Should Ravens Exercise Marquise Brown's Fifth-Year Option?
NFL.com analyst Marc Ross looked at all 32 first-round picks from 2019 and gave his opinion on whether or not each player should have their fifth-year option exercised before the May 2 deadline.
Wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who was selected 25th overall by the Ravens, received a "yes." However, Ross said that he wouldn't extend Brown at this point. Brown would be projected to make around $13 million in 2023 under the fifth-year option.
"Brown hasn't been exactly what the Ravens hoped he'd be," Ross wrote. "Sure, he's made enough big-time plays, but we've also seen some issues with drops (16 in three seasons) and health problems. It's worth exercising his option, but I would hold off on an extension."
The risk of not extending Brown this offseason is that his price tag will increase if he has a strong 2022 season, and his production has improved every year. Brown took another step forward this season, posting career-highs of 91 receptions and 1,008 receiving yards.
But he acknowledged earlier this week that he has room for improvement. Brown called it a "weak" 1,000-yard season, knowing he was capable of more.
"I want to get even bigger, stronger, faster," Brown said. "And just keep working on my route running. We're getting moved around with the offense. [I want to] work on my routes from the inside, work on my routes from the outside, work on contested catches, and just really everything that I possibly can get better at by the time September comes back around."
Marcellus Wiley: Ravens Should Have No Hesitation in Paying Lamar Jackson
One of the biggest questions for the Ravens this offseason is whether the team and Jackson can agree on a contract extension before he enters the fifth year on his rookie deal.
The Ravens have made it clear that they are committed to Jackson, who is in line to become one of the highest-paid players in the league.
Fox Sports' Marcellus Wiley said Jackson proved just how valuable he is this season not only by what he did when he played, but also how the team fared while he was injured. The Ravens won just one of five games Jackson didn't start.
"You can't look at Lamar Jackson and look at him any other way except: 'How do we keep you? How do we make you happy? And how do we retain you at top dollar?" Wiley said on "Speak For Yourself."
Wiley compared Jackson's situation to that of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. After Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 in 2020, the Cowboys' offense struggled. This past offseason, Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract extension.
"[Jackson] proved his value to the Ravens even more so than Dak Prescott proved his value in injury last year to the Cowboys," Wiley said. "When Dak went down, the first thing we all were thinking was, 'Damn, look how much money went down with him.' Then we come to realize that actually the price tag went up because you saw them sputter without Dak Prescott.
"Has Dak Prescott ever won MVP? Has Dak Prescott ever won a unanimous MVP? Has Dak Prescott ever led the league in passing touchdowns? No. No. No. That's Lamar Jackson, who went down, and all of a sudden you saw the Baltimore Ravens not find a way up. So because of what Dak Prescott set in precedent, and because Lamar Jackson — love you, Dak — is greater than a Dak Prescott, there's no conversation about his value. It's just how much are you going to pay him."
Which Defeats This Season Hurt the Worst?
Losing never feels good, but some losses are worse than others. The Ravens suffered several gut-wrenching defeats this season, including five by a combined eight points during their six-game losing streak to end the season.
So which losses hurt the worst? The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer ranked Baltimore's nine defeats by three unscientific criteria: drama (how upsetting or exasperating the ending was), disappointment (how far short of expectations the result was) and damage (how much the game's results affected the team's season).
This past Sunday's 16-13 loss to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime, which is still fresh in everyone's mind and needs no further review, came in at No. 3 on the list. Here's a look at the two worst losses:
1. Steelers 20, Ravens 19 (Week 13)
Drama (2): "After scoring just three points over its first six possessions, Pittsburgh started to push the visiting Ravens around. A field goal cut the Steelers' deficit to 13-12 midway through the fourth quarter, and a Ravens three-and-out followed. On Pittsburgh's go-ahead drive, capped with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Diontae Johnson and subsequent 2-point conversion, inside linebacker Patrick Queen had an interception wiped out by a defensive penalty. Jackson needed just 96 seconds to lead the Ravens into the end zone, but he couldn't connect with an open [Mark] Andrews on the 2-point try, wasting a chance to take a 21-20 lead with 12 seconds left."
