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Late for Work 1/28: The Ravens May Already Have a No. 1 Wide Receiver

WR Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown

Marquise Brown Flashed WR1 Potential in Second Half of Season

General Manager Eric DeCosta hears the wide receiver chatter.

While DeCosta and the Ravens are currently scouting the next wide receiver class at the Senior Bowl, the notion that the Ravens need to sign a "true No. 1 wide receiver" has heated up — as it does seemingly every offseason.

But is it possible a pass-catcher of that caliber is already on the team?

In Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, the Ravens may have their future WR1 under contract, The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote.

The 2019 first-round pick showed glimpses of his considerable talent during his rookie season while recovering from Lisfranc surgery that required two screws in his foot, and a number of pundits predicted a breakout season for him in 2020. Brown fell short of those expectations, but he finished the season strong.

"As the offense reignited over the season's final two months, Brown flashed his first-round pedigree," Shaffer wrote. "With the return and resurgence of quarterback Lamar Jackson, Brown's deep-threat ability resurfaced. With the evolution of coordinator Greg Roman's passing attack, there was a preview of what a breakout 2021 might look like for the former Oklahoma star."

After a midseason slump, Brown had 534 receiving yards and six touchdown catches over his final eight games (including 196 yards in two playoff games) in a run-first offense.

"According to a review of his offensive snaps with Jackson at quarterback, Brown averaged 2.33 yards per route run, a metric considered one of the more reliable indicators of wide receiver ability. In the NFL, that's in elite company," Shaffer wrote. "Only 11 players finished the 2020 season with more than 2.33 yards per route run, according to PlayerProfiler. The league leaders should be no surprise: Davante Adams (2.91), A.J. Brown (2.76) and Julio Jones (2.7).

"But Marquise Brown's end-of-season production, at least on a per-play basis, was better than that of even big-play receivers like Tyreek Hill (2.26 yards per route run) and D.K. Metcalf (2.12)."

It also was better than that of Allen Robinson, the top wide receiver among pending free agents, who averaged 2.06 yards per route.

"Caveats apply, of course," Shaffer wrote. "The Ravens faced only one better-than-average pass defense after their rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But despite an inconsistent offensive line and Jackson's off-and-on accuracy, Brown still excelled. And in two playoff games, he had 215 total yards (19 rushing), helping Ravens quarterbacks post a stellar 110.4 passer rating when targeting him."

While fans and pundits undoubtedly will continue to push the narrative that the Ravens need to sign a big-name receiver or acquire one via a blockbuster trade (more on that below), Brown just might be the right player, and at the right price.

"[General Manager Eric] DeCosta's plan to fortify the offensive line should benefit Brown, who lost a handful of big plays to untimely defensive pressure," Shaffer wrote. "Brown said he wants to develop more offensive chemistry, and a more normal offseason program will only help. With Roman finding more ways to get Brown the ball in space — run-pass options, wide receiver screens, pre-snap motion — the Ravens could get top-receiver production at a fraction of the market price."

Should Ravens Pursue Michael Thomas If He's on Trade Block?

There's been speculation that New Orleans Saints All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas could be on the trade block. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said on “The Pat McAfee Show” last week that he wouldn't rule out the possibility, but he doesn't think anything is imminent.

If Thomas becomes available, should the Ravens pursue him? Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw said the answer is yes, but concluded that the Ravens trading for Thomas is "pretty unrealistic," although "not completely impossible."

To acquire Thomas, who signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $100 million in 2019, a team "would likely need to part with at least their 2021 first-round pick, maybe even their second, plus another late pick and a future picks(s)," Bradshaw wrote.

Thomas, who had an NFL-record 149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019, was limited to seven games this season due to an ankle injury. He also was suspended one game for reportedly punching a teammate in practice, and finished the season with 40 catches for 438 yards and no touchdowns.

"The biggest gripe with Thomas is the attitude that has labeled him as a diva and even a distraction," Bradshaw wrote. "It's the biggest reason that Thomas is even being discussed as a possible trade asset. Teams will have to seriously talk about whether he is worth the risk. Spoiler alert: He definitely is. … He's undoubtedly the complete package and the true X-receiver a team like Baltimore is sorely missing."

The draft capital that would have to be given up, combined with Thomas' hefty price tag, makes it highly unlikely that he'll be playing in Baltimore next season. But it's OK to dream, right?!

Why the Texans Are Reportedly Hiring David Culley As Head Coach

One of the main reasons the Houston Texans are reportedly hiring David Culley to be their head coach is that they believe he has the ability to change the organization's culture, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said.

Culley, 65, has spent the past two seasons as the Ravens' assistant head coach/pass coordinator/wide receivers coach. He just completed his 27th season as an assistant coach in the NFL, but has never been an offensive coordinator.

"The Texans were looking for somebody who is a CEO, who is a leader," Schefter said. "I don't know that they were concerned about the X's and O's as much, the coaching, per say. They wanted somebody to lead this organization, which has been rudderless lately, forward. And they identified David Culley as the man to do it."

The Texans are hoping that the hiring of Culley will appeal to Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, who reportedly wants out of Houston.

"The Houston Texans would tell you I'm sure that one of the things that appealed to them about David Culley was that they felt he might be able to get an audience with Deshaun Watson and change his mind," Schefter said.

Culley's departure means the Ravens will receive third-round compensatory picks in the 2021 and 2022 NFL drafts.

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