ESPN Predicts Free Agency Domino Effect
The start of free agency is a month and a day away, and the predictions are gearing up.
ESPN's Bill Barnwell took a stab at predicting where some of the top free agents will land and how those moves would have a domino effect on others. The Ravens were right in the mix.
Here are some scenarios that Barnwell could envision playing out for Baltimore:
WR Golden Tate signs with Ravens
"Baltimore doesn't have a ton of cap room, but Golden Tate is the exact sort of valuable possession receiver the Ravens have loved to bring in over the past decade," Barnwell wrote. "Signing Tate might require the Ravens to get out of the Michael Crabtree business after a year, but the former Seahawks and Lions star would represent an upgrade."
Tate has been one of the NFL's most consistent performers. He caught at least 90 passes from 2014-2017 in Detroit's pass-heavy scheme. He topped 1,000 yards three of those four seasons.
Last year, split between the Lions and Eagles, who traded for him midseason, Tate posted 74 catches for 795 yards and four touchdowns. He's very sure-handed, dangerous with the ball in his hands and a good, tough blocker.
"The 30-year-old veteran still has plenty to offer in the right system in 2019," wrote Pro Football Focus. "He's been the league's best receiver in terms of forced missed tackles and yards after the catch for quite some time now, and such talents could be reignited if given the right opportunity."
Tate isn't expected to return to Philadelphia this offseason, and Barnwell predicted a three-year, $36 million deal in Baltimore. Barnwell also listed the Patriots and Titans as other potential landing spots.
WR DeSean Jackson signs one-year deal with Ravens
This was a domino effect of free-agent wide receiver Tyrell Williams signing with the Jets. It then led to a shuffling of big-play wideouts.
"The run-first approach the Ravens embraced under Lamar Jackson should create some downfield attacking opportunities in 2019 Baltimore won't have a ton of cap room if it retains free agents C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith, but a weapon like Jackson could keep opposing safeties out of the box," Barnwell wrote.
The 32-year-old veteran still led the NFL in yards per catch last year at 18.9. Jackson got off to an extremely hot start with Ryan Fitzpatrick before cooling at the end of the season. He posted 41 catches for 774 yards and four scores last year. Jackson is still under contract by the Bucs.
Jackson did play for new Ravens Wide Receivers Coach/Passing Coordinator David Culley while they were both in Philadelphia.
WR John Brown goes to Tampa Bay
This came after Jackson signed with the Ravens in Barnwell's scenario.
"This is basically a swap of free agents, with Brown impressing during the first half of the season with the Ravens before slowing down as Baltimore went with a run-heavy approach in the second half," Barnwell wrote. "Here, he reunites with former coach Bruce Arians as the downfield weapon for Jameis Winston in Tampa."
Joe Flacco moves on to Broncos, Redskins or Raiders (!?)
None of the three possibilities Barnwell laid out included the Ravens trading Flacco. Instead, all three were Baltimore releasing him and Flacco signing elsewhere.
In Denver, Barnwell predicts a three-year, $45 million deal:
"Denver GM John Elway has shown an affinity for tall pocket passers like Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, so it makes sense that he would go after the 6-foot-6 Joe Flacco, who could get released as Baltimore turns over the team to Lamar Jackson. New Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello is likely to bring over pieces of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme, which Flacco knows from playing under Gary Kubiak."
In Washington, Barnwell sees a two-year, $30 million deal:
"Joe Flacco moves 37 miles down I-95 to join Washington, where Jay Gruden watched Flacco go 4-2 against his Bengals during three years as Cincy offensive coordinator. Flacco, who could get released, isn't a similar quarterback to Alex Smith, but he has spent the past few years in the West Coast offense under Marc Trestman and Marty Mornhinweg."
In Oakland, Barnwell sees a two-year, $34 million deal:
"If Oakland coach Jon Gruden doesn't think Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback, the time to make a move is now, since Carr still has some modest trade value. The likely released Joe Flacco isn't going to excite fans, but he's a logical bridge quarterback in advance of a draftee in 2019 or 2020."
