Ravens' Trade for Marcus Peters Was One of Season's Best Deals
There were a lot of dazzling moves by the Ravens this season, and we're not just talking about Lamar Jackson's highlight reel. Shrewd moves by the front office played a key role in the Ravens achieving the most successful regular season in franchise history.
The most significant move made by Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta was his acquisition of Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams in October in exchange for reserve linebacker Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick.
The trade was ranked as the second-best deal of the season by ESPN's Bill Barnwell, who gave it an A-plus grade.
Los Angeles parted ways with Peters in order to make room for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who the Rams went on to acquire in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars that same day.
"Peters was basically seen as a salary dump when the Rams sent him to Baltimore in the hours before the Jalen Ramsey deal," Barnwell wrote. "Given that the Rams also were planning on trading Aqib Talib off injured reserve to save cash, keeping around Peters as one of their options at corner would seem to have made sense, even if only to acquire a compensatory pick this offseason. Instead, the Rams pocketed a fifth-round pick and Young, who didn't play a single defensive snap for Wade Phillips' defense after the trade."
Peters wasted no time making an impact for the Ravens, as he played an integral role in the defense's resurgence after the unit's shaky start to the season.
In his first game as a Raven, Peters picked off a pass from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown in a 30-16 win in Seattle. Three weeks later, he had a pick-six for 89 yards in the Ravens' 49-13 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Peters' third interception with the Ravens took place in Los Angeles against his former team, as the Ravens rolled over the Rams, 45-6. He also had a pass breakup to seal the Ravens' 24-17 win over the Bills in Buffalo.
"Peters, the former Chiefs star, finished the season as both a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro selection, which is a testament to how dominant he was in Baltimore," Barnwell wrote. "From the time he arrived in Baltimore, Peters allowed a passer rating of 68.3 as the closest defender in coverage, which ranked among the best marks in football for cornerbacks, let alone guys who were often lining up one-on-one against opposing No. 1 wideouts. The Ravens allowed a QBR of just 31.1 with Peters on the field, down from 59.2 without the 27-year-old in the lineup."
Peters was such a good fit with the Ravens that the team signed him to a three-year extension for a reported $42 million in December.
On a side note, the trade Barnwell ranked No. 1 with an A-plus grade also ended up impacting the Ravens. It was the Tennessee Titans' acquisition of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a sixth-round pick from the Miami Dolphins for fourth-round and seventh-round picks and cash.
After Tannehill became the starter, Tennessee went 7-3 and had the third-highest scoring offense in the league. Then he helped the Titans upset the New England Patriots and Ravens in the playoffs. Tannehill only competed seven passes for 88 yards against the Ravens, but two of those completions went for touchdowns.
The Titans used the sixth-round pick they received from Miami on linebacker David Long, who made the tackle on Jackson's first failed fourth-and-1 run in last Saturday's playoff game.
John Harbaugh Made Right Decisions in Playoff Game
There were plenty of "hot takes" after the Ravens' shocking loss to the Titans, including criticism of Head Coach John Harbaugh's decision to go for it on two fourth-and-1 situations, but Pro Football Focus data scientists Eric Eager and George Chahrouri threw cold water on the criticisms.
Even though the Ravens failed to convert either of their fourth-and-1 attempts, Eager and Chahrouri said Harbaugh's decisions put the team in position to succeed.
"The Ravens had such a good season and they were praised so much for all the analytically sound decisions they made, and they should be," Chahrouri said on "The PFF Forecast." "They went for it on a couple of fourth downs and failed, and so people are going to say, 'Well, maybe you shouldn't make as many of those choices.' What is so frustrating about that is that just because those two misses came in that game … they could've come sprinkled at any point in the season.
"If they just get one of those, that game could be totally different. If that tipped pass doesn't happen, that game could be totally different. That's why you do not base things on a one-game sample. Because the Baltimore Ravens still had a great season, and John Harbaugh still made great decisions, and all those decisions in that game were still great. Just because the play didn't work out does not mean you should abandon it."
Eager added: "All that Harbaugh, and all that Lamar Jackson, and all that that defense is doing is trying to take them from a 70 percent chance to win that game every single time to a 75 percent chance to win that game every time. … Things that are supposed to happen 30 percent of the time happen 30 percent of the time.
"We're not doing this 'it's actually bad to be 14-2 with a great quarterback and analytically driven.'"
What Will It Take to Keep Matthew Judon?
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon was an important member of the league's fourth-ranked defense, so what will it take to keep the pending free agent?
"After piling up 9.5 sacks and 33 quarterback hits — both career highs — for a 14-2 juggernaut in 2019, Judon would attract a competitive market in free agency," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "The 27-year-old plays at a premium position and has a track record of results. Former teammate Za'Darius Smith, who had 8.5 sacks and 25 quarterback hits in 2018, signed an eye-opening four-year deal with the Packers worth $66 million after he departed Baltimore."
Whether the Ravens would allow Judon to hit the open market remains to be seen. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported last month that the team would use the franchise tag if necessary to bring Judon back next season.
OverTheCap.com projects the franchise tag number for linebackers to be about $16.3 million, virtually the same figure Spotrac estimated for Judon's market value per year based on contracts signed by players comparable to him.
The Ravens have only used the franchise tag six times in the franchise's 24-year history, with the most recent being kicker Justin Tucker in 2016.
"Still, the Ravens have more than $33 million in cap space before making any cost-saving moves, per OverTheCap, which provides them more financial flexibility than they've had in recent years," Kasinitz wrote. "And the makeup of Baltimore's roster might place extra value on an edge rusher like Judon. … If the Ravens don't retain Judon or find a component replacement (or two), they'll risk entering the season with a significant dearth of talent and depth at an important position."
"Ultimately, that's a decision that comes from them and me," Judon said. "We have to sit down and talk about some things and my agency. We have to see, but for the last four years and this whole year, I couldn't ask for anything else."
Report: Eagles Interested in Ravens QB Coach James Urban
The Philadelphia Eagles are interested in Ravens Quarterbacks Coach James Urban for their offensive coordinator job, according to a report by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Urban, who joined the Ravens in 2018, played a major role in Jackson's rapid development as a quarterback.
Urban previously worked for the Eagles from 2004-2010, spending the final two seasons of his tenure in Philadelphia as quarterbacks coach. During that time, Urban was instrumental in helping Michael Vick resurrect his career.
The Eagles also are interested in Ravens Tight Ends Coach Bobby Engram for their wide receivers coach position, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.