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Late for Work 2/19: The Case for and Against Pursuing A.J. Green

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green warms up before practice.

The Case for and Against Pursuing A.J. Green

For years, A.J. Green has been dubbed the "Ravens Killer." But what if the long-time division foe landed in Baltimore?

After nine seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Green is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the Ravens could have a chance to pursue the veteran wide receiver. The Bengals could also extend, or franchise, him.

"If Green were to stay in the AFC North … it makes a lot of sense that the Ravens would be the team to bring in his services," Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw wrote. 

From a pure speculation standpoint, it makes sense. Wide receiver is a position of need for the Ravens and Green could be one of the most enticing options available.

So let's look at the pros and cons.

Since coming into the league in 2011, Green has been one of the NFL's top wide receivers. He's totaled 8,907 career receiving yards and 82 touchdowns, including six 1,000-yard seasons.

"Green is a proven player that has good hands, runs effective routes and can get behind a defense or catch intermediate passes to move the chains," Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich wrote. "At 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, Green is also a big target inside the red zone, an area where the Ravens already thrived last season."

John Harbaugh told reporters that the Ravens have a "feel" for the kind of wide receiver they want to add. Seth Roberts is the only receiver not under contract through next season and adding a possession receiver like Green fills a void that Baltimore lacks.

Spotrac projects Green to receive a two-year, $18.2 million deal, similar to recent contracts that Julian Edelman, Emmanuel Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald, and DeSean Jackson have signed.

That's not a deal that would break the bank, but Green's recent injury history poses concerns. Green missed all of last season with an ankle injury and was limited to just nine games the year before, when he finished with 46 catches for 496 yards and six touchdowns.

"Green will turn 32 in July and is on the backend of his career," Karpovich wrote, "but could still be an effective playmaker if he stays healthy."

Bradshaw sees Green's health concerns as a potential benefit for the Ravens in negotiations.

 "The biggest gripe people will have here is that Green can't stay healthy anymore," Bradshaw wrote. "This is a major concern, but it could be a blessing in disguise, as the Ravens could get him on a cheaper deal or even a one-year 'prove it' contract. The signing could be a low-risk, high-reward if the situation presents itself that way."

If you remember, the Ravens took a chance on John Brown after he was plagued by injuries with the Arizona Cardinals following the 2017 season. The risk paid off and Brown revived his career in Baltimore.

However, Bradshaw and Karpovich both agreed the Ravens should think carefully if they do pursue Green.

 "The biggest thing here for the Ravens is to not splurge to sign Green," Bradshaw added. "If his market value is too high, he isn't worth the risk. But, for the right deal, he'd make an excellent addition to this offense and give Jackson a target at any spot on the field."

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller also reported that Green could land in New England – alongside Tom Brady.

Concern About O-Line Depth Following James Hurst's Suspension

The Ravens will be without James Hurst for the start of the regular season as he serves a four-game suspension and Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz expressed some concerns regarding the O-line depth.

"The concerns about the offensive line exist within its depth instead of its star power," Kasinitz wrote. "Aside from Hurst, [Ben] Powers is the only backup offensive linemen under contract for the Ravens in 2020 who appeared in a game with the team in '19. But Powers was a fourth-round rookie last year who was active just once in the regular season, and that was during a Week 17 win over the Steelers that lacked significance for a Baltimore team that had already sewn up the AFC's top playoff seed."

Kasinitz said the biggest question is whether Marshal Yanda decides to retire or return.

 "If Yanda decides to play in 2020 rather than retire the Ravens can return their entire starting five from the stretch of the season," Kasinitz wrote. "Right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. also made the Pro Bowl last year, and left tackle Ronnie Stanley was a first-team All-Pro for the first time."

Aside from Matt Skura's knee injury, the Ravens had one of the most consistent offensive lines in the NFL last season. Undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari stepped in and played well at center, but if Yanda retires, the interior offensive line could quickly skyrocket to one of the top offseason needs.

"The Ravens can hope for similar good health in 2020, but it'd be unwise to assume it'll come to fruition," Kasinitz wrote. "That means general manager Eric DeCosta might spend the next few months using free agency and the draft to fortify depth at an important position group. If he doesn't, Baltimore's offensive line could enter the season a little thinner than executives, coaches and fans would hope."

Lamar Jackson's 2019 Season One of the Greatest in Baltimore Sports History

In just two seasons, Jackson has already become one of Baltimore's most popular sports figures, and his MVP season is already among the best in history.

Press Box’s Glenn Clark included Jackson's 2019 season in his list of the 15 greatest individual seasons in Baltimore sports history. Jackson was the highest Raven on Clark's list, ahead of Jamal Lewis' 2000-yard season in 2003 and Ray Lewis' defensive dominance in 2000.

"Not only did the second-year signal-caller break the record for the most single-season rushing yards as a quarterback, he also claimed the Ravens' single-season passing touchdown record as well," Clark wrote. "If he had won the Super Bowl, he might have been the no-brainer choice for the best individual season in Baltimore sports history, period."

Jackson led the Ravens to a 14-2 regular-season record, threw for 3,127 yards and a league-leading 36 touchdown passes. He also broke the NFL's season-season quarterback rushing record with 1,206 yards.

Jackson and the Ravens saw their season end in disappointing fashion, but there's plenty of optimism moving forward. Don't be surprised to see multiple seasons of his on this list when it's all said and done.

Ravens Shouldn't Reach for Pass Rusher in First Round

By now you've already seen various prospects linked to the Ravens at pick No. 28. Some have been pass rushers, as it's one of the team's biggest offseason needs, but Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox believes Baltimore doesn't need to reach for one in the first round.

"Baltimore must avoid reaching to fill a position of need," Knox wrote. "If a quality prospect such as K'Lavon Chaisson or Wisconsin's Zack Baun is sitting there at No. 28, that's fine. However, Baltimore is in position to pick the best player available and shouldn't force things."

The bulk of the top pass rush talent will already be gone in the beginning of the first round, leaving the Ravens the opportunity to capitalize on mid-to-late-round prospects.

Using the Draft Network's mock draft simulator, Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens waited until the third round to select a pass rusher. He triple-dipped at the position, selecting Utah's Bradlee Anae, Alabama's Anfernee Jennings, and Michigan State's Kenny Willekes.

Quick Hits

●      In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Ravens taking LSU inside linebacker Patrick Queen in the first round. Kiper will be holding a conference call with reporters today at noon, so check back in for more from him.

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