Eisenberg: 50 Words or Less


Various thoughts on various things, each 50 words or less:

It's not true the NFL is in "business as usual" mode. Facilities are closed, offseason programs cancelled. It's obviously necessary but creates issues. For example, the Ravens want to get their hands on Jaylon Ferguson and see if the young linebacker is making "the leap" they envision. But they can't.

I don't love expanding the playoffs from six teams per conference to seven. I'll get used to it and it'll certainly keep more teams in the hunt longer, but I guess I'm old school because I like regular seasons that exclude and playoffs with as few average teams as possible.

Why did the Ravens pursue defensive tackle Michael Brockers first, before that deal fell apart and they pivoted and signed defensive end Derek Wolfe? My guess: after franchising Matthew Judon, they prioritized using free agency's big money to fortify the run defense ahead of adding fire to the pass rush.

Obviously, in the end, they're seeking to improve both areas, i.e., the run defense and the pass rush. That's why Wolfe is such a commendable Plan B. He can play the run but will really add oomph to the rush. Best of all, he wasn't nearly as expensive as Brockers.

The Ravens ran away with the AFC North race in 2019. They'll still be heavy favorites in 2020 but the competition should improve. Ben Roethlisberger is back. The Bengals and Browns have made solid moves in free agency. The Bengals likely will have Joe Burrow under center.

High on the Ravens' to-do list right now is creating more salary cap space. If you listened to The Lounge podcast this week (highly recommended), you know their flexibility is limited. But they have needs they could stand to address in free agency, like inside linebacker, currently their thinnest position.

There are three ways for teams to create salary cap space. They can re-work the deals of current players. They can sign current players to major contract extensions. Or they can cut guys. I'm sure the Ravens prefer the first two options but it's easier said than done.

One wouldn't think the Ravens need a safety after signing Earl Thomas III and Chuck Clark to major contracts in the past year. But Thomas will soon be 31 and Clark plays linebacker in some situations. Given backup DeShon Elliott's injury history, I expect the Ravens to draft a safety.

Came across this sobering but revealing Pro Football Focus commentary on Joe Flacco: "In recent years, he has seen a sharp divide in his play from a clean pocket vs. under pressure, posting an 87.4 clean-pocket passing grade since 2017 compared to a grade of just 33.2 when under pressure."

I can't remember an offseason in which more quarterbacks were on the move, but nine of the Ravens' 13 opponents in 2020 will start the same quarterback that was under center when last season ended. Those teams are the Browns, Chiefs, Titans, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, Texans, Jaguars and Giants.

The four Baltimore opponents starting "new" quarterbacks in 2020 are the Steelers (Roethlisberger, who was injured most of last season); Bengals (Burrow), Colts (Philip Rivers) and Patriots (as of now, Jarret Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round draft pick). The Patriots would need to clear cap space to sign a big-name veteran.

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