Will Ravens Trade for a Pass Rusher Before Deadline?
The Ravens improved their defense by trading for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters earlier this week. Now will the team address its need for pass rush help before the Oct. 29 trade deadline?
Names such as Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, Yannick Ngakoue of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Michael Bennett of the New England Patriots have been mentioned by fans and the media as pass rushers who could be on the trading block.
But even if they are, is it realistic to think the Ravens could pull off a deal for any of them? The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec thinks it will be difficult.
“I still could see them making a deal to get some front seven help or pass rusher help,” Zrebiec said on Glenn Clark Radio, “but the impediment to that is: One, they have $2 million in salary cap space, so they’re going to have to make some adjustments to people’s deals to be able to accommodate salary of any significance, and that’s always difficult; two, they already traded a fifth-round pick. They don’t have a sixth-rounder or a seventh-rounder currently in the next draft, so you don’t really have too many picks in the later rounds to play with. Now that doesn’t mean you couldn’t trade a third or a fourth or a future pick in 2021, but sometimes teams want immediate help and want immediate picks.
“And three, the other thing is finding a guy. Who’s dangling a pass rusher now? People fantasize about Von Miller and Yannick Ngakoue and all these guys, but I haven’t seen any indication that those guys are actually available.”
To Zrebiec’s point, when Broncos General Manager John Elway was asked last week if Miller was on the trading block, he replied, “No one from our side is on the trading block. We're going to try to continue to win football games.”
Based on Bennett’s rocky first season with the Patriots, the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end is perhaps the most likely of the aforementioned players to be dealt. However, Bennett, in his 11th season, was suspended this week for conduct detrimental to the team due to a disagreement with Defensive Line Coach Bret Bielema.
“When the Patriots acquired Bennett in the offseason, and then sweetened his contract, he seemed to be in line for a major role,” wrote ESPN’s Mike Reiss, who identified Bennett as the Patriots’ most likely trade target. “But it hasn't unfolded that way, in part because two players signed after him – linebacker Jamie Collins and nose tackle Danny Shelton -- are turning in career years and that has altered the team's scheme to more of a 3-4. That isn't an ideal fit for Bennett, who still can be a disruptive pass-rusher and now finds himself in more of a niche role.”
Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens believes Bennett would be a perfect fit for the Ravens.
“He’d add immediate production to Baltimore’s defense, forcing offenses to have to game-plan for another disruptive pass rusher,” Stevens wrote. “That should free up [Matthew] Judon and [Pernell] McPhee a little more because opponents couldn’t spend as much time double-teaming them or using someone to chip them exclusively. It would also give Judon and McPhee the chance to stay fresher for the end of the season.
“Given how little the Patriots are using Bennett and how he’s clearly disgruntled, the price for him shouldn’t be too high. A late-round selection seems fairly likely. And Bennett would only cost approximately $2.88 million in 2019, according to Over The Cap‘s contract breakdown. Baltimore would have to make some salary cap space, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to free that up. Bennett is the perfect solution for the Ravens’ woes, and at a steep discount. If that doesn’t sound like the type of move Baltimore would jump all over, I don’t know what does.”
The Ravens acquiring Bennett also would reunite him with former Seattle Seahawks teammate Earl Thomas III.
Russell Street Report’s Adam Bonaccorsi thinks the Ravens should target Ngakoue if the former Maryland star would be available. One of Bonaccorsi’s proposed trades would send tight end Hayden Hurst and a 2020 third-round pick to Jacksonville in exchange for the fourth-year defensive end.
“Yannick’s current cap hit to a new team looks to be right around $1.31 million ($2.025 base divided over 17 weeks with 11 weeks remaining),” Bonaccorsi wrote. “This leaves the Ravens with roughly $700k post-trade, but perhaps moving a player paired with a pick would open up slightly more for the emergency fund. Money fits. Need fits. Timing fits.”
Zrebiec said it would take “a perfect situation” for the Ravens to swing a deal for a player the caliber of Ngakoue, a Pro Bowl selection who entered 2019 with 29.5 sacks in three seasons.
