Ravens Make Another Big Splash Before Deadline By Landing Ngakoue
Eric DeCosta did it again.
One year after DeCosta acquired All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams before the trade deadline, the general manager agreed in principle to a trade for Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
To land one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, the Ravens sent a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Ngakoue, a 2016 third-round pick out of Maryland, has 42.5 sacks in 69 career games, including five sacks in six games this year after being traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Vikings before the start of the season.
Ngakoue joins a defense that is No. 1 in points allowed per game (17.3) and is tied for the second-most sacks (22) and takeaways (11). The Ravens now have Pro Bowl bookend pass rushers in Ngakoue and outside linebacker Matthew Judon.
"Trading for pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue transforms a stout Baltimore Ravens defense into one of the NFL's scariest," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "Like his blitz-happy defense, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta went on the attack to deliver another playmaker that should turn a really good defense into a great one. … Like most of the Ravens' recent trades, it didn't come at a great expense."
The Ravens reportedly tried to work out a deal for Ngakoue before he signed with the Vikings in August.
"This is something that the Ravens have really had their eyes on not just the last couple days as this deal came to fruition, but really the last couple months," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said. "They were big-time in on potentially trading for Yannick Ngakoue when he ended up going to the Minnesota Vikings, just could not agree on price.
"They really do believe this is going to be a long-term move as well as a short-term move, obviously hope to lock him after the season if he comes in and does exactly what they believe he will."
Here's another scary thought for the rest of the league. In his statement about acquiring Ngakoue, DeCosta indicated there could be more deals to come.
"Finally, we are not finished building this team, as we continue to chase our ultimate goals," DeCosta said.
Here's what NFL reporters and analysts are saying about the trade:
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Nobody should be surprised that DeCosta and the Ravens pulled this move off. They've been trying to get an edge rusher for a while now. … The Ravens know who they are and they understand how they're going to win. As the speculation rose the past couple of weeks that they'd target a top available receiver or an interior offensive lineman, their first — and maybe not their last — move before the Nov. 3 trade deadline was to acquire an impact pass rusher. We should have expected this all along. We also should have figured that DeCosta would make the move just in time to have his new pass rusher available to get after Ben Roethlisberger and the rival Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday in a matchup that gets more enticing by the day."
NFL Network's Bucky Brooks: "We sit here and say the Baltimore Ravens are championship caliber already as they were presently constructed before the trade. They had Calais Campbell on the line, they had Derek Wolfe, they had Matt Judon. Yet they still had the ability to know, "For us to compete for the long haul, we still need to add bullets to the gun, we still need more ammunition, because we're chasing one of the two or three teams that legitimately have a shot to win it. … I love this, and I love the boldness of the move, because it is a bold move to go and do it."
The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "Eric DeCosta doesn't settle for patching weaknesses but instead builds on existing strengths. The Ravens already had one of the best pass defenses in the league, but DeCosta understood that some of their sack and pressure numbers were probably inflated because they've played terrible offensive lines the past two weeks. So he targeted a pass rusher who gets to the quarterback, no matter the circumstances. The Ravens don't need Yannick Ngakoue to dominate on every snap. They can use him as a specialist, the overpowering relief pitcher added for a postseason push. With him in the fold, they'll generate pressure when rushing four. Defensive Coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale's blitzes will become more luxury than necessity. Ngakoue is the perfect adornment to a defense that was already performing well."
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer: "The Ravens got better Thursday, and not at great expense. Maybe more importantly, they became a tougher defense for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to solve. … If Kansas City has struggled with anything since Mahomes' ascent, it's defenses that need only a four-man pass rush to generate pressure. The Ravens should have the secondary to keep a lid on the Chiefs' wide receivers. (Stopping tight end Travis Kelce is another matter.) After blitzing Mahomes over and over and not sacking him once on 'Monday Night Football,' the Ravens had to change things up before a potential rematch."
NBC Sports' Chris Simms: "We know the defense is awesome, but we've seen against the Chiefs and even last week against Carson Wentz, who doesn't have great talent [at receiver], they have to blitz too much. They have to leave their secondary vulnerable so much, and I think they realize, 'We're not going to beat the cream of the crop in the AFC, or Patrick Mahomes in the AFC Championship Game if we have to blitz five and six and seven guys all the time to get after him. So that's what I think it's all about. Brilliant move by the Ravens. Way to go."
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz: "It's easy to view the Chiefs as the one hill the Ravens must climb. In reality, regular-season games against the Steelers, Colts and Titans will present challenges for Baltimore, and any number of teams — the Bills, Raiders or Patriots perhaps? — could threaten to derail a playoff run. The Ravens needed to improve their team and not just their chances of matching up favorably against the Chiefs. In acquiring Ngakoue, who has played 69 of a possible 70 career games and has never experienced a sustained drop-off in production, the team accomplished just that."
Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens: "This was a masterful trade that will immediately make the Ravens defense much better at every level. With better field position, quarterback Lamar Jackson and company should have an easier time putting up points."
What Would Dez Bryant Bring to the Ravens?
In addition to the Ngakoue trade, the Ravens made headlines yesterday when it was reported that free-agent wide receiver Dez Bryant is expected to join the practice squad.
The All-Pro receiver worked out for the Ravens in August but was not signed. Bryant, 31, has not played in a regular-season game since 2017.
"The Ravens could use Bryant's 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame and knack for pulling down contested catches," Penn Live's Kasinitz wrote. "With second-year receiver Miles Boykin struggling and the passing game's numbers sagging compared to last season, Baltimore knows a receiver like Bryant could transform the offense — at least based on evidence Bryant provided years ago."
Said ESPN's Hensley: "If Bryant comes in and develops a rapport with Lamar Jackson, he could be added to the active roster and become that possession-type receiver who can complement the speed of Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown.'"
Meanwhile, ESPN's Josina Anderson reported that the Ravens are unlikely to pursue free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Brian Billick's New Book Focuses on Jackson, Other 2018 First-Round Quarterbacks
Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick has a new book out called "The Q Factor," which is about the inexact science of evaluating quarterbacks, focusing on the five first-round quarterbacks from the 2018 draft — Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Jackson.
In the book, Billick describes Jackson as "a one-man case study."
"Clearly, the position is becoming more athletic," Billick told The Baltimore Sun. "Now, Lamar Jackson is a bit of a unicorn. This guy is special. And to just say, 'OK we're going to take one of these athletic guys and do what Baltimore did,' well that may or may not work.
"[Former Alabama and Oklahoma star] Jalen Hurts, for instance, you knew certain athletic quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts were going to be pushed up the draft chart because of the success of Lamar Jackson. I'm not sure his pure quarterbacking skills are such that that combination will necessarily work."
Billick also discussed the importance of a young quarterback to be drafted by a team that will be fully committed to him.
"The three areas that clearly we identify in the book when you evaluate taking a quarterback: They've got to have the physical skills. Next, they have to have the mental and emotional makeup to transition into the NFL. Are they married to the right club and is the club going to utilize those abilities?" Billick said.
"The first-round busts, they all had the physical tools to play. So, where the difference comes in is those who didn't have the competitive, mental and emotional makeup to compete in the NFL. Or, they weren't with a club that utilized the talents properly. That was the key in Baltimore."
Billick also talked about his book, and the Ravens' start to the season, in a recent episode of "The Lounge" podcast.