Potential Turnover on Ravens' Defense Reminiscent of 2013?
The Ravens rode their No. 1-ranked defense to an AFC North division title last season, but with one key player already gone and four others set to hit free agency, the unit could look much different this coming season.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec compared the situation to 2013, when the Ravens lost six starters and the team leader in sacks from their Super Bowl championship team.
Safety Eric Weddle was released earlier this week, and middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith and starting defensive end Brent Urban are all unsigned.
"All told, the Ravens could be moving on without five defensive starters, and that doesn't include cornerback Jimmy Smith, who has been frequently mentioned as a potential salary cap cut," Zrebiec wrote. "This year's departures may not resonate as much with Ravens fans as they did when franchise icons like [Ray] Lewis and [Ed] Reed left, and the crux of a Super Bowl winner was broken up.
"But the 2018 Ravens defense was better than the 2012 version. It finished first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game and second in fewest points allowed, and it carried the team for stretches when the offense couldn't find its footing. And now, it appears that the Ravens defense will look drastically different in 2019."
Zrebiec noted that Mosley and Suggs could very well return, but if Mosley hits the open market next week, re-signing him becomes more difficult. Re-signing Smith and Urban, Zrebiec said, appears unlikely, even though "the Ravens certainly have enough cap space to afford them. Weddle's release probably makes it more likely that Jimmy Smith stays."
Zrebiec added: "With a moderate amount of cap space and so many needs across the roster, losses on the defensive side were inevitable. But the questions bear asking: How many departures are too many? Wouldn't significantly weakening the defense put even more pressure on [quarterback Lamar] Jackson to carry the team, a tall task that he's probably not yet ready for?"
If the Ravens were to lose Mosley and Suggs after parting ways with Weddle, the team obviously would miss their leadership in addition to their physical skills. ESPN's Jamison Hensley posed the question of who would step up and become the voice of the defense.
"Suggs has been the face of the Baltimore Ravens' defense for the past six seasons, taking over Ray Lewis' role in giving emotional pregame speeches," Hensley wrote. "Weddle and Mosley were the defensive playcallers and helped put teammates in the right positions before the ball was snapped. … Who will take the reins if Suggs and Mosley sign elsewhere in free agency next week?"
After being released, Weddle identified safety Tony Jefferson and outside linebacker Matthew Judon as the players who would fill the void.
"It's their time," Weddle said. "They've learned from us older guys and it's a revolving door in that sense. Those guys got to step up. There's no doubt. I know they will."
"Jefferson is entering his third season after being one of Baltimore's top free-agent signings in 2017," Hensley wrote. "In his fourth NFL season, Judon is an emerging star and could be the most complete defender on the team."
Cardinals Looking to Sign Mosley and Suggs?
Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta has made it clear that he would like to re-sign both Mosley and Suggs, but could the two stalwarts of the Ravens defense actually end up as teammates somewhere other than Baltimore?
According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, it's possible that the Arizona Cardinals could sign both.
"Some of C.J. Mosley's Ravens teammates believe both he and Suggs could be headed to the Cardinals," La Canfora wrote.
FanSided's Brad Weiss listed the best fits for Mosley in free agency, and the Cardinals came in at No. 5. (The others on his list, in order, are: Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
"In the middle of [the Cardinals'] defense, there is a serious deficiency, and bringing in a player like C.J. Mosley would really solidify the middle linebacker position," Weiss wrote. "Arizona has young talent in the secondary, and [Chandler] Jones up front, so Mosley in middle would make their defense much better in 2019."
As for Suggs, La Canfora said the Cardinals "seem desperate" to add a pass rusher to the team with Jones.
Suggs, of course, has ties to the state of Arizona. He attended high school there, played for Arizona State and still has a home in Scottsdale.
"In what would be a fitting end to a storied NFL career, there is a real chance that Suggs could play his final snaps in the desert," FanSided's Avery Duncan wrote.
Ravens fans no doubt believe there's a much more fitting end to Suggs' career.
Bills Have Moved on From Antonio Brown
If you happened to be surfing online in the middle of the night, you may have seen a breaking news report that a deal was close to being completed that would've sent Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Buffalo Bills.
It's not happening.
After the report, the mercurial Brown labeled the story "fake news," and other reports followed that backed up Brown's assessment.
Hours later, Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said the Bills were no longer in the Antonio Brown business.
Reportedly, Brown had no intention of playing for the Bills.
Rapoport said there will be a sticking point for any proposed trade involving Brown.
"That sticking point is the ability he has to put the kibosh on any trade by refusing to report to a team acquiring him from Pittsburgh," Rapoport said. "We've heard that Brown wants more guaranteed money and a winning situation at various points over the last few months, and he said in an interview that he'd walk away from football rather than play for a team that isn't 'going to play by my rules.'"
The Steelers reportedly had told potential trade partners earlier this week that a trade "is expected to be in place by Friday," but the Steelers don't seem to have a "hard-fast deadline," according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac.
Report: Browns Make Offer to Giants for Beckham
Rumors have surfaced that the Cleveland Browns are in trade talks with the New York Giants about acquiring wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
However, while members of the Dawg Pound were probably salivating at the thought of OBJ catching touchdown passes from Baker Mayfield, NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabawala said they shouldn't get their hopes up.
"I wouldn't feel confident describing [the rumors] as serious," Kinkhabawala told 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland. "I think it's the time of year where there are lots and lots and lots of conversations."
Kinkhabawala went on to say that she had been told that the Browns were offering guard Kevin Zeitler, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and another player for Beckham.
"I ran that by a long-time member of the Giants organization who laughed and said there is not a chance and that would make the Giants a laughing stock," he said.