Ravens' Signing Willie Snead IV To Extension Is a Wise Move
Willie Snead IV may not receive a lot of fanfare, but the Ravens know how valuable the veteran wide receiver is.
The team re-signed Snead to a one-year, reported $6 million fully-guaranteed extension yesterday. Snead, 27, would've been an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
The consensus among pundits is that retaining Snead is a wise move and a possible indication the Ravens are freeing up cap space in order to make a trade before today's 4 p.m. deadline.
Snead, who led the Ravens in receiving last season with 62 catches for 651 yards, is third on the team this season with 15 receptions for 223 yards and two touchdowns. However, his value to the team goes beyond statistics.
"The move may come across as underwhelming, but it truly is a smart move," Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw wrote. "As Lamar Jackson continues to grow as a passer, it is vital that the Ravens maintain consistency for him to build around. … Snead is a tough receiver who makes contested grabs and provides a safety valve when the play breaks down. Snead is also a strong blocker in the run game, adding to his overall value in the Baltimore Ravens offense."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Jacob Louque wrote: "Snead is a sure-handed, hard-nosed possession receiver who's still in his prime, and he clearly has the trust of Lamar Jackson - which is a big deal for a young quarterback."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley noted that "Snead provides experience and leadership to a wide receiver group that includes rookies Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown and Miles Boykin."
Louque speculated as to what the timing of the move could mean for the Ravens, who are widely believed to be looking to acquire a pass rusher.
"It's also possible that [Ravens General Manager Eric] DeCosta has other moves in the pipeline that an extension like this would allow for him to make," Louque wrote. "Extending Snead now frees up approximately $2 million in cap space, which could mean that the Ravens brass has the framework of a deadline trade in place and just needed to get a bit creative with the cap to make it happen. While there's nothing we can do but wait on that news, this extension is a good sign either way."
Before the start of the regular season, Pro Football Focus’ Mark Chichester listed Snead as one of the NFL's top triple threat receivers (a player who can come down with the tough contested catches, separate from defensive backs, and rack up the yards after the catch).
"He averaged 4.52 yards after the catch per reception, he created separation on 54.7% of his targets, and he came down with 6 of 10 contested targets, as well," Chichester wrote.
One Final Look at Potential Trades for a Pass Rusher
With the trade deadline just hours away, we couldn't pass up one final opportunity to discuss the possibility of the Ravens trading for a pass rusher.
One player that had been speculated on was New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams (as noted in yesterday’s Late for Work), but he reportedly was traded to the New York Giants yesterday in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round selection.
The player most frequently linked to the Ravens is Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. There have been conflicting reports as to whether the Jaguars (4-4) – who are currently one game out of the second wild-card spot in the AFC – have any interest in trading the 24-year old former Maryland star, who is in the final year of his contract.
That didn't stop the “Good Morning Football” crew from discussing a trade scenario that would send Ngakoue to the Ravens for their 2020 first-round pick.
"I'm always a believer of a bird in the hand. A proven, good player is better than any draft pick," GMFB's Kyle Brandt said. "I like Yannick. I think he would give them some attitude. I would do this."
Conversely, Peter Schrager said a first-round pick is too much to give up for a player who might not be back with the team next season.
"It's too much for a rental," Schrager said. "These first-round picks are like gold in the draft."
Meanwhile, SB Nation’s Adam Stites looked at the possibility of the Ravens trading for Denver Broncos All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller.
"If a team is willing to step up and offer the Broncos a lot for Miller, Denver could get pieces to speed along that rebuild," Stites wrote. "Even better, it could dodge the final two years of the pricy six-year, $114.1 million extension Miller signed in 2016. Baltimore should be the team to step up to the plate.
"The team isn't afraid to make a splash. The Ravens reportedly made a significant offer to acquire Jalen Ramsey, but came up short. They have the draft capital to acquire Miller and a willingness to push their chips to the center of the table with a lead in the AFC North. The tricky part would be fitting Miller's contract under the salary cap for the remainder of the 2019 season."
How Newcomers Quickly Learned the Defense
The Ravens adding a big-name pass rusher would be wonderful, but a move doesn't necessarily have to be splashy to be significant.
Case in point: Baltimore's improved play on defense can largely be attributed to the signing of four players over 16 days following a 40-25 loss at home to the Cleveland Browns.
