Ravens Right Behind Chiefs As Favorites to Win Super Bowl LV
Patrick Mahomes' MVP campaign fell short of a Lombardi Trophy in his second season. One year later, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20, to win Super Bowl LIV.
Lamar Jackson won the MVP in his second season after the Ravens' season ended in disappointment. What's next is unknown, but there's plenty of reason to believe Jackson could find himself in the same position as Mahomes in Super Bowl LV.
"It starts with a 23-year-old quarterback who was arguably the NFL's most dynamic playmaker this season and still has room for growth," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Every Ravens offensive starter is under contract for at least one more year. The secondary, the strength of the defense, could lose a player or two and yet it still would be considered one of the top defensive backfields in the NFL. To this point, the Ravens haven't lost a single coordinator or position coach from a staff that led the team to a 14-2 record. [Eric] DeCosta has more cap space at this disposal than the Ravens have had in years and a few extra draft picks in the middle rounds, where the front office and scouting staff has a history of finding key contributors."
It's no surprise two of the NFL's brightest young quarterbacks are here to stay, and Vegas agrees.
Kansas City (6/1) has the best odds to repeat as Super Bowl champions next season, but the Ravens (7/1) aren't far behind with the second-best odds. Other sportsbooks have the Chiefs, Ravens, and 49ers as co-favorites (7/1) to win it all.
"From top to bottom, these teams are absolutely loaded," Ebony Bird's Richard Bradshaw wrote. "When it comes to who will be in the Super Bowl representing the AFC each year, it's a safe bet it'll be the Chiefs and the Ravens."
Even ESPN's way-too-early offseason power rankings pin the Ravens at No. 3 only behind the two teams that played yesterday in Miami. CBS Sports' Sean Wagner-McGough gave the Ravens the best chance among the playoff losers to win Super Bowl LV.
"The Ravens were the best team in football for most of the season before going one-and-done in the playoffs," Wagner-McGough wrote. "They won 14 games. They outscored their opposition by a league-high 249 points. They ranked first in DVOA by a wide margin … The Ravens are going to run it back in 2020. That should terrify the rest of the NFL."
The Ravens have a strong chance to make a Super Bowl run next season, and they believe they have the pieces to do it. But if there's anything that needs to be improved to contend with the Chiefs, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal believes it's the front seven.
"Keeping Matthew Judon from leaving via free agency would be a strong start, but perhaps general manager Eric DeCosta can get creative, with plenty of pass-rushing options like Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue and maybe even Chris Jones potentially available this offseason," Rosenthal wrote. "The Ravens also struggled to replace inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. Baltimore used to create front-seven talent through the draft as if from an assembly line, but production has slowed in recent years. It's time for some outside help."
Reaction to Terrell Suggs' Second Super Bowl
The season didn't turn how Terrell Suggs envisioned, but he couldn't have asked for a better ending.
The former Raven totaled two tackles and one quarterback hit against the 49ers, capturing his second Super Bowl title. Suggs was part of a Chiefs defense that held San Francisco scoreless in the fourth quarter as they erased a 10-point deficit in a comeback effort.
The Ravens Flock made sure to show some love to one of the franchise greats.
And if you didn't already believe Suggs had a Hall of Fame career, then you should now.
Could Ravens Be Bigger Free Agent Spenders Than Expected?
The Ravens enter the offseason with $26.3 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap. Pundits don't expect them to be big free agent spenders, but they might be forced to.
Collective Bargaining Agreement. Because the CBA ends this league year, Fitzgerald estimated that 11 teams are still under the mark.
Six can reach the threshold by signing their draft picks this year, but the Ravens aren't one of those teams, according to Fitzgerald. That means they "may have little choice but to spend in free agency this year."
"Between a tight salary cap and a cautious approach to extensions and free agency, the Ravens have been one of the lowest cost teams in the NFL," Fitzgerald wrote. "Certainly this year they got the most bang for the buck with a low cost team that outperformed all expectations going into the season. The team will probably spend around $15 million on draft picks so they are still well under."
Unlike some other teams, Baltimore does typically max out (or come close) the salary cap to field the most competitive team possible. That doesn't necessarily mean the Ravens are going on a spending spree, however. They are still limited in cap space compared to most teams and don't have a reputation for making big splashes on the free agent market anyways.
That's why Fitzgerald brought up the possibility of the franchise tag for Matthew Judon.
"A tag for Judon would cost around $16 million and put them much closer to the number," Fitzgerald wrote. "Even if the tag was simply just to trade him part of that logic, I am sure the most they could receive as compensation is a [third round pick] and that would require extra care in free agency, something they couldn't pull off last year with Za'Darius Smith. The Ravens did increase payroll last year (they went from being close to the lowest spending team in the NFL for 17 and 18 to around 20th in 2019) and did sign Earl Thomas III and Mark Ingram, but if there was a year for this team to be even more active in free agency this is probably the year."
Jackson's MVP Season Won't Be Forgotten
Just because Jackson's season didn't end with a Super Bowl doesn't mean we should forget what he accomplished. He became only the second unanimous MVP selection in NFL history.
The Ringer's Riley McAtee called it "a season for the ages."
"Think of them more like Olympic MVP seasons: incredible athletic achievements that come around only once every four years or so," McAtee wrote. "Jackson's 2019 season belongs in the same conversation as Aaron Rodgers's 2011, Tom Brady's 2007, Peyton Manning's 2004, Kurt Warner's 1999, Steve Young's 1994, Joe Montana's 1989, and Dan Marino's 1984."
The winner of the regular season MVP hasn't won the Super Bowl in the same season since 1999 (Kurt Warner). It's a tough feat for any quarterback, but at 23 years old, Jackson hasn't even entered his prime.
"[T]here is only one Jackson, and there's only ever been one season like his 2019," McAtee wrote. "Regardless of how it ended for him and the Ravens, Jackson's performance deserves every bit of praise."
- There was never a doubt from "Analyst Hump."