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Late for Work: Buzz Builds Around Derrick Henry Coming to Ravens

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, right, is tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins, left, after a long gain during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, right, is tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins, left, after a long gain during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.

Ravens Are Betting Favorites to Sign Derrick Henry

The Ravens reportedly were close to finalizing a trade for Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry before the deadline last October. Now they are the favorites to sign Henry in free agency.

ESPN analyst and former Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III believes it makes perfect sense for the bruising four-time Pro Bowler to land in Baltimore, writing on X that "Henry should be a Baltimore Raven because he already Plays like a Raven."

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that "some personnel people inside the league believe the Ravens will target a running back with pedigree in free agency."

ESPN's Matt Bowen also sees the Ravens are the best fit for Henry.

"Both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are set to be free agents, and Keaton Mitchell suffered a knee injury near the end of the 2023 regular season. There's an opening here, and Henry could star as the lead back in Todd Monken's offense," Bowen wrote. "Even if his overall play speed is starting to decline, he's a downhill hammer with excellent vision, and we know he can still find the end zone. Henry had 12 rushing scores last season, and he'd upgrade the Ravens' run game when paired with Lamar Jackson."

Last month, analyst Maurice Jones-Drew said Henry and Jackson would be a lethal combination.

"I would love to see 'King Henry' lining up in the backfield with Lamar Jackson in Baltimore," Jones-Drew wrote. "With Baltimore operating a downhill run game at the center of its offense, the veteran back would fit perfectly as a physical north-south rusher who's still capable of breaking a big gain even at 30 years old.

"With five 1,000-yard rushing campaigns in his last six seasons, Henry's presence would elevate the unit and make it even more of a pick-your-poison attack than it already has been in 2023 with Jackson's improvement as a passer. This fit makes too much sense."

The only year Henry did not reach 1,000 yards in the past six seasons was 2021. Despite being limited to eight games that year due to injury, he still ran for 937 yards.

Rashod Bateman's Stats and Film Tell Different Stories

Rashod Bateman's final stats this past season do not jump off the page: 32 receptions, 367 yards, one touchdown. However, the numbers don't tell the whole story.

The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer reviewed all 366 of Bateman's routes with Jackson in the regular season and playoffs and concluded that the third-year wide receiver's production did not reflect what Shaffer saw from him on film.

Here are some of Shaffer's takeaways:

Bateman was open a lot.

"According to ESPN, among the 109 NFL wide receivers with at least 30 targets in 2023, Bateman ranked 31st in 'Open Score,' which assesses the likelihood that a receiver would've been able to complete a catch if targeted on a route. Zay Flowers ranked 13th, and Odell Beckham Jr. 29th. According to PFF, Bateman had one of the NFL's best 'separation' grades among wideouts, ahead of Beckham, Flowers and even the Miami Dolphins' Tyreek Hill. And according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, Bateman's average separation from the nearest defender when targeted was 2.5 yards — below the league average for wide receivers (2.9 yards).

"There's value in all three evaluations. Bateman got open regularly, but lacked the elite speed to overwhelm cornerbacks and safeties on vertical routes. The plays on which he earned the greatest separation also happened to be plays that typically ended with scrambles, sacks or short throws. And a significant share of Bateman's routes that did earn targets came on quick hitters or in congested areas over the middle of the field."

Bateman was rarely Jackson's first option.

"So why did Bateman average a career-low 3.6 targets per game in his 17 appearances with Jackson? Why did he finish nine of his games in the 20- to 40-yard range? Why did his single-game high for receiving yards (54) trail the season-best mark for seven other Ravens players? The best answer is perhaps also the simplest: Bateman wasn't considered a go-to weapon in the passing game. According to Fantasy Points, in his games with Jackson, Bateman was the Ravens' first read or designed target on just 13.4% of their pass attempts. Last season, in the five games he played in relatively good health with Jackson, Bateman was the first read on 26.4% of the Ravens' throws."

Bateman was asked to do a lot.

"Even with his limited production, Bateman was never pigeonholed into a role on the Ravens' offense. While he primarily lined up as an outsider receiver, aligning in the slot for just 8.2% of his routes, according to TruMedia, Bateman ran the full route tree from out wide.

"Versatility might be his best asset, and the biggest reason for optimism headed into 2024. If the Ravens draft a more prototypical 'X' receiver in April — Florida State's Keon Coleman and Texas' Adonai Mitchell, two imposing 6-foot-4 targets, have been linked to them in the first round — Bateman could move around the offense, filling in as the primary receiver on the strong side of formations or as a slot option With a healthy offseason, his on-field bond with Jackson should only strengthen."

Can Ben Cleveland Fill Potential Opening at Right Guard?

With Kevin Zeitler unlikely to return after not having his contract extended by Monday's deadline for players with void years, the Ravens will have a hole to fill at right guard.

Zeitler's successor may already be in the building in Ben Cleveland, who played well at the position when given opportunities.

"Ben Cleveland has played fewer snaps over the last two seasons combined than he did as a rookie, but PFF graded him favorably filling in for Zeitler the last two years," Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones wrote. "This is a contract season for Cleveland, and Baltimore would gladly take a Ben Powers-like performance out of him."

Powers made a leap at left guard in his contract year in 2022 and went on to sign a lucrative four-year deal with the Denver Broncos the following year.


580: Reaction to First Moves of 2024 Offseason

The Ravens reached a contract extension with wide receiver Nelson Agholor, but not with Kevin Zeitler, Geno Stone, Gus Edwards or Rock Ya-Sun prior to Monday's deadline. What are the implications of these moves and where the Ravens go from here?

'Dream' Trade Scenario Has Ravens Acquiring Haason Reddick

Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox came up with a dream offseason trade scenario for every team. For the Ravens, he proposed a deal to acquire Philadelphia Eagles EDGE Haason Reddick.

"With Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Van Noy and Brent Urban all set to be free agents, Baltimore should be in the market for a pass-rusher," Knox wrote. "It could draft one, but with its playoff window wide open, trading for a proven vet would be even better. Fortunately, a top-tier sack artist just might be available."

The Eagles reportedly have given Reddick permission to seek a trade. Reddick, 29, has 50.5 sacks over the past four seasons, including a career-high 16 in 2022.

"Pass-rushers of Reddick's caliber typically command first-round compensation on the trade market. However, a deep free-agent class and Philadelphia's apparent willingness to move him could keep his price point down," Knox wrote. "The Temple product may only command a second-round pick, which is what the Washington Commanders got for Montez Sweat at the trade deadline. Landing Reddick at that price point, possibly with a 2025 selection, would be a dream for the Ravens."

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