Pundit Predicts Ravens Will Be Buyers Ahead of Trade Deadline
With the Nov. 2 trade deadline less than two weeks away, speculation about which players might be on the block and which teams figure to be buyers and sellers is starting to heat up.
NFL.com’s Kevin Patra named the AFC North-leading Ravens as one of five teams that should be buyers, which is not surprising considering the number of injuries they've suffered on both sides of the ball.
Acquiring a young running back should be at the top of the Ravens' wish list, according to Patra.
"Sure, Baltimore got production from 31-year-old Latavius Murray, 29-year-old Le'Veon Bell, and 29-year-old Devonta Freeman on Sunday, but aging legs rarely last into the winter," Patra wrote. "Will Baltimore keep them fresh enough, with a dash of Ty'Son Williams to roll into January? Wouldn't adding a young runner like Marlon Mack, freeing Ronald Jones from Tampa, or prying Phillip Lindsay out of Houston look better long-term next to Jackson?"
Ebony Bird’sJustin Fried also identified Mack and Jones as players the Ravens should have interest in, although Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians said yesterday that the team does not intend to trade Jones.
Mack, 25, rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2019 with the Indianapolis Colts, and Jones, 24, ran for 978 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season with Tampa Bay. However, they've both fallen on their teams' depth chart this season.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that it won't take more than a conditional late-round pick to land Mack, and Fried believes Jones could be acquired for a mid-Day 3 pick if he became available.
The Ravens have draft capital (as many as 10 picks in 2022), but they don't have a lot of cap space, which will make it difficult for them to make a significant addition. However, Fried thinks the Ravens could make a deal for Mack or Jones work.
"Mack's $2 million salary could be absorbed by the Ravens a lot easier than some other salaries around the league too. The only question is, how much of an upgrade would he be?" Fried wrote. "Jones is on a cheap rookie contract, making him affordable for the Ravens."
The other running back Fried thinks would be a good fit is former Raven Mark Ingram II. Ingram was popular with fans and teammates in Baltimore, but he is averaging a career-low 3.3 yards per carry with the Texans this season and turns 32 in December.
Patra said the Ravens also could use help on the offensive line, especially with All-Pro Ronnie Stanley having season-ending ankle surgery, and at cornerback, a position in which a team can never have enough depth. He also noted that the Ravens are not alone in having those needs.
"Seemingly every club has a 'Reliable Healthy Cornerback(s) Needed' sign hanging in their store windows," Patra wrote. "Need an offensive lineman? Good luck. So does the team next to you."
Patra acknowledged the Ravens' cap concerns and suggested a potential solution.
"The lack of cap space hurts, but what about finally getting that Lamar [Jackson] contract done right now to lower his cap number this season, giving the team at least a little more breathing room?" Patra wrote.
When Jackson was asked by a reporter yesterday if there were any updates on an extension, the quarterback simply said, "No."
Contract Extensions for Jackson, Baker Mayfield Headed in Different Directions
Speaking of Jackson's contract, Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson noted that extensions for Jackson and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield are headed in different directions.
"Two franchises that embraced the path of patience with their franchise quarterback deals for Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield — and two franchises that now have some very important and very different results in their hands to shape the coming months and 2022 offseason," Robinson wrote. "Because as much as the two teams entered this season heading down the same avenue, the journey is diverging."
Mayfield was the No. 1-overall pick in 2018; Jackson was the final pick of the first round and the fifth quarterback selected. Josh Allen was the first quarterback of the 2018 class to be extended, as he signed a six-year deal with the Buffalo Bills in August reportedly worth $258 million.
Robinson noted that Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, is having another MVP-caliber season and has made significant strides as a passer.
"He's capable of individual growth at the same time he has to continue to aid the development around him," Robinson wrote. "He can engineer some perfect moments in less-than-perfect circumstances. Now, we're only six games in here, but that's the kind of guy you happily sign to a record-setting contract extension."
Jackson and the Ravens have both made it clear that they want to get a deal done. The Undefeated's Jean-Jacques Taylor said Jackson's contract must be at least the second-largest deal in NFL history (behind Patrick Mahomes' 10-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs that's reportedly worth up to $503 million).
Mayfield, who has been dealing with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and will sit out tonight's game against the Denver Broncos, has helped turn the Browns into contenders, but he has been inconsistent at times.
"That brings us to the Browns and Baker Mayfield — a union that was hoping for something along the lines of what Baltimore is experiencing," Robinson wrote. "Not that Mayfield has been bad this season. And not that the roster around him has been perfect, either. But the patience in the process of measuring Mayfield's contract and how he will continue to grow under this offensive staff is now incomplete.
"His shoulder injury means the team has to grasp the reality that it's probably not going to get the data it needed to do an extension. If anything, Cleveland now has to consider that this is the second time in three years that Mayfield's health has come to weigh on the direction of his future. To the point that Cleveland is very much coming to terms with the possibility of taking its presumed franchise quarterback into the final year of his five-year contract before making a long-term commitment."
Patrick Mekari Has Gone From 'Unheralded to Indispensable'
With all the issues the Ravens have had on the offensive line due to injuries, Patrick Mekari's steady play and versatility have been vital.
Mekari, who shifted from the interior of the offensive line to right tackle, a position in which he had never started a game in the NFL, has given the Ravens one less thing to be concerned about. Head Coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week that he "couldn't be more pleased" with Mekari's play.
"In five games, Mekari has done more than hold his own," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "He's been one of the top performers on an offensive line that has been hit hard by injuries, but is still getting the job done for a team that ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per game and seventh in points per game."
Mekari's journey to being an NFL starter has not been a smooth one. He wasn't a full-time starter in high school until his junior year; wasn't highly recruited before receiving a last-minute scholarship offer when another University of California offensive line recruit decided that he didn't want it; and went undrafted in 2019 before the Ravens signed him.
"A similar story has played out for Mekari at every step of his football journey, from high school to college to the pros," Zrebiec wrote. "He has gone from unheralded to indispensable, from unwanted to invaluable. He doesn't know how to explain the improbability of it all, so he's just going to enjoy the ride."
Said Mekari: "I'm very much a 'live in the now' kind of guy and this is just where I am right now. I'm very grateful to be here. I'm not comfortable. I'm not satisfied with my so-called NFL career. I think there's still a lot more work to do. I'm just very excited, God willing, to continue it and to just get better every day and just see where tomorrow takes me. That's kind of how I live."