Why Didn't the Ravens Make a Serious Run at Stephon Gilmore?
Whenever an accomplished NFL player becomes available on the trade market or in free agency, one can be certain that fans will flock to social media urging their favorite team to acquire the player in question.
It's often just wishful thinking, but Ravens fans know General Manager Eric DeCosta will be aggressive in pursuing a player if he thinks they'll be a good fit and the deal makes sense.
Which brings us to Stephon Gilmore. The New England Patriots made it known this week that the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year was available and they weren't expecting a lot back in return. All it took for the Carolina Panthers to land Gilmore was a 2023 sixth-round pick.
So why didn't the Ravens, who know there's no such thing as having too many quality cornerbacks, make a major run at Gilmore?
"Salary-cap concerns made any deal for Gilmore close to impossible," wrote The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, who noted that the Ravens had at least cursory interest in him. "The Ravens have only $1.8 million of salary cap, and Gilmore's 2021 cap number is three times that. Alterations of contracts can always be made, but the Ravens would have at least had to carry Gilmore under his current deal for one day, and that would have put them well over the cap and forced them to make moves just to be in compliance."
Zrebiec said the circumstances illustrate how difficult it will be for the Ravens to make a significant addition to the roster ahead of the Nov. 2 trade deadline.
"Trading draft capital is one thing," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens don't like doing it, but they have plenty of draft capital with as many as 10 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, including the potential of five selections in the fourth round. What they lack is the cap space to make it all work.
"DeCosta has repeatedly expressed the importance of having some cap cushion that allows the Ravens to pounce when a player they covet becomes available. That was the goal again this year. However, the rash of injuries and IR activity, plus the numerous roster moves the injuries have necessitated, have handcuffed the Ravens, taking a significant chunk out of the cap space they figured to have available to make outside, in-season additions."
The Ravens have reportedly already restructured several players' contracts to create cap space, and there are still a couple more they could do, but Zrebiec said expectations in terms of trade deadline activity should be tempered.
"That doesn't mean they won't do anything," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens could find a team so motivated to trade a player that it is willing to absorb some of the player's base salary to recoup a better draft pick. It does mean DeCosta and the front office will have to be more choosy with outside additions than ever before. They'll also have to be very creative to make it all work."
Ravens' MVP Lamar Jackson Has Entered League MVP Conversation
USA Today’s beat writers selected every team's Most Valuable Player after the first four weeks of the season. Not surprisingly, Lamar Jackson was the choice for the Ravens.
"Jackson has not only been the Ravens' MVP so far over the first month of the 2021 season, he's quietly entered himself into the actual MVP conversation as well," Ravens Wire's Kevin Oestreicher wrote.
As noted in Late for Work earlier this week, Jackson deserves to be among the leading candidates for early season MVP, especially if you take what MVP stands for literally.
A strong case could be made that no player has played a larger role in his team's success this season than Jackson, who has led the Ravens to a 3-1 record despite a slew of injuries on both sides of the ball.
Jackson has made major strides as a passer while still being as lethal as ever with his legs. He's on pace for 4,577 passing yards and 1,186 rushing yards.
"He's hitting his receivers in stride, and even when opposing defenses focus on stopping the run and 'force' Jackson to throw, he makes them pay in a big way," Oestreicher wrote. "He was expected to take another step forward in 2021, and so far he's done just that."
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wrote: "Lamar continues to throw deep and it continues to work. If you don't see the transformation in this Ravens offense, you are trying not to look."
On a side note, three former Ravens were selected as their team's MVP by the USA Today writers: Matthew Judon (New England Patriots), C.J. Mosley (New York Jets) and Tyrod Taylor (Houston Texans).
Should Ravens Be Concerned About Patrick Queen?
Inside linebacker Patrick Queen had an uneven rookie season last year, but the first-round pick was good enough to finish third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
Queen is still searching for more consistency this season. He's made splash plays but has room for improvement when it comes to tackling and pass coverage. So should the Ravens be worried about his second-year development?
Russell Street Report’s Nikhil Mehta offered some perspective.
"After an excellent game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Queen has struggled with missed tackles and hesitation in Baltimore's last three contests. But even in bad games, he still has moments that pop on tape," Mehta wrote. " … Queen is still a tremendous athlete who is very early in his career. Playing middle linebacker in the NFL, especially in Baltimore, is a tough, high-pressure job. I absolutely think he'll turn it around, sooner rather than later."
Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried expressed a similar sentiment
"At just 22 years old and possessing the raw, natural abilities that Queen does, it would be incredibly foolish to give up on the former LSU star so soon," Fried wrote. "It's fair to be concerned, but we're still just 20 games into his NFL career. Queen was always someone who was expected to take some time to adjust to the NFL game."
To Fried's point, Queen — who didn't start at LSU until his junior year in 2019 — was one of the youngest players in the NFL last season when he made his debut a month after turning 21. Moreover, because of the pandemic, rookies such as Queen had no practices until training camp and no preseason.
Queen isn't one to make excuses, though. He's made it clear that he sets high standards for himself and is determined to be a better overall player.
"I feel like I'm pretty good. I could be way better, though," Queen said a couple weeks ago. "I'm always looking to improve; I'm always looking to grind it out and try to be the best that I could be. So, I feel like right now, it's good. I'm probably at 85% confident that it looks good to other people and looks good to my coaches and stuff, but I feel like there's still a lot more that I can do and make plays on."