RGIII Still the ‘Favorite’ to Back Up Lamar Jackson
You may not have realized it, but Lamar Jackson is the only quarterback listed on the current roster.
Joe Flacco’s departure to Denver and Robert Griffin III’s expired contract has left the second-year signal caller without a backup and filling that void is undoubtedly one of the highest priorities on the Ravens’ offseason checklist.
Griffin, who signed a one-year deal to back up Jackson and Flacco last season, is still available on the open market and ESPN’s Jamison Hensley believes the veteran quarterback is the favorite to return as the backup.
“Ryan Fitzpatrick agreeing to a deal with the Miami Dolphins Sunday essentially fills the final starting quarterback job that was unresolved,” wrote The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec. “You also have to wonder if it accelerates Robert Griffin III’s return to the Ravens. The Ravens have been trying to sign Griffin and it stands to reason that he’d want to be back since it doesn’t appear an opportunity to compete for a starting job has materialized.”
As both Hensley and Zrebiec noted, the backup quarterback market is beginning to take shape. Blake Bortles inked a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, crossing another name off the list.
The Ravens were one of the teams that reportedly expressed interest in Bortles, according to NFL Network’s Michael Silver.
General Manager Eric DeCosta has stressed the importance of having a capable backup.
“There’s no faster way to ruin your season than to get your starting quarterback hurt and not having an effective backup quarterback,” DeCosta said in February. “Your season is basically over at that point. We never want to be in that position again.”
It’s been well documented that Griffin is an ideal candidate. He offers a similar skillset to Jackson and served as a key mentor to him last season.
When called upon last season, albeit infrequently, Griffin managed games as a starter. He engineered a 14-play second-half drive that resulted in a field goal in the Ravens’ Week 12 win against the Atlanta Falcons. One week later in the final minutes of an overtime loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, Griffin almost converted a miracle fourth-and-long with a pass that sailed over the fingertips of Willie Snead IV.
At an affordable price, all signs point to a reunion in Baltimore this season.
Burfict Released, But Don’t Expect Him in Baltimore
After seven seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have officially released linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Given that the first big wave of free agency has passed, fans tend to link every available free agent to their team.
In that case, the Ravens have a need at middle linebacker after C.J. Mosley signed a reported five-year, $85 million deal with the New York Jets.
Could that mean a former AFC North rival in Burfict trades in his black and orange for purple and black?
Pundits don’t see it happening.
Of the remaining free-agent options the Ravens could target at linebacker, Burfict is the least likely.
While he’s only 28 years old and a talented defender who led the NFL with 177 combined tackles in 2013, Burfict carries an inherent risk.
His controversial play has drawn a number of fines and suspensions over the years – to the point where some even began to suggest long-term punishment.
Burfict was suspended four games at the beginning of the 2018 season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. It marked the third year in a row he was suspended to start the regular season.
“Burfict, despite his obvious flaws, has consistently been viewed as a guy who can get his teammates properly focused and motivated,” wrote ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio. “However, Burfict’s habit of losing his focus has cost the Bengals dearly, including most importantly a play that kept them from winning their first postseason game since January 1991.”
The Ravens could hold off on signing a veteran linebacker at this point in the offseason in hopes of landing one of the top prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft.
LSU’s Devin White and Michigan’s Devin Bush are two of the top names at the position.
Tony Jefferson: ‘Going to be Fun to Play Next to’ Earl Thomas
No Ravens player may be more excited about Earl Thomas’ arrival than Tony Jefferson.
After his former teammate and close friend Eric Weddle was released a few weeks ago, Jefferson has a new defensive partner – and a good one at that.
Jefferson appeared on NFL Network’s “Total Access” last night and spoke about the opportunity to play alongside the three-time All-Pro safety.
“Earl Thomas, that’s a guy when you hear that name, you think yellow jacket,” Jefferson said. “You think a guy who’s obsessed with turnovers, a guy who has high energy. And I think that’s going to be fun to play next to.”
“We’re excited to get in the film room. When [Earl] gets back and settled in, we’re going to attack right away.”
His new teammate showered similar praises during his introductory press conference.
“We’ve got big corners. We have a hot, active guy in Tony,” Thomas said on Friday. “I just have to get used to the guys, man. We have to get in the lab and go to work.”
It’s early, but Jefferson and Thomas have made their case as one of the best safety tandems in the league and that’s certainly hard to argue against.
"With Thomas and seventh-year pro Tony Jefferson, the Ravens have football’s best safety tandem," Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit wrote.
Next Generation of Ravens Defenders
The yearly roster turnover has left the Ravens without some of their top defensive leaders heading into next season, but the future is still very bright for Wink Martindale’s unit.
Russell Street Report’s Dev Panchwagh highlighted three Ravens as the next generation defenders fans should be on the lookout for.
ILB Kenny Young
Panchwagh: “[Young] is already a proven space player who has the quick feet to add dynamic coverage range that Mosley simply didn’t present … Athletically, there’s a lot to like about Young. The concern is, can he hold up in obvious running downs and play the snaps required of a three-down defender?”
Analysis: Replacing the void left by Mosley will be a challenging task but Young is a prime candidate to receive starting time. After all, the Ravens have a knack for developing late-round and undrafted talent at linebacker.
DT Willie Henry
Panchwagh: “Henry was a stalwart for the interior pass rush for most of the season, creating pressures and bolstering the sub-package pressure until he wore down at the end of the season … [His] health continues to be his biggest roadblock to becoming a force for the defensive line.
“When healthy, he’s surprisingly capable as a run stopper and gives the defense disruptive ability that they haven’t had since Timmy Jernigan was in the fold.”
Analysis: If Henry can replicate the breakout success he saw in 2017, the Ravens may have found something special on the defensive line. With Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce plugging holes up front, Henry’s athletic ability will open up lanes to the quarterback.
OLB Tim Williams
Panchwagh: “His pass-rushing talent and promise are so tantalizing. It’s a tease … But to this point, Williams has been a blip in the pass-rush picture. He has just two sacks in the last two seasons and he’s been active for 15 games total. I expected much more from him as even a situational third-down edge rusher.”
Analysis: Like Henry, Williams’ success revolves around health. Along with Tyus Bowser, Williams can make a major leap with playing time up for grabs at outside linebacker.