Jalen Hurts Is a 'Perfect Complementary QB for Lamar Jackson'
A number of mock drafts have the Ravens selecting Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray with the 28th-overall pick, but there's another Sooner who might be a better fit for the team. , NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote.
In his takeaways from Oklahoma's pro day yesterday, NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote that Baltimore would be an ideal landing spot for quarterback Jalen Hurts, who Zierlein projected as a third-rounder. The Ravens own two picks in the third round (Nos. 92 and 106 overall).
"Finding a fit for Hurts can be a little tricky because it requires determining if teams will view him as a starter or a good backup," Zierlein wrote. "He would be a perfect complementary quarterback for Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, where he could execute the same scheme that Jackson has thrived in. The Ravens might be intrigued by the idea of using Hurts early on as a short-yardage runner to help take some of the physical toll away from Jackson."
It's not the first time Hurts has been linked to the Ravens. ESPN analyst and former NFL executive Michael Tannenbaum floated the idea of the team drafting Hurts a few months ago.
"Let's say the Baltimore Ravens draft him and now you put him in the backfield with Lamar Jackson," Tannenbaum said. "Is that what football looks like in five years when you have two people that can run it and throw it? They would be impossible to defend."
Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw also was intrigued by the possibility of bringing Hurts to Baltimore.
"From a talent and fiscal standpoint, Jalen Hurts is a seamless fit for the Baltimore Ravens," Bradshaw wrote. "You couldn't come up with a better fit in [Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman's offense besides Lamar Jackson. Hurts would be able to run the offense if needed and the team wouldn't miss a beat."
Incidentally, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier this week that Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III has been discussed in trade talks.
In Hurts' senior year at Oklahoma, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting after throwing for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns,[comma] in addition to rushing for 1,298 yards and 20 touchdowns. Those are similar numbers to what Jackson posted at Louisville in 2016 when he won the Heisman.
Like Jackson said prior to the 2018 draft, Hurts has stressed that he's committed to playing quarterback rather than switching positions. Zierlein believes Hurts has the skills to be an NFL quarterback.
"Just as we saw in his combine workout, arm talent is not an issue for Hurts," Zierlein wrote. "Under the direction of QB coach Quincy Avery, who ran the passing portion of the workout on Wednesday, Hurts made a series of pro-style throws and often while working from under center in an attempt to show teams he's more than capable of doing so.
"His footwork was crisp and his release looked more compact than it did during the season. He threw his deep ball with excellent touch and accuracy, but did have some ball-placement issues on in-breaking routes at times. He had plenty of arm for the deep outs, but was a little inconsistent with the timing and anticipation on occasion."
As for Murray, who didn't participate in the athletic testing or workout yesterday because of the hamstring injury he suffered while running the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Zierlein wrote that Jacksonville, Green Bay and Carolina are the best fits for him.
Ravens Are 'Rock Solid' at Quarterback
When the main question regarding the quarterback situation is about the backups, it's a strong indication the team is in good shape at the position. Rock solid, one might say. Actually, that's exactly what NFL.com’s Nick Shook did say.
Shook assessed all 32 teams' quarterback situations and placed the Ravens in the "rock solid" category along with Atlanta, Green Bay, Houston, Kansas City and Seattle.
"Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP and the face of Baltimore's offensive revolution, which took the league by storm in 2019. He's not going anywhere," Shook wrote.
.That said, as outstanding as the Jackson-led offense was in 2019, it still faces challenges in 2019.
"With opponents now having a year's worth of film of Jackson operating in Greg Roman's offense, though, the Ravens will need to find a way to continue such success in 2020," Shook wrote. "And Baltimore also has to answer some free-agent questions. Could GM Eric DeCosta add another receiving threat to go along with Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews? Is Mark Ingram long for Baltimore (he sure seems like he is now)? These are questions the Ravens will have to answer on the offensive side of the ball, but the quarterback spot's as good as gold."
There is significantly more uncertainty at the quarterback position for the Ravens' AFC North rivals. Here are some excerpts from what Shook wrote about them:
Known unknowns – Pittsburgh Steelers: "The clock's ticking, and Ben Roethlisberger isn't getting any younger. Pittsburgh's lack of preparedness for life after Big Ben was on full display last season when it was forced to turn to Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges for the majority of the year, leading to an 8-8 finish and a second straight postseason spent at home. There doesn't seem to be a long-term solution in sight, either, as the Steelers don't have a first-round pick in April's draft and also don't have a future face of the franchise on the roster."
