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Late for Work 4/29: Will Ravens Break an 18-Year Streak in Draft Tonight?

Left: Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari; Right: Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye

Will Ravens Pick an Edge Rusher in First Round for First Time Since 2003?

Other than wide receiver, edge rusher has been the position most frequently mocked to the Ravens in the first round of the draft. And that was before they gained an additional first-round pick in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade.

With edge rusher as arguably the Ravens' biggest need, it's logical to think the team will do something tonight it hasn't done in 18 years: draft an edge rusher in the first round. The last time was in 2003, when Baltimore selected Terrell Suggs 10th overall.

"Their value lines up really well for the edge class," said ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. "It's not top heavy, but this middle tier of depth is really good."

As noted in Late for Work last week, Pro Football Focus' Michael Renner said drafting Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye would be a dream scenario for the Ravens. However, the chances of that dream coming true are not good.

According to ESPN's Draft Day Predictor, Paye has a 3-percent chance of being available when the Ravens are on the clock at No. 27 (Baltimore also has the 31st-overall pick). NBC Sports' Peter King predicted the Ravens will trade up to No. 22 to select Paye.

Miami's Jaelan Phillips and Georgia's Azeez Ojulari could also be gone by that point, but stranger things have happened in the draft.

"Any of those three falling would have to get the Ravens' attention," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.

More realistic options at edge rusher for the Ravens at No. 27, according to ESPN's Draft Day Predictor, are Miami's Gregory Rousseau (90 percent), Penn State's Jayson Oweh (90 percent) and Tulsa's Zaven Collins (63 percent).

"Unlike previous years, there is no Chase Young or a Bosa brother who headlines this pass-rush class," Hensley wrote. "Finding the right outside linebacker or defensive end depends on how a team ranks potential and production."

Said Miller: "There's not that go-to pass-rusher this year. It's a weaker class. But I think what's great is there's depth."

Interestingly, former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick had the Ravens selecting edge rushers with both of their first-round picks in NFL Network's mock draft. Billick took Rousseau at No. 27 and Washington's Joe Tryon at No. 31.

If the Ravens trade one of their first-round picks for a second-round selection (they currently don't have one), a player to keep an eye on is Houston defensive end Payton Turner.

"In evaluating edge rushers, the Ravens put a lot of focus on production and Turner had five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in just five games last year," Zrebiec wrote. "He has great size and length and he's still growing into his 6-foot-5 and 270-pound frame. He also can rush both inside and outside and gets high marks as a teammate and worker. He just projects as a Ravens type of player and the need is obviously there."

Hensley noted that the Ravens have had success finding pass rushers in the middle rounds, including Pernell McPhee (fifth round, 2011), Za'Darius Smith (fourth round, 2015) and Matthew Judon (fifth round, 2016). That trio combined for 116 career sacks.

Will Baltimore jump into the pass rusher pool tonight or wait? Tune in tonight to find out.

Teven Jenkins Goes to Ravens in Latest Mock Drafts

Ever since the Brown trade, the belief that the Ravens will address his replacement at right tackle in the first round has been gaining steam, and Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins has become a popular pick.

The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer and C.J. Doon both have the Ravens picking Jenkins at No. 27 in their final mock drafts.

"I'm a simple man. I see Jenkins on the board, I pick him," Doon wrote. "The Ravens need someone who can step in immediately at right tackle after the Orlando Brown Jr. trade, and I'd be hesitant to wait much longer than the end of the first round to find a replacement, even if that means missing out on the draft's top safety, a do-it-all linebacker and some talented receivers."

Shaffer wrote: "The 6-foot-6, 317-pound Jenkins, an elite run blocker, is a cut above the other fringe first-round tackles like [Texas' Samuel] Cosmi and Notre Dame's Liam Eichenberg. He's more ready to contribute than Penn State's Jayson Oweh, a promising but raw pass rusher. And having a second starting-level tackle is more important in Baltimore — for now, anyway — than Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman and whatever he might contribute in 2021."

Zrebiec and Pro Football Focus’ Eric Eager and George Chahrouri also mocked Jenkins to the Ravens at No. 27. Our own Ryan Mink and Garrett Downing both have the Ravens selecting Jenkins at No. 31.

"He's a natural right tackle with experience playing on the left side," Zrebiec wrote. "There are some concerns about his arm length, but he has all the tools to be a dominant run blocker and an immediate starter. If the Ravens sign a veteran as a one-year stopgap at right tackle, Jenkins could even play guard as a rookie, if [Head Coach John] Harbaugh's staff decides that arrangement gives the Ravens the best chance to win."

John Harbaugh Says Ravens Had No Qualms About Trading Orlando Brown Jr. to Top Rival

One of the main questions stemming from the Brown trade was why the Ravens would send the Pro-Bowl offensive tackle to the Chiefs, the team who has defeated the Ravens three years in a row and is the biggest obstacle between Baltimore and a Super Bowl berth.

Harbaugh was asked the question during an appearance on "The Rich Eisen Show." He said it just came down to the Chiefs making the best offer.

"We'll play whoever we play. We're not going to be afraid of anybody — any team or any player," Harbaugh said. "We'll look forward to playing whoever we play. For what [the Chiefs] offered us, it was the best offer we got. It allows us to build our team the way we want, the best way we can, and that's what you roll with."

In sending Brown, a 2021 second-round pick (No. 58) and a 2022 sixth-round pick to Kansas City, the Ravens received a first-round pick (No. 31, a third-rounder (94), fourth-round pick (136) and a 2022 fifth-round selection.

There's no doubt the trade has given the Ravens more flexibility in the draft by adding two picks.

"We got a lot that we're going to be able to use going forward, so those are going to be assets that are going to be great for us," Harbaugh said. "We just have to find a way to replace Orlando this year, which we'll find a way to do."

The Ravens will see Brown and the Chiefs during the regular season at M&T Bank Stadium.

Here's How the Ravens Could Afford Julio Jones

Because of the significant cap hit, trading for All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones would be "incredibly complicated," as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport put it.

Complicated, yes, but not impossible for the Ravens if they were interested, according to Russell Street Report capologist Brian McFarland.

McFarland came up with a scenario in which Jones' cap hit for the Ravens would be $6.6 million in 2021 and $15.8 million in both 2022 and 2023.

"Brian went on to point out that if [General Manager] Eric DeCosta's intent is to sign free-agent edge defender Justin Houston and tackle Alejandro Villanueva to contracts on or after May 3, the team would likely need to restructure the deals for Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey, Justin Tucker and Chuck Clark, which would trigger cap savings of $10M," Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi wrote. "None of these restructures should be an issue since each player is likely to remain with the team without any expectation of decline in pay. In other words, the Ravens aren't kicking the can down the road only to take on dead cap space later on with these restructure candidates."

Lombardi added: "Trading for Jones is an aggressive move, but one if structured as described above, has the potential to get the Ravens over that divisional round hump and deep into the playoffs."

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