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Late for Work 2/26: Why Pundits Don't Expect a Free Agent Spending Spree

GM Eric DeCosta speaks to the media on February 25, 2020.
GM Eric DeCosta speaks to the media on February 25, 2020.

Why Pundits Don't Expect a Free Agent Spending Spree

The Ravens head into free agency with more cap flexibility than they've had in recent seasons. That's caused increased speculation about who General Manager Eric DeCosta and the front office could target on the open market.

But don't expect a shopping spree.

As our own John Eisenberg wrote, there's no blank check when it comes to free agent spending in Baltimore.

"This should be obvious for anybody who has followed the Ravens and their offseason activity over the years," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Team officials don't view free agency as a wise way to build a deep and flexible roster."

The Ravens sit with $30.7 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap. If they use the franchise tag on Matthew Judon, which DeCosta said is "definitely on the table," that number would be cut in half. The tag for linebackers is projected to be around $16 million.

So how could the Ravens operate in free agency? Zrebiec believes they'll follow a similar route as last year.

"The Ravens certainly won't sit idly by in free agency and watch their own players leave without trying to find a few upgrades," Zrebiec wrote. "Expect them to do what they did last year when they targeted running back Mark Ingram and ultimately safety Earl Thomas, and then made a few one-year additions."

DeCosta acknowledged during his press conference on Tuesday that the Ravens aren't going to be able to fill every hole in free agency, but draft picks will help. Baltimore is expected to have nine picks come April, including two projected compensatory selections.

That's a lot of ammo to target young talent, and that's the way the Ravens have said they want to build their roster around Lamar Jackson. The top teams generally aren't the ones spending the most money in free agency.

It's important to note that the majority of DeCosta's work signing players has been done. He made a concerted effort to retain the Ravens' top in-house talent, signing players like Chuck Clark, Marcus Peters, Pat Ricard, and L.J. Fort to extensions.

"[T]he Ravens can maybe make one significant addition and a few modest ones," Zrebiec wrote. "In other words, it's probably time to stop dreaming about a haul that includes Jadeveon Clowney, A.J. Green and Joe Thuney."

Marquise Brown on Track For Healthy Second Season

Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is starting off his second season on the right foot, literally.

After playing for most of his rookie year less than 100 percent, Brown is on track to getting healthy.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Brown recently underwent surgery to remove a screw from his foot.

"While it may limit him in the offseason program, he'll be fine by camp," Rapoport said. "The move eliminates any complications moving forward for Brown's foot."

Brown suffered a Lisfranc foot injury late during his junior season at Oklahoma and underwent surgery before the draft.

Even while working through a rigorous recovery process, Brown's numbers didn't disappoint. He led all Ravens receivers with 584 yards and seven touchdowns despite playing only 51 percent of the regular season offensive snaps.

Brown ended his rookie campaign with an impressive performance in the divisional round loss against the Tennessee Titans. He caught seven passes for 126 yards, and pundits expect that production to carry over.

"With a full offseason to recover and learn from his rookie-year play, Brown should be a menace in 2020," The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote. "If he remains healthy, [Offensive] Coordinator Greg Roman will have to figure out where in the offense he fits best — and how much the Ravens have to help him avoid potential injury trouble."

DeCosta echoed similar expectations.

"Receivers typically make a big jump from their first to second season," DeCosta said. "We think that's going to happen with 'Hollywood'. Just working with Lamar and Willie [Snead] in the offseason, that's going to be a big deal for him."

Like Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts Is Committed at Quarterback

If there's anyone who knows exactly what Jalen Hurts is going through, it's Jackson. There was a time when certain pundits and fans suggested that Jackson should play a position other than quarterback. Now Hurts is facing similar questions at the combine ahead of the draft. And like Jackson, he is committed to playing quarterback.

"His answer mirrors Jackson's," NBC Sports’ Ryan Wormeli wrote. "He's a quarterback only, and he has no interest in switching positions to appease an organization with less foresight than what the Ravens had with Jackson."

Jackson stuck to his guns and won the MVP in his second season. The recent success of dual threat quarterbacks has opened the door for Hurts.

"While Hurts didn't mention Jackson by name in his reasoning, it's hard not to draw parallels," Wormeli wrote. "Jackson's 2019 season was one for the history books, and his influence will continue to trickle down to future generations.

"I heard this exact same conversation about Jackson," ESPN’s Jalen Rose said. "That's right. The guy who was the fourth or fifth quarterback taken in the first round, and all of a sudden, is the MVP of the NFL. So if I'm Hurts, I stick to my guns."

Former Saints Coach Says Taysom Hill Comment 'Not a Shot' at Jackson

Speaking of quarterback comparisons, former New Orleans Saints Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff made news earlier this month when he said he thinks Taysom Hill throws better than Jackson.

Naturally, it garnered some attention, and Westhoff told Glenn Clark Radio last week that his comments were "not a shot" at Jackson.

"As I saw him and watched him develop as a football player and quarterback, the immediate comparison came to [Baltimore]," Westhoff said. "Baltimore, that's a team that took that type of player and maximized what he can do and just did a great job. So, I'm being very complimentary to Baltimore."

You can check out the entire interview here.

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