Is Trading for Julio Jones a Realistic Scenario?
The Ravens have a good track record when acquiring proven wide receivers who are 30-or-older, as names such as Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Steve Smith Sr. come to mind.
Could Julio Jones be next?
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox compiled a list of "realistic" trade scenarios, one of which was the Ravens trading a 2021 first-round pick for the 32-year-old Atlanta Falcons star.
Jones, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, saw his string of seven straight 1,00-yard-receiving seasons end in 2020, as injuries limited him to nine games. Still, his 771 receiving yards would have led the Ravens.
"Jones is 32 years old, but he's still one of the toughest players to cover when healthy," Knox wrote. "This deal would give Baltimore the No. 1 receiver it has been missing while lending new Falcons General Manager Terry Fontenot more ammunition for the coming rebuild."
Whether Knox's scenario is truly "within the realm of the realistic" is debatable. He acknowledged that "it feels unlikely" the Falcons would deal Jones this offseason, "largely because he has $38.6 million in dead money remaining on his contract."
Moreover, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported two weeks ago that Jones and quarterback Matt Ryan are expected to remain with the Falcons. It also seems unlikely that General Manager Eric DeCosta would be willing to part with a first-round pick.
However, to paraphrase a famous movie quote, Knox is saying there's a chance.
"If the right offer comes along, Atlanta could consider it. The prospect of landing a wideout like Ja'Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith with the fourth-overall pick in the draft could also play a role," Knox wrote. "The Baltimore Ravens, meanwhile, still lack a true No. 1 target for quarterback Lamar Jackson. Dealing for Jones would remedy that."
On a side note, Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank J. Platko thinks the Ravens should consider signing free-agent receiver T.Y. Hilton.
Hilton, 31, had five 1,000-yard seasons from 2013-2018, but his production dropped off the past two seasons.
"My ultimate conclusion is that Hilton could be a worthwhile flier at the right price," Platko wrote. "Spotrac has his market value set around $10 million annually (3 years, $30 million). Either way, though, he shouldn't be the 'prized' acquisition at wide receiver this offseason. If the Ravens sign Hilton, it should coincide with signing another free agent wideout of similar caliber or selecting a receiver relatively early in the draft."
Ravens' 2018 Draft Class on Course to Be Among Franchise's Best
The Ravens felt good about their 2018 draft class, the final one for Ozzie Newsome before he stepped down as general manager, but one never really knows how picks will turn out until they get a couple seasons under their belt.
Three years later, a draft class that included Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is on course to be among the best in franchise history, Press Box’s Bo Smolka wrote. That includes the 1996 class, which produced Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis with the franchise's first two picks.
"[The 2018 class] has produced Jackson, already a league Most Valuable Player by age 24, but what has further stood out about this class is its depth," Smolka wrote.
In addition to Jackson and Pro Bowl selections Andrews and Brown, Smolka noted the 2018 class included: two starters out of the sixth round (guard Bradley Bozeman, safety DeShon Elliott); and two players who were traded (tight end Hayden Hurst and linebacker Kenny Young), effectively bringing in return running back J.K. Dobbins and Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters.
Of the 12 draft picks in 2018, eight have started games for the Ravens. Fourth-round cornerback Anthony Averett has been a strong reserve who could start elsewhere. Defensive lineman Zach Sieler, who the Ravens selected in the seventh round that year, didn't start in Baltimore but has since become a starter for the Miami Dolphins and already signed a contract extension.
Making the Case for Bringing Back Yannick Ngakoue
One of the hot topics regarding the Ravens' offseason plans is what will happen with pending free-agent edge rushers Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon. Both figure to be highly coveted, so the prevailing opinion is that the Ravens might be able to sign one of them, but not both.
Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler believes re-signing Ngakoue is the best option.
"If the Ravens lose Ngakoue and Matt Judon in the same offseason, it would almost be like starting from scratch at one of the most premium positions in the game," Schisler wrote. "One way or another the Ravens need to build their pass rush back up; however, losing the best pass rusher they have doesn't seem like a good idea.
"Ngakoue is 25 years old. If he can continue to be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, the Ravens can absolutely justify viewing him as a core player of the franchise. If the Ravens want to rebuild the pass rush, they should allow Ngakoue to be the leader of that effort. Drafting a young outside linebacker to pair with Ngakoue is the best possible outcome."
Ngakoue has never had fewer than eight sacks in a season. He had three sacks for the Ravens in nine games last year after they acquired him from the Minnesota Vikings at mid-season for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.
"The 2020 season was a strange one for Ngakoue," Schisler wrote. "He was traded at the beginning of the year from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Vikings. He essentially played half of his season for Minnesota and half for Baltimore. A full season with the Ravens could make things go smoother for the former Pro Bowl edge rusher."
Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger wrote that Ngakoue is a candidate to have the franchise tag placed on him. PFF projected Ngakoue's franchise tag number to be $15.893 million.
"This may not be too likely, as the reason Ngakoue even found himself in Baltimore this year was because of his refusal to play on the franchise tag in Jacksonville," Spielberger wrote. "That certainly could be more indicative of his feelings about the organization than the franchise tag, however.
"But it's not impossible, and a very important wrinkle here is that Ngakoue did not negotiate a no-tag provision into his revised one-year, $12 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings (who then of course traded him to the Ravens midseason). Ngakoue agreed to take a substantial pay cut just to get out of Jacksonville, dropping his $17.788 million franchise tag all the way down to $12 million."
Judon earned $16.8 million playing under the tag in 2020.
"A second tag for him would eclipse $20 million. This leaves Ngakoue as the likely [franchise tag] candidate in Baltimore," Spielberger wrote.
Lamar Jackson Makes Mount Rushmore of Active Quarterbacks
Could you picture Lamar Jackson's face on Mount Rushmore? NFL Network’s James Jones can — the Mount Rushmore of active quarterbacks, that is.
In a debate with Derek Carr over who the four quarterbacks should be on Mount Rushmore for 2021 (not of all time), Jones named Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Jackson.
"These are four guys where defensive coordinators are still up right now, because it's the offseason, figuring out ways to try to stop these guys. They are absolutely special," Jones said. "Lamar 'Action' Jackson, you do not want to go against him the way he can throw it and use his legs."
Carr also picked Mahomes, Rodgers and Wilson, but he went with Tom Brady instead of Jackson.
Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus' Eric Eager and George Chahrouri answered the question of whether they'd rather have Jackson or Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. Both chose Jackson.
"I think that the gap between Murray's passing ability and Lamar's passing ability is drastically overrated, and I think Lamar has the unique skill set that no other quarterback in the entire NFL has," Eager said. "So you pair that together, you price in a little growth for Lamar Jackson in the passing game, he's the preferred one."
Chahrouri said: "Give Lamar Jackson someone in the same stratosphere as DeAndre Hopkins and then come back to me and talk to me about it. I'd take Lamar over Kyler Murray, and I love Kyler Murray."