Late for Work 3/1: Buzz at Combine Is Ravens Are One of Favorites to Land Le'Veon Bell

030119_LFW

Are Ravens Really One of the Favorites to Land Le'Veon Bell?

The Ravens have often been mentioned as a potential suitor for free agent running back Le'Veon Bell, and now the buzz around Indianapolis this week at the NFL Scouting Combine is that the team has become one of the favorites to sign the former Pittsburgh Steelers star, according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.

Zrebiec pointed to the strong rapport that Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta has with Bell's agent, Adisa Bakari, as one of the likely reasons the Bell-to-Baltimore rumors are gaining steam. After the Ravens finalized a contract extension for cornerback Tavon Young last week, DeCosta cited his relationship with Bakari, who is also Young's agent, for the deal getting done so quickly and smoothly.

The fact that DeCosta and Bell's agent are on good terms doesn't necessarily make the Ravens a favorite to sign Bell or even guarantee they have interest in him, Zrebiec wrote, but "there are reasons why a run at Bell would at least make some sense for the Ravens and why it would be foolish to just dismiss all the smoke coming out of Indianapolis."

The Ravens are building their offense around quarterback Lamar Jackson and the running game, and Bell – who is a threat as a receiver and runner – would give them another dynamic playmaker in addition to Jackson.

"And being able to pluck [Bell] from their biggest rival is one more bonus for the Ravens," Zrebiec wrote.

There has been some question as to whether Bell's patient running style would be a good fit for a Ravens offense that uses a lot of run-option plays, but Zrebiec noted that NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks believes it would work.

"The better the running back that you have behind [Jackson], the easier the passing game is going to be," Brooks said. "What you would like to have is the ability to dictate the coverage, not only through the read and the read-option stuff that they may be doing, but also by having a blue-chip runner behind him."

As talented as Bell is, however, Zrebiec questioned whether he could be impactful enough to justify the cost. Bell reportedly turned down a five-year, $70 million offer from the Steelers last season.

"The Ravens have moderate salary-cap space, enough to absorb at least one healthy hefty free-agent contract," Zrebiec wrote. "However, if that contract goes to Bell, could the Ravens afford to re-sign middle linebacker C.J. Mosley or fill the other holes that will be created on their top-ranked defense with the expected departure of Za'Darius Smith and possibly Eric Weddle and Jimmy Smith? Could they still add a much-needed interior offensive lineman or a proven wide receiver for Jackson?

"DeCosta has said repeatedly this offseason that he's focused on maintaining a healthy salary cap going forward. That task would grow increasingly difficult while paying a running back $15 million a year."

The Case for Re-Signing John Brown

Ebony Bird's Richard Bradshaw named three wide receivers the Ravens should target in free agency, and one of them has already said he'd love to play in Baltimore in 2019: John Brown.

Brown, who signed a one-year deal with the Ravens last year, called 2018 his most enjoyable season in the NFL, even though his role as a deep threat virtually disappeared after the team switched from Joe Flacco to Jackson at quarterback.

Brown caught 34 passes for 587 yards and four touchdowns over the Ravens' first nine games with Flacco as the starter. With Jackson, Brown caught just 10 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown over the final eight games (including the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers).

Despite Brown's huge decline in production in the second half of the season, Bradshaw believes Brown, who turns 29 in April, can still be an asset for the Ravens with Jackson under center.

"Now that Greg Roman is calling the shots as the team's new offensive coordinator, the offense will be tailored to Jackson's strengths," wrote Bradshaw, who also listed Golden Tate and Jamison Crowder as receivers the Ravens should consider signing.

"This will mean running the ball at will and making quick strikes in the passing game. Brown could easily become a huge part of this offense again in that type of scheme. If the Ravens agree, re-signing Brown should be a priority so that he and Jackson can begin building a rapport together this offseason."

Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi also thinks the Ravens should attempt to re-sign Brown, and he believes there's a good chance Brown will be back.

