Making the Case Against Signing Jadeveon Clowney and Antonio Brown
No players have been linked to the Ravens more over the past year-plus than edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, the Ravens reportedly are "keeping tabs" on Clowney, who is scheduled to have his second visit with the Cleveland Browns tomorrow, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Last week, videos and photos of Brown training with his cousin, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Lamar Jackson re-fueled buzz that he could be a fit in Baltimore.
The possibility of the Ravens signing one or both of the former All-Pros is intriguing for obvious reasons, as Baltimore is in the market for a veteran edge rusher and wants to boost its passing game.
The price tag for Clowney, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has reportedly significantly decreased this offseason, and Brown showed last season that he can still be productive with 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns for the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler contends that the Ravens shouldn't sign either of the high-profile free agents.
Regarding Clowney, Schisler said his injury history is a red flag. The former No. 1-overall pick has played all 16 games just once in his seven-year career and missed the final eight games last season with the Tennessee Titans after undergoing knee surgery.
Statistically speaking, Clowney did not record a sack last year, had just three sacks the year before with the Seattle Seahawks and has never recorded a double-digit-sack season.
"At this point, it's hard to be very excited about Clowney," Schisler wrote. "Clowney could have a career resurgence. However, are you going to wait for it? Are you signing up for that?"
As for Brown, Schisler doesn't think the Ravens need him, especially after signing Sammy Watkins.
"The Ravens signed Watkins; that was their move in free agency for the wide receiver position," Schisler wrote. "They can still draft a receiver or two. They have Devin Duvernay and James Proche to continue to develop. Things are moving in the right direction."
Schisler also believes Brown, whose personal conduct issues are well-documented, would be too much of a distraction.
"The Ravens have been linked to Antonio Brown forever. If they were going to sign Marquise Brown's cousin, they would have done it already," Schisler wrote. "Even if Brown ended up working out for the Ravens, adding him would be a distraction that would take over the offseason. The second training camp would come around it would be all about Antonio Brown as far as the media was concerned."
Deion Sanders Says Ray Lewis and Ed Reed Want to Be College Coaches
While discussing former NFL players becoming head coaches at historically black colleges and universities, Deion Sanders said he knows fellow Hall of Famers and former Ravens teammates Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are interested in coaching at the collegiate level.
Sanders, the head coach at Jackson State, mentioned Lewis and Reed when commenting on former Titans running back Eddie George reportedly being hired as Tennessee State's coach.
"Guys like Ray Lewis, I know who's tremendously interested, Ed Reed, are certainly guys that I truly know are interested in the love, the game and love kids," Sanders told The Clarion-Ledger. "This could be a phenomenal thing."
In 2017, when Lewis was selected as one the Legends Captains for the AFC Pro Bowl team, he told our Garrett Downing that he was thinking about becoming a coach.
Reed, the chief of staff for football at the University of Miami, spent one season as the Buffalo Bills' defensive backs coach in 2016. He said he aspires to be a head coach or defensive coordinator in the NFL or college and has spoken "briefly at times" with Head Coach John Harbaugh about returning to Baltimore as a coach.
Is Adding a Safety in the Draft a Luxury or Priority?
The consensus is that the Ravens' top three priorities in the draft are edge rusher, wide receiver and interior offensive lineman, but should safety also be in the mix?
Even though the Ravens return safeties Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott, who both started every game last season, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec doesn't think the need for another safety should be overlooked.
"Depending on whom you ask, the addition of a safety is either a luxury or a necessity for the Ravens. Count me as someone who believes it's a lot closer to a necessity," Zrebiec wrote. " … The Ravens need a quality third safety behind them. I just don't know if that guy is on the roster at this point. They also could use a legitimate playmaker at the position.
"Clark and Elliott combined for just eight pass breakups and one interception last season. A rangy safety who is strong in coverage and has good ball skills would bring a dimension that the Ravens just don't have and give Defensive Coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale more flexibility with matchups."
The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker acknowledged that a playmaking safety would be a welcome addition, but he doesn't think it's a high priority.
"The prospect of a big-play threat on the back end will always hold allure for the franchise that featured Ed Reed, but we're talking more luxury than must-have," Walker wrote. " … Would the Ravens like more than one combined interception from a pair of safeties who hardly left the field? Sure, but their lack of turnover production is mitigated by the interceptions and forced fumbles accumulated by cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters."
Walker added: "The Ravens would be fine if they come out with a developmental safety prospect on Day Three."
As our Clifton Brown noted, the Ravens could find an intriguing safety early in the draft if they choose to go that route. Some mock drafts have TCU's Trevon Moehrig going to the Ravens with the 27th-overall pick.
Would the Ravens Take a Running Back in the First Round?
Some eyebrows were raised when the Ravens drafted running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round last year instead of a wide receiver. Needless to say, Dobbins proved to be a valuable asset and appears poised for a breakout season.
With Gus Edwards also returning, it seems unfathomable that the Ravens, who have had the league's No. 1 rushing attack the past two seasons, would spend another high draft pick on a running back, but Ravens Wire’s Kevin Oestreicher believes it's possible.
Oestreicher listed running backs Najee Harris of Alabama and Clemson's Travis Etienne as potential surprise picks for the Ravens in the first round.
"[Harris] is an elite route-runner as a running back, and as a rusher he is extremely physical and always falls forward," Oestreicher wrote. "He would make Baltimore's running back group truly unstoppable, but there would be a question of how snaps are split between such a talented group.
"Etienne is a dynamic back and a home run threat every time he touches the football. His explosiveness would give Baltimore yet another amazing playmaker in their backfield. If the Ravens think he can take their offense to the next level, it wouldn't be completely shocking to see them take a swing at Etienne."
It's unlikely either running back would be available when the Ravens are on the clock at No. 27, but they didn't expect Dobbins to still be on the board when they selected him 55th overall last year.
The Ravens have drafted a running back in the first round just once. They took Jamal Lewis fifth overall in 2000.
The Ideal First Two Picks for the Ravens
Adding weapons for Jackson in the passing game should be the Ravens' No. 1 priority in the draft, according to NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter.
Reuter said the ideal players for the Ravens' first two picks are Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney and Boston College tight end Hunter Long (Round 2, No. 58 overall).
"In 2015, Baltimore selected a receiver in the first round (Breshad Perriman) and a tight end in the second (Maxx Williams) — don't be surprised if it happens again this year," Reuter wrote. "Toney can play in the slot or outside because of his short-area foot quickness and pure speed after the catch.
"With Mark Andrews due to become a free agent after the season and Nick Boyle coming back from injury, picking up a red-zone and deep-seam threat like Long in the second round would be a great find."