 85 selections.

"If the Ravens were willing to trade a pick this year (or swap picks this year and give up future ones), they would need to get new deals with Hopkins ($19.45 million salary in 2023), Allen ($15.5 million) and Cooks ($18 million), because they wouldn't be able to fit them under the cap," Hensley wrote. "The more likely scenario is signing an expected cap cut like Thielen, Woods or Thomas. Baltimore has a track record of adding wide receivers who are 30 or older, from Derrick Mason to Anquan Boldin to Steve Smith."

General Manager Eric DeCosta acknowledged at the season-review press conference last month that he will have his work cut out for him.

"I know what the fans would like," DeCosta joked. "As we look at it, honestly, when you have a big-ticket item at quarterback, it makes it more challenging – not impossible. We'll have to get creative, and there are things we can do. There are a lot of different ways to go about constructing the team and finding players and affording players and various things like that. But we've got to be really creative."

What Five Leading Offensive Coordinator Candidates Could Bring to Ravens

There are reportedly five candidates for the Ravens' offensive coordinator job who have received second interviews. The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer looked at what each could bring to Baltimore. Here are some excerpts:

Brian Angelichio, Minnesota Vikings passing game coordinator and tight ends coach

What he brings: "Experience with unlocking a star wide receiver. Justin Jefferson led the NFL this past season in targets (184), catches (128) and receiving yards (1,809), production that attested not only to his All-Pro ability but also to the Vikings' evolving offense."

Dave Canales, Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach

What he brings: "Downfield-passing acumen. … In recent years, he's helped two Seahawks quarterbacks (Russell Wilson, Geno Smith) rank among the league's best on downfield throws."

Bobby Engram, former Wisconsin offensive coordinator

What he brings: "Familiarity with the Ravens' personnel. Engram served under [John] Harbaugh from 2014 to 2021, first as wide receivers coach and then as tight ends coach, until he was named Wisconsin's offensive coordinator in January 2022. Engram, well respected in the Ravens' locker room, helped develop one of the NFL's best collections of tight ends and fullbacks."

Todd Monken, Georgia offensive coordinator

What he brings: "Heavy-personnel success. The 2022 Bulldogs, led by a former walk-on at quarterback in Stetson Bennett, were the second-most efficient offense in the FBS, according to ESPN. And they tore up defenses without many spread looks. Georgia's most common player package was '12' personnel (one back, two tight ends and two wide receivers), which it ran on 59.2% of its plays, according to TruMedia; only two FBS teams used the grouping more often."

Justin Outten, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator

What he brings: "Familiarity with the NFL's most influential scheme. Outten joined the Falcons as a coaching intern in 2016, learning from then-Atlanta Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Three years later, new Green Bay Head Coach Matt LaFleur hired Outten as the Packers' tight ends coach. LaFleur had served as Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay's offensive coordinator in 2017, and before that, he'd overlapped with Shanahan in Atlanta. Their offensive systems have shaped the modern NFL."

Shaffer also identified what each of the five candidates lack and looked at two other potential candidates.

Steelers Rumored to Have Interest in Marcus Peters

Ravens fans would probably be disappointed if pending free agent Marcus Peters doesn't re-sign. They would probably be devastated if Peters signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers are rumored to be interested in Peters if he becomes available, according to Pittsburgh sports talk show host Andrew Fillipponi, reporting from Radio Row at the Super Bowl in Arizona.

Cornerback is considered one of the Steelers’ top offseason needs. Peters, 30, "is likely looking at one-year offers in free agency to serve as a No. 2 cornerback with upside going forward," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.

When DeCosta was asked last month about Peters' chances of re-signing with the Ravens, he said: "I have crazy respect for Marcus; one of my favorite guys on the team – tremendous competitor. At some point, Marcus and I will probably speak."

Peters played in 13 games this past season after missing all of 2021 with a torn ACL. The three-time All-Pro had one interception, the first time in his career that he failed to record multiple picks in a season.

Quick Hits

  • The 2000 Ravens defense was ranked as one of the 10 greatest defenses in Super Bowl history by Fox Sports.

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