Far be it from me to throw cold water on the hottest Ravens rumor out there – the one about them possibly pursuing running back Le’Veon Bell, their former Pittsburgh rival, who is due to hit free agency next month.
To be clear, there’s no evidence it’s being contemplated. But if the front office really wants to, how could I complain after having griped in recent years about the offense’s lack of elite playmakers?
Bell, 26, has gained nearly 8,000 yards in five seasons in an NFL uniform. In two of those seasons, he was voted first-team All-Pro.
A run-pass-option offense based on whether Lamar Jackson hands the ball to Bell could be quite dynamic. And of course, Bell-to-Baltimore would constitute football-as-theater so rich and delicious it might break the Internet.
I’m sure the Ravens’ players would love it. I know the fans would. The media might throw a parade.
It is with some guilt, therefore, that I confess to not hyperventilating over the possibility. Rather than see the Ravens make the big, splashy move, I’d rather see them go boring.
Yup, I’m rooting for a dull offseason – one that doesn’t make you stand up and cheer so much as sit down and doze.
Before you accuse me of being a killjoy, let me explain. When I recently doodled a 2019 to-do list for the Ravens’ offense, I put “upgrade the line” at No. 1. I think that’s the most important thing they need to do on that side of the ball.
They’ve committed to a run-oriented offense with Jackson under center and Greg Roman in charge. The foundation of such an attack is the five guys up front. They open the holes, set the tone, make it all work. It doesn’t matter who the quarterback and running back are unless the line is superior.
As the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams cruised through the playoffs on the way to Super Bowl 53, their lines absolutely dominated.
The Ravens aren’t exactly lacking. Pro Football Focus rated their O-line No. 10 in the league in 2018. The unit had a lot to do with Baltimore finishing No. 2 in rushing and tied for No. 6 in fewest sacks allowed.
But it had a rough day in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, calling into question how it truly measures up against top competition. It has experienced some major subtractions in recent years, with homegrown, blue-collar pieces filling in.
Going forward, the tackle slots are set with Orlando Brown Jr., 22, and Ronnie Stanley, 24. But the unit’s top performer, guard Marshal Yanda, is 34 and questioning how much longer he’ll play. And the rest of the interior didn’t fare so well in 2018, according to PFF.
Even if Yanda keeps playing, there are short-term and long-term reasons to address the line, try to take it from good to great. Head Coach John Harbaugh has pledged to rebuild the offense “from the ground up,” and no doubt, the line is the foundation for such a construction job.
This is a year when I’d give a thumbs-up to the Ravens drafting a guard in the first round or making a center their top free agent acquisition. Boring? No doubt. But if it’s the right guys, the moves could really pay dividends.
If the Ravens can fit those additions and Bell into their salary cap scenario, swell. But I’ll believe it when I see it. Bell will be costly. The Ravens have a lot of other spending needs. Some boxes would go unchecked.
Hey, I think the backfield is pretty darn good as is. The running game excelled down the stretch in 2018 with Gus Edwards providing straight-ahead power and Kenneth Dixon coming on strong late. Alex Collins might still be in the picture. The only missing ingredient is breakaway speed, a back that can fly.
If Bell came aboard, he would take over the load, render all the other guys irrelevant. Why?
My two cents, the Ravens are better off spending their big money elsewhere, starting with the O-line. Boring never made more sense.