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Late for Work: Pundits Debate Whether Derrick Henry Makes Ravens AFC Favorites

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs as Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton (52) defends during an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024 in Nashville, Tenn.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs as Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton (52) defends during an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024 in Nashville, Tenn.

Pundits Debate Whether Derrick Henry Makes Ravens AFC Favorites

Having Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry in the same backfield figures to be a nightmare for defenses, but does the addition of the four-time Pro Bowl running back make the Ravens the team to beat in the AFC instead of the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs?

The oddsmakers don't think so. Despite having the best regular season record last season before falling a game short of the Super Bowl, the Ravens' odds (via ESPN BET) to win the AFC North, conference, and Super Bowl remained the same after Henry's signing was announced.

ESPN's Ryan Clark doesn't think so either.

"I'm excited to see what this run game will look like from a physical standpoint, but this doesn't change the fact that Kansas City is the team to beat and Vegas still has it right," Clark said on "Get Up."

Clark elaborated on his stance on "First Take," saying: "The last time we saw a running back be the reason a team won a Super Bowl has to be back in the '90s, '80s. That's not what football is anymore. …. Does this make them imposing on Madden? Absolutely. Will they win the championship if this is the team you pick? Absolutely. But in playing football in reality, having the best running back doesn't make you the best team if you can't do the things around him to win important football games. And we haven't seen that from Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, and we haven't seen that from a team that Derrick Henry was on."

FanDuel TV's Kay Adams also is skeptical that adding Henry will get the Ravens over the hump. She said the Ravens are still a Super Bowl contender, but Henry's arrival might be offset by the losses the Ravens suffered this offseason in free agency and on the coaching staff.

"Is Derrick enough? I don't know, because it's not the same team," Adams said on "Up & Adams." "The Ravens aren't done, but those are a lot of losses to manage, especially when it comes to a defense that is reigning No. 1."

Fox Sports 1's Skip Bayless doesn't share those concerns. He feels strongly that Henry will help the Ravens win the Super Bowl.

"This was a win-the-Super Bowl move for the Baltimore Ravens," Bayless said on "Undisputed." "I'm going to go right out on the end of the limb and pick them to win next year's Super Bowl.

"I don't know that I've ever seen anything like Derrick Henry. He is shattering the running back mold because you shouldn't be able to do it into your thirties. Even at 30, he's a difference-maker, and he's now in the perfect spot, with a quarterback that can run the read-option like no other. … I'm going to pick them because this is the kind of move that you make during a free-agent period where you strike while the iron is glowing hot right in front of you."

Travis Kelce: 'Not Gonna Be Fun to Go Up Against' Henry and Ravens Offense

The Ravens' acquisition of Henry did not go unnoticed by Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who reacted to the news on his and his brother Jason Kelce's “New Heights” podcast.

"The biggest freight train in the NFL just went to one of the best rushing attacks that the NFL has to offer," Travis said. "That's gonna be fun to watch, not gonna be fun to go up against. But I'm intrigued to see how that works out with the rushing attack that they've already had over the years."

Both Kelces acknowledged the Ravens' abundance of skill position players on offense, specifically naming Henry, Jackson, Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews, and Isaiah Likely.

After rattling off those names, an exasperated Travis had a one-word response: "F—."

Ravens Receive A- Grade for Offseason Moves Thus Far

The Ravens have lost more players than they've signed thus far this offseason, but that doesn't mean the sky is falling. In fact, the Ravens received an A- grade at this point in free agency from CBS Sports’ Garrett Podell.

"The Ravens retaining one of the NFL's best defensive tackles in Justin Madubuike (four years, $98 million) — led all DTs in sacks (13.0), QB hits (33) and QB pressures as a three-technique, per Next Gen Stats (38) — is a great start for the league's top defense," Podell wrote. "Swapping out running back Gus Edwards, who has since departed to the other Harbaugh out West with the Los Angeles Chargers, for Derrick 'King' Henry (two years, $16 million) is a significant upgrade. Baltimore now has the NFL's most dynamic backfield with him and 2023 NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Losing Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Queen is an adjustment, but the Ravens develop the inside backer as good as anyone in the NFL."

NFL Network's Steve Wyche said the Ravens signing Madubuike to a contract extension is his favorite move in free agency.

"I love the fact that the Ravens were able to get him done before the start of the new year to a long-term deal, because he's such an anchor piece," Wyche said.

Meanwhile, the addition of Henry continues to be hailed by pundits as one of the biggest moves by any team this offseason.

Two Free-Agent Offensive Linemen Ravens Could Target

After yesterday's reported trade that will send right tackle Morgan Moses to the New York Jets, the Ravens have just two returning starters on the offensive line: center Tyler Linderbaum and left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

There are internal options to fill those spots, including tackles Patrick Mekari and Daniel Faalele, and guards Ben Cleveland, Sala Aumavae-Laulu, and Andrew Vorhees. This year's draft class is loaded with offensive line talent, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the Ravens used multiple picks on O-linemen.

The free agency pool is not as deep. The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker and C.J. Doon looked at two veterans still on the market the Ravens could be interested in:

G Greg Van Roten

"Van Roten ranked 15th among all interior offensive linemen and seventh among guards with a PFF grade of 75.3 as the 34-year-old had something of a resurgence with the Las Vegas Raiders last season. He was also reliable, playing 1,025 snaps across 17 games, and he comes cheap with a projected contract of $2.75 million."

OT Josh Jones

"Jones has what the Ravens often covet: versatility. He has starting experience at left tackle, right tackle and right guard in his four NFL seasons. He also led the Houston Texans with 931 snaps after getting traded from the Arizona Cardinals, where he was an adept run and pass blocker with a 75.8 overall PFF grade. His production fell off last year, but the Texans' offensive line struggled as a whole. He's projected to make $6.5 million per year, per PFF, though that number could drop the longer his free agency goes."

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