With their acquisition of cornerback Marcus Peters in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, the Ravens sent a pair of statements to their locker room, their fans and the rest of the league.
The primary statement is they believe they can make something good happen now. As in, 2019.
Some may scoff, believing the gap between the Ravens and the league’s elite is too wide, limiting how far they truly can go.
I understand the thinking in that Lamar Jackson is just 22, in his first full season as a starter, and though already dynamic, he figures to become even more effective as he gains experience. Also, it has become apparent the defense needs some new building blocks, a process that takes years and hints at a better unit down the line.
But having said all that, it’s ludicrous to suggest the Ravens shouldn’t do what they can to try to go as far as they can this season. All outcomes – yes, all of them – are possible.
Their starting quarterback isn’t out for the season with an injury, as is the case in Pittsburgh. They haven’t amassed enough losses to bring them perilously close to disaster, as is the case in Cleveland.
Yes, they’ve experienced a few bumps in the road in the form of losses and injuries – so many injuries in the secondary that adding a player like Peters, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, was borderline mandatory to keep hope alive.
But they’ve endured those bumps in the road. They’ve got a winning record. They’re in first place in the AFC North. Hey, they’re in first place by a lot, which means a playoff ticket is there for the punching as long as they can crank out enough wins against a challenging schedule.
The Ravens have never gone into the playoffs led by an offense ranked among the league’s best, but that might well be their future. It would be fascinating to watch and certainly is a scenario worth striving for given the potential ceiling with Jackson and the sheer unpredictability of the playoffs.
The issue is cost, of course. My two cents, it generally isn’t wise to mortgage your future just to satisfy current needs. You can do it occasionally, like when you’re really on the verge of a title. Otherwise, the smart play is to strike a balance between current and future needs.
The Ravens aren’t on that verge yet. But regardless, the Peters deal was a bargain. To obtain a difference-making cornerback, they only gave up a reported fifth-round draft pick and a player who seemingly had fallen out of favor, linebacker Kenny Young.
That takes me to the second statement the Ravens made with the move, namely, that while they ARE willing to take a stab at making the most of 2019, they are NOT willing to mortgage their entire future to do it.
Mortgaging their future would have meant sending two first-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. They love Ramsey but deemed that price tag too high, leaving the door open for the Rams to acquire Ramsey.
It makes better sense for the Rams, who played in the Super Bowl last season and see a return trip as entirely realistic. My two cents, if/when moves result in a team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, they become worth it, regardless of any future ramifications.
But the Ravens aren’t in the same place. They want to win now, but they also need to keep building. And first-round picks are their primary building blocks.
In the end, the Rams paid a ton more than the Ravens for their difference-making cornerback. Will Ramsey perform that much better than Peters? I have my doubts.
Yes, contractual issues also are a factor – the Rams have Ramsey through 2020, while Peters can become a free agent at the end of this season, raising the possibility of him being a “rental.”
But that’s a risk the Ravens were willing to take. In the end, the Peters move simply fit best with their “right player, right price” mantra. It pumped up the locker room. It has the potential to make a huge difference. I don’t see any downside.