Earl Thomas Tweets To Justin Houston
One name that keeps coming up regarding the Ravens and available free agents is former Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston.
Even Thomas got into the act soon after officially signing with the Ravens last Friday.
Bleacher Report’s Zach Kruse is the latest to write that Houston would be a good fit for the Ravens.
Noting that the team has “a major need at edge-rusher after losing Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith,” Kruse wrote: “He's an ideal fit as a standup linebacker or pass-rushing defensive end in Baltimore's hybrid 3-4 defense. … Houston would have plenty of motivation to pick Baltimore over a rebuilding team such as the Oakland Raiders or New York Jets. The only question: Can the Ravens afford him?”
The Ravens have just over $20 million in cap room, according to OverTheCap.com.
"Houston is currently the top prize and he’d be a good fit for the Ravens," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "However, some reports indicate that Houston could get a deal for north of $10 million per year, and that’s more than what the Ravens can afford to spend. His price would have to come down for a deal to work with the Ravens."
Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler has written on multiple occasions recently, including again yesterday, that the Ravens should pursue the 30-year-old Houston, who is No. 1 on NFL.com’s list of remaining free agents.
“The Baltimore Ravens should sign Justin Houston to give themselves a proven commodity at outside linebacker,” he wrote. “The Ravens have a lot of youth at the position. … Baltimore has too many things working for the defense not to invest in pass rush.
“If the Ravens don’t sign Houston, they will have to seriously consider drafting a pass rusher with the 22nd overall pick. … Without Houston, the Ravens have two glaring needs and one of them is a premium position for the defense.”
Browns Officially Favorites to Win AFC North
In 2016-2017, the Cleveland Browns went 1-31, including 0-16 the latter season. Now they are the favorites to win the AFC North.
Over the weekend, the Browns opened as +140 favorites to win the division. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Ravens, who have combined to win 13 of the 17 division titles since the formation of the AFC North, were at +160 and +250, respectively.
Given the acquisition of star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. -- who joins an offense that includes quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and eventually running back Kareem Hunt (he will be suspended for the first eight games this season) -- it’s understandable that the perennial underdog Browns would now be considered top Dawgs in the AFC North.
“They have the most talented roster in the division, and they are the team the public will be looking to bet," SuperBook director John Murray told ESPN. "Multiple big-name stars means public fascination.”
The Browns are also considered strong Super Bowl contenders. According to SuperBook, only the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints -- the four teams who played in the conference championship games last season -- are more likely to raise the Lombardi Trophy in February 2020.
Apparently, the public’s sudden fascination with the Browns hasn’t gone unnoticed by network executives.
“The Browns have instantly become one of the most desired draws by NFL TV partners NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN and NFL Network,”Sporting News’ Michael McCarthy wrote.
The Browns, who went 7-8-1 last season and have had just two winning seasons since re-joining the league in 1999, haven’t won a division title since capturing the AFC Central in 1989 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002. Since the AFC North was formed in 2002, the Browns have never closed as the division favorites, according to sportsoddshistory.com.
Meanwhile, could the Super Bowl window be closing for the Ravens’ main division rival? Twelve teams have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl this season than the Steelers, according to SuperBook.
Of course, odds and predictions are exactly that: odds and predictions. And not everyone is ready to crown the Browns AFC North champions just yet, right Willie Snead?
When Dollars Don’t Make Sense
There’s a cliché that sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make. With that in mind, The Score’s Jack Browne compiled a list of the five most perplexing deals during the first three days of free agency.
At the top of list was the New York Jets’ signing of former Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley for five years, $85 million.
“The Jets blew the ceiling off the inside linebacker market with their deal for Mosley,” Browne wrote. “Mosley's a four-time Pro Bowler for a reason, but it's highly unlikely he'll have the kind of impact that would make such an investment worthwhile.”
On Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit’s ranking of the five best and five worst free-agent signings this year, he ranked the Jets’ deal for Mosley as the fifth-worst.
“Mosley is a fine player who stabilizes the run defense and enhances the blitz packages that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves,” wrote Benoit, who ranked the Ravens’ acquisition of safety Earl Thomas at the second-best signing. “So we’re not going to rip this move. But paying above sticker price on a monster-sized deal will always land the team and player on lists like these.”
However, Jets Wire’s Tyler Calvaruso wrote: “If Mosley continues to progress and produce, he will be worth every penny of the contract he received.”
The Ravens had hoped to re-sign Mosley, but the price tag simply became too high.
The Green Bay Packers’ signing of former Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith for four years, $66 million also made Browne’s list.
“With two first-rounders in this year's draft, Green Bay might've been too hasty in its attempts to fix its pass-rush,” Browne wrote.
Conversely, Lombardi Ave’s Ojas Kalia applauded the Packers’ acquisition of Smith, who led the Ravens with 8½ sacks last season after totaling 10 his previous three seasons.
“Za’Darius Smith didn’t get such a large contract because he had only one good year,” Kalia wrote. “He received so much money because he’s a player that’s been working on his game, and because he has tremendous potential for his skill set.”
When Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta was asked after the season ended about his desire to re-sign Smith, he said: “We’re optimistic we may have a chance to bring him back, but in some cases, it’s really not up to us. It’s what the market bears.”
Speaking of Benoit's rankings, he said, "with Thomas and seventh-year pro Tony Jefferson, the Ravens have football’s best safety tandem."
Montez Sweat Reportedly Has Pre-Existing Heart Condition
Top draft prospect Montez Sweat has a pre-existing heart condition, according to a report by NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who noted that the news “may make some teams do an in-depth analysis” on the Mississippi State edge rusher.
Sweat had been linked to the Ravens in some early mock drafts, but after his attention-grabbing performance at the NFL Scouting Combine – he had the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.41) for a defensive lineman since at least 2003 – the popular opinion was that he wouldn’t be available at No. 22 for the Ravens.
“NFL teams are in the process of assessing how they will handle the news,” Rapoport wrote.
Rapoport noted that Combine doctors “deemed his condition low-risk and cleared Sweat to participate.”
Sweat’s agents issued the following statement to NFL.com:
“Because of privacy issues we are not allowed to comment specifically. But I will tell you that this is not news. Montez is the same person that was medically cleared to play and dominate the SEC, the Senior Bowl, and the NFL combine. No change in health and no change in domination!”
Justin Bethel Makes Special Teams More Special
The Ravens’ signing of special teams ace/cornerback Justin Bethel on Friday was lauded by ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
“The Ravens' traditionally strong special teams units got even better,” Hensley wrote. “A three-time Pro Bowl player, Bethel has led his team in special teams tackles for six consecutive seasons. Bethel will fill the vital role of gunner.”
Bethel, who played with the Atlanta Falcons last season after spending the first six years of his career with the Arizona Cardinals, also provides depth in the secondary. Bethel, 28, has 97 career tackles and four career interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns, including an 87-yard return in 2017.
“Bethel does provide playmaking depth for Baltimore’s secondary, which they need,” Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens wrote.
- In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, NFL.com put together a video of the luckiest plays in NFL history. The Ravens are well-represented -- on both sides of the “lucky” spectrum.