Does Lamar Jackson Get Enough Credit for His Regular-Season Success?
Now that we're a month removed from the loss to the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round of the playoffs and some of the sting has subsided, perhaps it's time for some perspective, especially as it relates to Lamar Jackson.
Players and teams are ultimately judged by how they perform in the postseason, but that doesn't mean excellence in the regular season should be taken for granted or minimized.
While Jackson's critics focus on his setbacks in the playoffs to justify their criticism of the 24-year-old quarterback, they're not giving him proper credit for his regular-season record, Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler wrote.
Since taking over the starting job in Week 11 of the 2018 season, Jackson is 30-7 in the regular season. No quarterback in the NFL has won more games during that span, including Patrick Mahomes (28-7).
Wins are ultimately a team statistic, but there's no denying the 2019 unanimous league MVP has been the catalyst for the Ravens making three consecutive playoff appearances.
"What the conversation will leave out though is how much fun being a Ravens fan has been in the past two and a half seasons. Jackson has led the way to a lot of fun Sundays," Schisler wrote. "Jackson makes a difference in every game he plays. … If you can't appreciate how great the Jackson era has been in the big picture and how great it could become, this article is just wasted words. If you don't appreciate Jackson now, you probably never will."
While Jackson will be the first to say that he needs to play better in the playoffs, it's not like he is the first talented young quarterback to not have immediate success in the postseason.
Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, for example, lost his first three playoff games (throwing a total of one touchdown pass) and didn't get his first postseason win until he was 27. He won his first Super Bowl championship at 30.
"If the playoff loss to the Bills proves anything, it's that Jackson needs help," Schisler wrote. "If the Super Bowl loss of the Chiefs proves anything, it's that every quarterback, even Patrick Mahomes, needs help. The struggles of Jackson in the playoffs prove just how much heavy lifting he has done in the regular season."
Pending Free Agent Tyus Bowser Discusses His Future
Tyus Bowser is one of five edge rushers on the Ravens who are pending free agents. While much of the talk has been about whether Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue will return to Baltimore, Bowser is another edge rusher who could earn a big contract on the open market.
During an appearance on "Inside Access" on 105.7 The Fan, Bowser said he would like to stay with the Ravens, who selected him in the second round in 2017, but he understands that he could end up playing elsewhere.
"I'm an athlete. I think about this stuff," Bowser said. "I've seen other guys go through it. In these trying times, you think about a lot of things. I definitely want to be back, being with a great organization in Baltimore. I like what I was able to establish there.
"I understand also that it's a business and I have to weigh my options. I'm just kind of sitting back really and let everything unfold. At this point, all I can do is wait."
Bowser is coming off a breakthrough season in which he had 34 tackles, two sacks, 14 quarterback hits and was second on the team with three interceptions.
"Bowser could command a contract of over $10 million per year, especially if the other top edge rushers on the free-agent market get the franchise tag," Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich wrote. "The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Bowser's hometown team, the Houston Texans, could express interest. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick also keeps a close eye on the Ravens' players hitting the free-agent market and could pursue Bowlser much like [he did] Adalius Thomas in 2007."
Karpovich noted that Bowser could join former linebackers such as Thomas, Za'Darius Smith, Bart Scott and Edgerton Hartwell in getting a huge payday with another franchise.
"You just see the depth and the talent that we have," Bowser said. "You just see the job that not only Ozzie [Newsome] but Eric DeCosta have done drafting linebackers these past few years. You just see it working out for a lot of those guys. They're put in a position to make money and prove themselves as who they are in this league.
"I'm definitely thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this organization and be in the position where I am now."
Three Free-Agent WRs Ravens Could Target Who Aren't One of the 'Big Three'
Allen Robinson II, Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay are the top three wide receivers set to hit the open market, but if the Ravens pursue a free agent receiver, there's a growing sentiment that it will be players such as A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton and Corey Davis.
Pro Football Focus predicted the Ravens will sign Green, their longtime nemesis as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, for two years, $20 million, and Ebony Bird's Richard Bradshaw believes it would be a perfect fit.
Green, 32, is coming off his least productive season (47 catches, 523 receiving yards, two touchdowns).
"Green will likely sign for close to the veteran's minimum and the Ravens love getting guys like Green for cheap, prove-it kind of deals," Bradshaw wrote. "Getting Green on a one-year, low-risk signing sounds exactly like what Baltimore has done countless times throughout their history.
"There is one thing that stands out a lot for Green when looking at this Ravens roster, too: size. [The 6-4, 210-pound] Green has always been an 'above the rim' kind of receiver. Green has a 'my ball' mentality that the rest of Baltimore's receivers seem to lack. He also provides the veteran savviness that this roster needs for its receiving room. This makes all the more sense for why this would be a seemingly perfect signing."
As noted in Late for Work earlier this week, Baltimore Beatdown's Frank J. Platko thinks the Ravens should consider signing Hilton. The 31-year-old Indianapolis Colts receiver 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 (three 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."
Davis, 26, is a younger and more expensive option than Green and Hilton. PFF's Anthony Treash predicted the Ravens will sign Davis for four years, $65 million ($32 million guaranteed). Davis had career-highs of 65 catches, 984 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games with the Tennessee Titans in 2020.
"Obviously, receivers like Allen Robinson II and Kenny Golladay would be the first preference, but if they get tagged as expected, four-year Titan Corey Davis might be the best option available," Treash wrote. "That would be a pretty good consolation prize for the Ravens considering they finished with one of the five lowest-graded receiving units in 2020 and Davis was a top-10-graded wide receiver. Against single coverage in particular, Davis sat at the 85th percentile in receiving grade in 2020."
Clemson WR Prospect Would Relish Playing For His Father, Tee Martin
If Clemson wide receiver prospect Amari Rodgers ends up being drafted by the Ravens, he'll know the team's wide receivers coach very well. Rodgers' father is Tee Martin, who was hired by the Ravens a couple weeks ago.
Rodgers told Glenn Clark Radio that he'd welcome the opportunity to have his father as his coach.
"Now that I have the chance, I'm just praying that I get the chance to play for him," Rodgers said. "But growing up I never got the chance to play for him.
"I know that he's going to push me, he knows me more than anyone. I know that he knows what's good for me and what's not. So, if I had the chance to play for him, he would definitely build me into the player I know I can be."
This past season, Rodgers emerged as presumed presumptive No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence's favorite target. Rogers led the Tigers in receiving with 77 catches for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. He had four catches for 23 yards and a touchdown in the Senior Bowl last month.
A member of a deep wide receiver class, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Rodgers is projected to be a Day 2 pick. He lined up outside and in the slot at Clemson and also contributed in the return game.
"I'm definitely confident in my skill set, what I bring to the game with my route running, my speed, my hands," Rodgers said. "I feel like my value is higher than a lot of people see it. I'm just ready to prove it when I get in the league."
Rodgers said the opportunity to catch passes from Jackson is another reason he would relish playing in Baltimore.
"He's probably one of the best players I've ever seen in person play," Rodgers said. "Just how fast he is, how athletic he is and how he's able to do special things with the ball in his hands."