While the trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters qualifies as splashy, the signings of inside linebackers L.J. Fort (released by the Philadelphia Eagles) and Josh Bynes (a free agent since March) and defensive tackle Jihad Ward (released by the Indianapolis Colts) went largely unnoticed around the league, but have paid dividends.
Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz took an in-depth look at how the four players quickly learned the defense and helped to reverse the unit's downward spiral.
"Each newcomer took an individual path to Baltimore, but they all suited up less than a week after arriving and performed well enough to earn praise from coaches," Kasinitz wrote. "Since the Ravens began their defensive shakeup by signing Fort and Bynes, they've allowed an average of 288.7 yards per game, while the lapses and sense of confusion that plagued the defense against the Chiefs and Browns have dissipated.
"[Ravens Head Coach John] Harbaugh offered credit to General Manager Eric DeCosta in the aftermath of the Ravens' upset win at the Seahawks on Sunday, saying the first-year general manager identified the appropriate players to acquire. Bynes, Fort and Ward filled specific needs and Peters infused talent and depth into a depleted secondary."
Identifying the appropriate players was the first step. After that, the players crammed so that they could quickly get up to speed on a complex defense, and the coaches put in additional time to work with the players to accelerate the learning curve.
Fort told Kasinitz that he "spent upwards of 14 hours a day over the next week trying to master the language of the defense" after signing with the Ravens on Sept. 30.
"L.J. Fort spent several days earlier this month holed up for hours either in a meeting room at the Baltimore Ravens headquarters or a nearby hotel with a stack of note cards in front of him," Kasinitz wrote. "Fort had written a term from the Ravens' defensive playbook on one side of each card. On the other, the veteran inside linebacker said he scribbled the instructions each word or phrase was supposed to catalyze. When linked together, the terms on the cards formed play calls that Defensive Coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale might use on game days."
Ravens Defensive Backs Coach Chris Hewitt told Kasinitz he used practices and walkthroughs to help Peters prepare to play against the Seahawks five days after he joined the Ravens' roster. Peters played 90 percent of the Ravens' defensive snaps in Seattle and scored a momentum-shifting touchdown on a 67-yard interception return.
"There aren't any pop quizzes," Hewitt said. "You just spend the extra time with him – really just putting everything into a category and using some kind of word association from any previous defenses that he's played, and put it into those categories. And it was really easy to get him up to speed."
Regarding Ward and Bynes, Kasinitz wrote: "Ward said he found walkthroughs especially valuable as he tried to find a place in Baltimore's defensive front. The former second-round pick asked Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen to take him through explanations of play calls during light practices so he could better grasp the schemes.
"Bynes played with the Ravens from 2011 to '13 and had familiarity with Martindale. Even so, the playbook looked unrecognizable when he signed Oct. 2, and he was able to learn it in time to start and snag an interception in an Oct. 6 win over the Steelers."
Bill Belichick: Lamar Jackson Presents a 'Big Problem'
It may be stating the obvious when an opposing head coach says Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is difficult to prepare for, but New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick stressed just how much of a problem Jackson presents during a media conference call ahead of Sunday night's game between the Ravens (5-2) and Patriots (8-0) at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Yeah, he's very fast and he's definitely a hard guy to handle," Belichick said. "That's definitely a problem. He's fast and that's really a big problem. A lot of times he just outruns people. I mean, he's got good moves, too. I'm not saying that, but a lot of times he just outruns people with his speed.
"Catching him is an issue, especially when he keeps the ball. A lot of times he's running against a defensive end, and the ends just aren't fast enough. They have him but they don't have him. He's a problem. He's definitely a problem."
For those keeping count, that was four "problems" in one statement. However, Belichick and his defensive staff have proven to be excellent problem solvers over the years.
The Patriots defense, which has been historically dominant this season, undoubtedly will be the toughest challenge Jackson has faced thus far. New England is on pace to give up 122 points, which would shatter the record for fewest points allowed in a season of 165, set by the 2000 Super Bowl champion Ravens.
The Ravens' Jackson-led offense against the Patriots' smothering defense certainly makes for a compelling matchup. Baltimore leads the league in rushing (204.1 yards per game), while the Patriots are giving up 4.6 yards per carry, which ranks 21st in the league.
"New England will have its hands full with Jackson on Sunday because he's unlike any offensive player this Patriots defense has played all year," NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss wrote.