Ravens Reportedly Made 'Really Strong Push' to Sign T.Y. Hilton
T.Y. Hilton reportedly is the second free-agent receiver in a week to decline an offer from the Ravens.
Hilton signed a one-year deal reportedly worth $10 million ($8 million guaranteed) yesterday to remain with the Indianapolis Colts. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that "the Baltimore Ravens made a really strong push to sign [Hilton]."
Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi reported that the Ravens offered Hilton a three-year deal "with substantially more guaranteed money." Russell Street Report’s Brian McFarland tweeted that the Ravens' offer was for three years, $16 million ($5.3 million per year).
Last week, JuJu Smith-Schuster reportedly turned down a bigger offer from the Ravens before signing a one-year deal to stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The reports strengthen the perception that free-agent receivers are leery of joining a run-heavy offense that ranked first in rushing yards and last in passing yards.
"Ravens officials downplay it, but it's a factor that in some cases, they have to overcome with free-agent receivers," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "If you're a receiver looking to sign a one-year deal to put up big numbers and head back on the free-agent market next March, when the salary cap will presumably be much higher and teams will have more money to spend, are you going to go to the team that will likely give you the fewest opportunities? Probably not if you have other offers."
Lombardi wrote: "Now the argument could be made that both Hilton and JuJu Smith-Schuster simply wanted to stay with their respective teams, and that's something most can respect. But these rejections, coupled with earlier tweets from Willie Snead and Dez Bryant that were hardly complimentary of the Ravens offensive scheme, leaves you wondering and it must move GM Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh into a state of frustration."
So, what happens now?
The top two remaining free-agent receivers are Sammy Watkins and Antonio Brown. Watkins reportedly had a "good visit" with the Ravens on Tuesday. He was scheduled to visit the Colts yesterday and reportedly has drawn interest from the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans.
The Ravens could look into trading for a receiver. Zrebiec speculated that the Dallas Cowboys' Michael Gallup and Los Angeles Chargers' Mike Williams could potentially be available.
"I think you kind of look at younger receivers who have some upside rather than some of these veteran guys who have known flaws," Zrebiec said on Glenn Clark Radio. "In a perfect world, you want to get a younger guy. But that's easier said than done."
Or, perhaps the Ravens punt on adding a free-agent receiver and turn their attention to the draft, which has a deep receiver class.
"Maybe the Ravens should just fold tent on free-agent wide receivers this offseason," Lombardi wrote. "Maybe they should just wait to see what they can do on draft day or if there is any fallout from other teams' rosters after the draft. Maybe they should use some of their available cap money to improve in other areas, like the edge or at tight end."
Tyus Bowser Pegged as Ravens' Breakout Player in 2021
The Ravens invested in Tyus Bowser by re-signing him to a four-year deal reportedly worth $22 million last week, and Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski believes that investment will immediately pay dividends. Sobleski predicted the 25-year-old outside linebacker would be the Ravens' breakout player in 2021.
With Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue departing in free agency, Bowser becomes a key player for the defense.
"The Ravens have consistently developed successful outside linebackers and spent a second-round pick on Bowers four years ago," Sobleski wrote.
Bowser has become a versatile player. Last season he posted career highs in interceptions (three, quarterback hits (14) and tackles (34).
"Bowser was always a crucial player to retain long-term," Russell Street Report's Dev Panchwagh wrote Russell Street Report’s Dev Panchwagh wrote. "He's been playing better and better. Tremendous athlete who has also cleaned up some of his technique and overall awareness issues. He's primed to ascend with Judon gone."
"The deal is also fair market value and a bit less than what the Ravens would have had to spend to retain Judon and Yannick. However, Bowser is arguably the player who has the most upside in this defense to outperform those guys given the full plate of snaps."
Pro Football Focus’ Eric Eager listed the Ravens' re-signing Bowser as one of the three-best moves in free agency this offseason.
"Very good pass rusher, a little bit underrated," Eager said.
Should Ravens Increase Nick Boyle's Role as Pass-Catcher?
Nick Boyle has a well-deserved reputation for being the best blocking tight end in the NFL, but Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler contends that the Ravens would benefit by increasing Boyle's role as a pass-catcher.
In nine games last season, Boyle caught 14 passes on 17 targets for 113 yards and two touchdowns. While the sample size is small, Boyle's 82.4 catch percentage was first among Ravens wide receivers and tight ends.
"That's not chump change in this offense," Schisler wrote. "This is a run-heavy, run-first offense that caps the maximum numbers of their pass catchers just with their identity and their focus. In 2019, Boyle had 31 receptions for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. In 2020 that would have been a higher total than Devin Duvernay, Miles Boykin, and J.K. Dobbins."
Boyle obviously isn't the receiving threat that fellow tight end Mark Andrews is, but that doesn't mean he can't be an asset as a pass-catcher, Schisler wrote.
"We're talking about easy money plays, easy completions for Lamar Jackson," Schisler wrote. "The Ravens should take advantage of two facts in the 2021 season. First, Nick Boyle seldom worries defensive coordinators as a pass-catcher. Secondly, Boyle is on the field a lot."
"The point is that everybody knows that Boyle is there. Everybody knows what he can do. Few defensive coordinators really care. If I was Greg Roman I'd set out to get Boyle 45 receptions a season. Why? Because they're there for the taking and I'll take 8-10 yards on a high percentage throw in an offense built on efficiency with a love of a lengthy drive. … While the defense is worried about Andrews down the field, Boyle provides the underneath production that is often essential."
Kevin Zeitler Fits Perfectly With Ravens' Style
It's been more than a week since the Ravens landed guard Kevin Zeitler, and pundits are continuing to praise the deal, which reportedly was for three years, $22 million.
"This is a classic Baltimore move: getting a coveted player at half the cost of a similar talent in Joe Thuney, with the compensatory formula still intact since the Giants had to cut Zeitler," ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote. Thuney's deal with the Kansas City Chiefs reportedly was for five years, $80 million.
NFL Network's Brian Baldinger broke down film on Zeitler and concluded that he's a perfect fit for the Ravens.
"[The Ravens] want to lean on you, they want to pound you, they want you to feel their punch. That's the Ravens' style of football, and Zeitler fits it perfectly," Baldinger said. "The Ravens offense is made for the strength of Kevin Zeitler."