Disappointment (3): "The Steelers were coming off a 41-10 loss to the Bengals, and it wasn't clear whether they'd have star pass rusher T.J. Watt available or the rush defense required to stop the Ravens. They ended up with both: Watt finished with 3½ sacks, and the Ravens were held to 4.3 yards per carry. Just as concerning, [Ben] Roethlisberger outplayed Jackson, who ended a promising game-opening drive with a jump-ball interception and struggled to locate open receivers all game."
Damage (3): "The Ravens went for the last-minute road win in part because of their depleted cornerback depth. Tavon Young was sick and limited. Chris Westry was inactive. [Anthony] Averett was struggling. Most crucial, though, was the loss of Marlon Humphrey, who suffered a season-ending pectoral injury on the Steelers' go-ahead drive. That left the Ravens without their top two cornerbacks or starting safety DeShon Elliott — and sometimes much more — over the season's final five games. (Patrick Mekari missed their next two games, too.) They didn't win any of them."
2. Browns 24, Ravens 22 (Week 14)
Drama (6): "Cleveland already led 10-0 when an ankle injury knocked Jackson out of the game, and it entered halftime with a 24-6 lead. The Ravens slowly made their way back, but a failed 2-point conversion midway through the fourth quarter kept them from pulling even after their next touchdown. A successful onside kick with just over a minute left kept the Ravens' hope alive, but they got only as far as their 45-yard line before turning it over on downs."
Disappointment (5): "Cleveland had a bye week to rest up and prepare for the teams' second meeting in three weeks. The Ravens, meanwhile, didn't have three of their most important blockers — fullback Patrick Ricard, tight end Nick Boyle and Mekari — healthy enough to play. Few could have imagined [Tyler] Huntley stepping in to finish with 270 passing yards and a 99.7 passer rating, either."
Damage (1): "While this season was Jackson's worst as a full-time starter, a healthy ankle still might've been enough to carry the Ravens to a division title, or at least a playoff appearance. Considering the defense's strong showing in Week 17 and Week 18, and Huntley's stretch of bumpy play, the Ravens probably would've won both games with Jackson available. The offense's big-play ability withered in his absence."
Mark Andrews Snubbed From NFL.com All-Pro Team
NFL.com's Nick Shook named his All-Pro Team, which he based on "the eye test and Next Gen Stats."
This is usually the part where I write that Andrews and kicker Justin Tucker made the team. Well, Tucker did, but Shook went with the Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce at tight end.
"Kelce has been a stud for a long time, posting six straight 1,000-plus-yard seasons, and the 32-year-old continues to be the standard at his position," Shook wrote.
No one would dispute how great Kelce is, but Andrews was the standard at tight end this season, and the numbers bear it out. His 2021 season is one of the best for a tight end in NFL history.
This season, Andrews topped Kelce in receptions (107-92), receiving yards (,1361-1,125), yards per catch (12.7-12.2) and catch percentage (69.5 percent-68.7 percent). They both had nine touchdown receptions.
Andrews was voted by his peers and NFL coaches as the starter of the AFC's Pro Bowl roster, ahead of Kelce.
At least Shook got it right with Tucker.
"He'll own a place in Canton one day because of seasons like this," Shook wrote.
Should Ravens Make Another Run at Signing JuJu Smith-Schuster?
Remember this past offseason when wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster decided to re-sign with the Steelers even though the Ravens and Chiefs reportedly offered him more money?
Smith-Schuster, who signed for one year (reportedly for $8 million), is set to hit free agency again. Could he end up playing for the Ravens after all?
CBS Sports' Bryan DeArdo thinks Smith-Schuster would be a good fit for the Ravens if they choose not to re-sign veteran Sammy Watkins.
"The still just 25-year-old Smith-Schuster could serve as a dependable target for Jackson while also bringing some added toughness to the Ravens offense," DeArdo wrote. "It may also help return the rivalry's balance of power back to Baltimore after residing in Pittsburgh over the last two years."
Smith-Schuster suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5 this season, finishing the year with 15 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns.
After re-signing with Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster said: "I already knew if I went to the Ravens, [Steelers] fans would destroy me." He also said the Chiefs were his second choice over the Ravens because of the latter's run-heavy offense.