“I think they’d be willing to trade a prime asset to fix a problem in the present and future,” Zrebiec said. “Like if you get Ngakoue … if that kind of guy’s available, could I see them maybe dealing one of their third-rounders and maybe another pick, a fourth rounder, something like that? Yeah, I could totally see it, especially if they’d have a guy for a couple years.”
So, in the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas, you’re telling me there’s a chance.
Eric DeCosta Receives High Marks for Trades
Regardless of whether the Ravens make another trade before the deadline, Eric DeCosta has already pulled off several impressive trades in his first year as General Manager, the latest being the deal for Peters.
“Given the team’s multiple injuries in the secondary, no matter how you slice it, this trade is another masterful stroke from GM Eric DeCosta,” Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi wrote about DeCosta acquiring Peters from the Los Angeles Rams for linebacker Kenny Young and a reported 2020 fifth-round draft pick.
Ebony Bird’s Noah Zomback also praised DeCosta for the job he has done in succeeding Ozzie Newsome.
“DeCosta has gotten great value in his … moves, including this trade,” Zomback wrote. “Gaining an immediate impact player for someone they didn’t seem to plan on using very much makes plenty of sense for Baltimore.”
Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler ranked the five trades DeCosta has made as GM, with the Peters acquisition at the top of the list.
“The best part of the trade is how it kind of came out of nowhere,” Schisler wrote. “Give DeCosta credit. You weren’t thinking about this move and I wasn’t either. That being said, nobody in their right mind would complain about it. This is a big trade. If the Ravens end up making the playoffs as back-to-back AFC North champions, this could go down as a defining moment for DeCosta.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh also applauded DeCosta yesterday, saying he appreciates how DeCosta keeps him posted on moves of such magnitude and knows how hard DeCosta worked on that trade.
"That was a great move," Harbaugh said. "I like the aggressive approach. We're excited about it."
Lamar Jackson Among ESPN’s Top 5 MVP Candidates
A panel of seven analysts voted veteran Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as the leading candidate, with Ravens second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is 10-3 in regular-season starts, coming in at No. 5.
“Jackson is on pace to annihilate the single-season quarterback rushing record after running wild in the Ravens' victory over the Bengals and becoming the first QB of the Super Bowl era to throw for 250 or more yards and rush for 150 or more in a regular-season game,” ESPN’s Courtney Cronin wrote. “Michael Vick is the only quarterback in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season, but if Jackson continues at this rate he'll eclipse 1,226.
“Since Jackson made his first start in Week 11 last season, Jackson's 10 wins are tied with Tom Brady for the second-most among quarterbacks in that time. The only QB who has won more games in that span is Wilson (11), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.”
USA Today’s Steven Ruiz lauded Ravens coaches for tailoring the offense to Jackson’s unparalleled dual-threat ability.
“Every day, we should thank the football gods that Lamar Jackson landed with a coaching staff that was willing to reshape its entire offense to suit his prodigious and unique skill set,” Ruiz wrote. “As Jackson continues to get experience as a passer, you might see the Ravens dial back on all of those option plays they have their quarterback running. But for now? They make this offense go.
“It’s fascinating to watch Jackson execute these option plays that started to infiltrate the league earlier this decade. But Jackson’s approach to the option is far different from any other NFL quarterback running them. He reads them in an instant, and if there’s any hesitation by the ‘read’ player, Jackson is pulling the ball and taking off. Sometimes, he makes the read so quickly, you can’t even tell he’s reading a player at all. … At Louisville, Jackson improved as a passer every year he was there. He’s on that same trajectory in the NFL, which should terrify defenses across the league.”
Pro Football Focus ranked the Ravens offense as the third-best in the NFL.
- Mark Ingram II was ranked as one of the top four hardest runners in the league by NFL.com’s Maurice Jones-Drew, who ranked Ingram eighth overall in his running backs index.
- The Ravens are given a 59 percent chance to make the playoffs by NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund. Only five teams have better odds.