"The wild card here is the relationship that Brown developed with teammates during his first season in Baltimore. It has value to him," Lombardi wrote. "The question is, how much value. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta likes Brown. So don't dismiss Brown's re-signing in Baltimore.

"There is, however, one thing working against the Ravens – the dearth of free agent talent at wide receiver. Brown will test the market and give the Ravens a chance to counter. The dismissal of Michael Crabtree gives the Ravens a little extra juju to keep Brown, in more ways than one. Will it be enough? I'll go with yes."

On Wednesday, DeCosta expressed his desire to keep Brown, so it at least seems that Baltimore will be in the mix.

"Well, we love 'Smoke,'" DeCosta said. "And I think he had a really, really good season for us. I think his production dropped off a little bit when we changed the offense to a degree. We became more of a running team. But he's a playmaker. He's got great speed. He's a humble, great person. He's a good practice player. We want as many good players as we can bring back to Baltimore."

Analysts View N'Keal Harry As Good Fit for Ravens

NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks believes N'Keal Harry, one of the top wide receivers in the NFL Draft, would be a great fit for the Ravens.

Harry is a 6-foot-2, 228-pound Arizona State star who has topped 1,000 receiving yards each of the past two seasons and scored 22 touchdowns during his three-year college career.

"I think the Baltimore Ravens should come calling," Brooks said. "We heard it in the offseason, John Harbaugh said, 'We need some tough guy wide receivers.' OK. N'Keal Harry's a tough guy wide receiver. Physical, tough. Not only will he do the dirty work, catch the ball inside the numbers, deal with safeties beating down on him, but the blocking game. As the Ravens are remaking their offense around Lamar Jackson … you need some guys that are able to run those little [defensive backs] off the field."

Russell Street Report's Michael Telford also thinks Harry and the Ravens are a good match.

"One of the problems in Baltimore has been the lack of yards after catch from wideouts. N'Keal is surprising in this area, given his size and apparent lack of speed," Telford wrote. "He sets up defenders for the miss and executes well, using a shimmy-step and nuanced routes to create room for himself to move down the field. … Harry looks and plays like the No. 1 that Ravens fans have been screaming for since, well, forever."

Is Love Enough to Keep Terrell Suggs and Ravens Together?

Terrell Suggs said after the 2018 season ended that he would love to be a Raven for life. DeCosta said Wednesday that he would love to have Suggs back in 2019.

Clearly, there's a lot of love between Suggs and the Ravens, and in the immortal words of Captain and Tennille, "love will keep us together." Then again, Captain and Tennille ended up getting a divorce.

Despite the desire of both Suggs and the Ravens to have the potential NFL Hall of Fame linebacker back in Baltimore for his 17th season, getting a deal done that appeals to the 36-year-old pending unrestricted free agent and the organization might be a challenge.

Suggs is not quite the dominant force he once was, but he has remained a highly productive player and undoubtedly is a team leader.

"DeCosta's challenge is assuring Suggs gets a paycheck and a role he desires without damaging other aspects of the team," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "DeCosta can't let sentimentality weigh down a top defense that hopes to ascend in 2019 or clog valuable salary cap space. … The Ravens must project what Suggs can offer next year in terms of pass-rush production, leadership and steady play across the board. Then they'll need to see if Suggs will sign a contract that matches DeCosta's valuation."

WNST's Luke Jones offered a similar take on the situation.

"Talks will be delicate in trying to be realistic about the 36-year-old's current value without insulting someone who's been so critical to the organization," he wrote. "You hope something can be worked out that makes sense for both sides.

Even though Suggs wants to end his career in Baltimore, he has made it clear that he will play elsewhere in 2019 if things don't work out with the Ravens. If Suggs hits the open market, he could be attractive to a contending team.

During the "Around The NFL" podcast earlier this week, co-host Gregg Rosenthal said Suggs would be a good fit for the New England Patriots. Also, Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox wrote: "For a contending team like the Patriots, the Los Angeles Rams or the Kansas City Chiefs, Suggs could be the kind of veteran presence who helps deliver a Lombardi Trophy."

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