Need to be convinced – Cleveland Browns: "Is Baker Mayfield really the answer at the position? After a very promising rookie year in 2018, Mayfield fell back to earth in the Browns' massively disappointing 2019 season, throwing 21 interceptions against 22 touchdown passes. … According to one former Browns staffer I spoke with recently, Mayfield has the tools necessary to blossom into the franchise quarterback Cleveland thought it had found, but he needs to play more within the team's designed offense and cut down on the freelancing. No more running around and making a play for Mayfield, who is suddenly facing what could be a make-or-break campaign in just his third season."
Ready for a new face – Cincinnati Bengals: "The Bengals are at the end of the road with Andy Dalton and in a prime position to select his successor with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. No matter what might be lurking out there rumor-wise, it appears as though we're headed for a union between Cincinnati and Heisman Trophy-winning LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who went to high school a couple hours east of Cincinnati in Athens, Ohio."
Looking at Options to Replace Marshal Yanda
In yesterday’s Late for Work, we looked at two veteran candidates – former Raven Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson – pundits cited as potential replacements for right guard Marshal Yanda, who announced his retirement after 13 seasons.
Today, we'll take a more in-depth look at the Ravens' options in free agency, the draft and their own roster to address the void left by the eight-time Pro Bowl player.
New England's Joe Thuney, Washington's Brad Scherff and Detroit's Graham Glasgow are the top pending free-agent guards, but all could be out of the Ravens' price range, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.
"But there are a host of interior offensive linemen with extensive starting experience that are projected to hit the open market," Zrebiec wrote. "That group includes Quinton Spain (Buffalo), Connor McGovern (Denver), Austin Blythe (Los Angeles Rams) and Joe Haeg (Indianapolis)."
After the retirement of Marshal Yanda, perhaps the Ravens will take a closer look at some of these free agent guards.
Finding a viable replacement for Yanda in the first round of the draft may not be likely. Zrebiec noted that several draft insiders don't project an interior offensive lineman to go in the first 32 picks.
"However, they should have options in rounds two through four, including centers Cesar Ruiz (Michigan), Lloyd Cushenberry (LSU) and Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin), and guards Netane Muti (Fresno State), Logan Stenberg (Kentucky) and Nick Harris (Washington)," Zrebiec wrote. "DeCosta all but guaranteed that the Ravens will draft at least two offensive linemen.
"They have had success over the past 10 years finding starting-caliber linemen on Day 2 (Kelechi Osemele, Orlando Brown Jr.) and Day 3 (Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen, John Urschel, Alex Lewis, Bradley Bozeman). How early DeCosta selects the first one this year may depend largely on what he'll be able to get done through the free agency or trade route."
The leading in-house candidate is Ben Powers, Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz wrote. Powers, a 2019 fourth-round pick, played only one game last season – the Week 17 contest against the Steelers in which the Ravens rested several starters.
"A promotion for Powers might stand as the least messy way for the Ravens to replace a franchise icon," Kasinitz wrote. " … Powers fits at guard, and if he makes strides in his first full NFL offseason, the Ravens could consider plugging him into the starting spot Yanda use to man. Then Baltimore could keep other players in place and pocket the $7 million in salary cap savings they get from Yanda's retirement."
Is Melvin Ingram a Viable Trade Candidate for Ravens?
While the Ravens could address their need for a pass rusher in free agency and/or the draft, acquiring one via trade may be another option. To that end, Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich wrote that Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram would be a viable trade candidate.
Ingram, who turns 31 next month, has made three consecutive Pro Bowls. He has 43 sacks over the past five seasons, with a career-high 10.5 sacks in 2015 and 2017. Ingram is solid in pass coverage, which is also an area of need among the Ravens' linebackers, Karpovich noted.
"The Los Angeles Chargers defensive end is in the last year of his deal and is only making $14 million, which is economically viable for Baltimore," Karpovich wrote. "The Chargers are going to need to dedicate much of their financial resources to keep defensive end Joey Bosa, who will make $14.3 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021, according to Spotrac. Bosa is poised for a huge payday and the team would not want him testing the market. Los Angeles also needs to sign a quarterback after parting ways with long-time starter Philip Rivers."
Meanwhile, Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe told a Denver radio station that he's likely to test the free-agent market. The Ravens are one of four teams who have already shown interest in Wolfe, according to Pro Football Network’s Ben Allbright.
Wolfe, 30, had a career-high seven sacks last season.