QB Tyrod Taylor comes back to Baltimore
This is if Teddy Bridgewater stays with the Saints. Not sure why that wouldn't seem to match with Robert Griffin III staying with the Ravens, but alas …
"The former Virginia Tech star began his career with the Ravens before winning the starting job in Buffalo, where he excelled under current Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Taylor is the perfect backup for Lamar Jackson and allows Baltimore to stay with their specialized, run-first scheme if the second-year passer gets injured."
You Won't Believe This Photo of D.K. Metcalf
Last week, I introduced some of you to Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, the "freakish" wide receiver prospect who a bunch of pundits are predicting the Ravens will take with pick No. 22.
I hesitate to use the word freakish because, let's face it, all (or the very wide majority of) NFL players are freakish athletes. But let me emphasize this once again for Metcalf after a photo of him set Twitter ablaze.
Dude. Is. A. Freak.
"On Ole Miss' website, Metcalf is listed at 6'4, and 230 pounds," wrote SB Nation's Harry Lyles Jr. "I suppose that might be true. I also suppose it might not be after seeing this picture."
According to Sports Illustrated's Bruce Feldman, Metcalf also posted a 11-1 broad jump, 37.5-inch vertical and 4.46 40-yard dash. That landed him on his "Freaks List" of college football players.
"The son of former Chicago Bears offensive lineman Terrence Metcalf, a former standout hurdler and triple jumper on his high school track and field team, [Metcalf] was the kind of talent who gave rival SEC coaches headaches," Feldman wrote.
The Combine will be huge for Metcalf, not only to prove that he's medically OK after suffering a season-ending neck injury, but that he's just as athletic as he looks.
Some pundits, including the head of the Senior Bowl Jim Nagy, were shocked, but not impressed, by Metcalf's photo. Is he too big?
Kyler Murray Chooses Football, Draws Lamar Jackson Comparisons
When questioned about whether their run-based system built around Lamar Jackson is viable, long-term, the Ravens have said these things are often cyclical.
For a while, dual-threat quarterbacks were in vogue. Then it was true pocket passers. Now, quarterbacks who are not just dual-threats, but explosive runners could be the next trend.
Lamar Jackson certainly broke the mold last year, and now he'll have company with Kyler Murray, who yesterday announced that he's choosing football over baseball.
He was a former first-round pick of the Oakland Athletics, and will now likely become the first player ever to be drafted in the first round of the MLB and the NFL.
The NFL world is very excited about Murray choosing football. The 2018 Heisman winner threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns (seven interceptions) last year while also running for 1,001 yards and 12 more scores.
The comparisons between Murray and Jackson have already begun, and you can expect a lot more of them to come.
"I would call Murray a once-in-a-generation quarterback prospect, but we just saw Lamar Jackson, the greatest running quarterback in the history of college football, so I won't resort to such hyperbole," wrote USA Today's Steven Ruiz. "But while Murray is not the runner Jackson is (though it is close), he is more refined as a passer (and it's not that close)."
Hall of Fame wide receiver turned analyst Cris Carter said, "He's a better football player than Lamar Jackson right now. Murray would've been better off against the Chargers than Lamar."
We shall see. Murray did it for one year at Oklahoma. Jackson was spectacular for three years at Louisville (and ran for way more yards in college). Murray is also a lot smaller than Jackson and could be more susceptible to injury when taking big hits.
They are similar, but not the same, and both can have a lot of NFL success.
Funny tidbit … Murray was one of the 11 quarterback recruits rated higher than Jackson coming out of high school, as pointed out by the Louisville Courier Journal more than a year ago. Now some projections have him being drafted in the same position as Jackson.
Former Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis joined "Glenn Clark Radio" to talk about being the first head coach to face Jackson in the NFL, and what he expects the Ravens to do with his development. Lewis is a big believer in Ravens Quarterbacks Coach James Urban, who used to be on his staff in Cincinnati.
"He'll really be able to help Lamar grow this offseason, help him understand where the weakness of a coverage is, how they should go about attacking the coverage and find where the weakness is – whether it be a matchup or scheme. I think time on task will make that very helpful for Lamar," Lewis said.