Young's Extension, Carr's Expected Return Leaves Jimmy Smith's Future in Doubt
Eric DeCosta took the podium in Indianapolis yesterday and said he expects Brandon Carr to return next season.
DeCosta spoke highly of the veteran corner saying, "he's got every quality that you would want on your team."
Those comments, paired with Tavon Young's recent three-year, $25.8 million contract extension indicate DeCosta and the Ravens hope to keep one of NFL's top secondaries intact.
But reading between the lines, pundits believe it may spell the end to Jimmy Smith's tenure in Baltimore.
"In a perfect world, the Ravens would keep Smith, still a quality cover corner. But given Smith's age (30), injury history and his contract (nearly $16 million cap hit), along with the team's depth at cornerback, he is a logical candidate to be jettisoned to create cap room," wrote The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.
Smith currently has the second-largest cap hit on the team heading into next season, second to only Joe Flacco.
Entering his ninth year, Smith has played in a full 16-game regular season just once (2015). His best season arguably came in 2017, when he was on pace to earn Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors before suffering a torn Achilles.
A four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy added insult to injury and another four-game suspension at the start of last season for violating the league's personal conduct policy cast doubt on Smith's availability.
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler agreed with Zrebiec on the matter, pointing to Carr as a key veteran presence.
"While Smith is still a high caliber player, he's 30 years old and the Ravens are undergoing a youth movement at the position. Carr would still be a source of veteran leadership but players like [Marlon] Humphrey, [Tavon] Young and [Anthony] Averett are all young players," wrote Schisler
Schisler believes the Ravens should look to add another young cornerback in the draft, but it's hard to argue against Carr's durability.
"Mr. Reliable," you could call him, Carr hasn't missed a single game in 11 seasons. Not to mention, he quietly put together one of the best seasons among cornerbacks.
If the Ravens aren't content with Smith's current contract, Zrebiec proposed the option of a pay cut, but there's no guarantee both sides would agree.
"In Smith's case, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense because he'd be one of the top cornerbacks available if he hit the open market, and he'd be paid pretty well by his next team," Zrebiec wrote.
Can Gus Edwards Replicate Same Success, Avoid Sophomore Slump?
John Harbaugh's endorsement of Gus Edwards as the Ravens' No. 1 running back sheds light on the current backfield early in the offseason, but it also proposes a challenge for the second-year back.
The Ravens haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Justin Forsett in 2014 and the position has virtually been a revolving door since.
"As we saw last season, the Ravens were expecting [Alex] Collins to back up his solid season only to be disappointed," Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens wrote. "The hope is Edwards continues to grow in his second season and Baltimore has a young running back they can grow with quarterback Lamar Jackson."
Sophomore slumps are common occurrences after breakout seasons and Alex Collins felt the first-hand effects in 2018. He struggled to find consistency following a 973-yard campaign and landed on injured reserve late in the season.
Edwards' power-run style proved extremely effective, but he'll have to replicate that success in a more refined offense. Stevens believes Edwards' receiving skills will need to improve for that to happen.
"Edwards only caught two passes for 20 total yards last season; that role went to Collins, Javorius Allen, Ty Montgomery and even Kenneth Dixon over the course of the season," Stevens wrote. "Baltimore would be wise to either ask Edwards to do more in his second year or have a receiving back on the roster as well."
Despite those concerns, Edwards seems to be in a system that suits his main strength – downhill running.
PFF: Za'Darius Smith was Ravens' Most Improved Player
Za'Darius Smith balled out in a contract season and it certainly hasn't gone unnoticed.
Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner named each team's most improved player from the 2017 season to 2018, and to no surprise, Smith was his choice for the Ravens.
"Smith broke out just in time for his impending free agency," Renner wrote. "His 10 sacks, 17 hits, and 34 hurries all represent career-high marks."
Last month, Renner tabbed Smith No. 1 on his "Top 10 Under-The-Radar Free Agents" list.
Depending on who you ask, Smith finished with 8.5 sacks (per the NFL), while PFF credited him with 10. Both numbers were career highs and a significant jump from Smith's 3.5 sacks one season prior.
Smith enjoyed wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks last season and is now primed for a lucrative new deal with free agency right around the corner. The question is whether it will come from Baltimore or elsewhere.
"Za'Darius is tenacious. He brings it, man," Head Coach John Harbaugh said yesterday at the Combine. "He's a high-energy pass rusher. He can line up at any one of the four sports and he can bring it. He can blitz, he can drop as an outside 'backer. Very versatile player, but more than anything, I just love his intensity level."
Jordan Lasley: 'I'll Take Off, You Guys Will See'
It's been well-documented to this point that the Ravens will need to improve the wide receiver position again.
They'll look to add playmakers in free agency and the draft, but internal options could also see an increased role.
Soon after the 2018 season ended, second-year receiver Jordan Lasley spoke with Baltimore Beatdown's Kyle Andrews about the learning experience as a rookie and his expectations moving forward.
"Well, that decision isn't mine," Lasley told Andrews when asked about assuming a larger role. "I'm just gonna be me — I'm just gonna be Jordan Lasley and I'm gonna come every day and come ready to work."
Lasley told Andrews he hopes John Brown – an unrestricted free agent – returns next season. With a year under his belt, Lasley seems to have the swagger and confidence you want in a young up-and-coming player.
"I have an expectation now of what things are and I'm gonna come back and I'm gonna execute those things," he said. "I'll take off, you guys will see."
- With all the talk surrounding what the Ravens will do at pick No. 22, Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz tabbed five potential first targets, headlined by Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf.
- Looks like Baltimore's own Mel Kiper gets to watch the combine in person for the first time ever. Weird, right?