Is McPhee 'Perfect Signing' for Ravens?
The consensus among local pundits is that the reported reunion of outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and the Ravens is a sound, if not splashy, move.
Signing McPhee – who played four seasons in Baltimore after being selected by the team in the fifth round in 2011 – to a one-year deal theoretically would help offset the loss of Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith this offseason by adding a proven pass rusher to the mix opposite Matthew Judon.
The words "low risk, high reward" seem to best describe the move, based on the assumption that the deal would be incentive-based and low on guaranteed money.
"This isn't the type of splash move fans were hoping for, but this is the perfect signing for the Ravens," Russell Street Report's John Langley wrote. "McPhee will mostly be used in the 'Joker' role vacated by Za'Darius Smith, so it's unlikely he eats into edge snaps for the young guys. For a no-risk deal, this makes absolute sense for the Ravens."
Russell Street Report's Carey Stevenson wrote: "McPhee fits the power edge profile I figured the Ravens would be looking for. He was Za'Darius before Za'Darius. He still has his trademark heavy hands and the ability to win on the interior versus guards and centers and convert speed to power on the edge. Good signing."
McPhee, who registered a career-best 7.5 sacks with the Ravens in 2014 before signing a lucrative contract with the Chicago Bears, was hampered by injuries after leaving Baltimore and saw a significant drop in production. Last season with the Washington Redskins, McPhee did not have a sack in 13 games played, although he did register eight quarterback hits.
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote that "McPhee can help the Ravens' defense; he can't solve its most glaring problem single-handedly."
"A glance at McPhee's recent history suggests he's unlikely to transform the outlook of Baltimore's defense," Kasinitz wrote. "McPhee, 30, didn't record a sack last season for Washington and never played more than 24 snaps a game while battling the effects of aging and injuries. Even in the final season of his first stint with the Ravens, a mostly successful four-year tenure that stretched from 2011 to '14, McPhee was more of a complementary piece than a focal point of the pass rush. Though he piled up a career-best 7.5 sacks in 2014, he played just 47.8 percent of Baltimore's defensive snaps.
"That means McPhee won't be a direct replacement for the two outside linebackers the Ravens lost in free agency this offseason. Terrell Suggs was on the field for 71.9 percent of Baltimore's defensive plays last season; Za'Darius Smith played 66.7 percent of those snaps."
Kasinitz noted that McPhee would bring some intangibles to the Ravens' defense.
"Perhaps the most important benefits McPhee can provide Baltimore are flexibility and leadership," Kasinitz wrote. "The eight-year NFL veteran has the talent to rush the passer from the interior of the line or off the edge — much like Smith does — which allows Baltimore to mix and match personnel in pressure packages or place younger players in spots that make them more comfortable. And after losing Suggs, the franchise's all-time sacks leader, the Ravens might like the idea of adding a voice like McPhee's to the locker room.
"He can offer guidance to younger teammates and set an example for [Jaylon] Ferguson, [Tyus] Bowser and [Tim] Williams. Anyone who could help those unproven outside linebackers would provide value to the Ravens, because their pass rush will grow flimsy if all three struggle in 2019. McPhee's arrival doesn't change that reality."
Judon One of NFL's Best-Kept Secrets
Ravens fans are aware of Judon's talent, but is this the year he receives national attention?
The outside linebacker was identified as one of the league's best-kept secrets by Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox.
"Former fifth-round pick Matt Judon has largely been overshadowed by the likes of Suggs and Smith during his three seasons in Baltimore," Knox wrote. "However, he's a capable pass-rusher himself, having produced 15 sacks over the last two seasons.
"Judon is also a stout run defender and a terrific all-around linebacker. He appears poised to be Baltimore's next big pass-rusher, though, especially if rookie Jaylon Ferguson is quickly emerges as a complement. Expect Judon to receive some Pro Bowl buzz as early as this season."
Count Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh among those looking for big things from Judon this season.
"Matt Judon obviously has proven himself. He's got to take the next step; he's very determined to do that," Harbaugh said at the NFL Annual League Meetings in March. "I have high expectations for Matt. I'm a believer in Matt Judon as a player and as a work ethic and all that."
Predictions: Lots of Catches for Boykin, TDs for M. Brown
Will third-round pick Miles Boykin have more receptions than first-round pick Marquise Brown in 2019? Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler thinks so.
"Boykin is a big target who can go up and get the 50/50 balls," Schisler wrote. "Boykin will have more receptions than Brown, but Brown's grabs will count for more yards. Brown is going to rack up yards after the catch and will be on the receiving end of Lamar Jackson deep bombs. Brown averaged over 18 yards per reception with Oklahoma. If Brown pans out, he is going to be the big playmaker of this offense. Boykin might become Jackson's go-to weapon, but Brown will be his most dangerous one."
Speaking of predictions for Brown, NFL Network's Shaun O'Hara believes the wide receiver from Oklahoma will have more than 10 touchdown receptions this season.
"You don't get a name 'Hollywood' without being explosive," O'Hara said. "I think he's an action hero. I think he's obviously dangerous in the slot, but when you think about what defenses are trying to do now to stop Lamar Jackson, that safety is peaking into the backfield. He was an explosive guy at Oklahoma."
To put O'Hara's prediction into perspective, John Brown led the Ravens in receiving touchdowns last season with five. Only two players in Ravens history have ever had more than 10 touchdown catches in a season – Michael Jackson (14 in 1996) and Torrey Smith (11 in 2014). The Ravens' record for touchdown catches in a season by a rookie is seven, by Smith in 2011 and Marlon Brown in 2013.
Do Ravens Still Have Best Defense in AFC North?
The Ravens had the NFL's top-ranked defense last season, but after an offseason filled with change, how does the unit stack up against the other AFC North teams in 2019?
In the opinion of Baltimore Beatdown's Frank J.Platko, who ranked every defensive position group in the division, the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers have narrowed the gap.
The Ravens figure to have one of the best secondaries in the league, so it's no surprise Platko ranked the Ravens No. 1 in the division at cornerback and safety.
"After drafting Greedy Williams to pair with Denzel Ward, the Browns could potentially have one of the best cornerback duos in the league," Platko wrote. "However, the addition of Williams isn't enough to vault them over the Ravens (not yet, at least). Led by Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith, and Tavon Young, Baltimore's combination of talent and depth at the position is unmatched by many, if any teams in the league.
"The Ravens would have been No. 1 [at safety] even had they kept Eric Weddle, but signing Earl Thomas to replace him is a fairly significant upgrade. Thomas and Tony Jefferson's skill sets figure to mesh well together and they should form a prolific tandem."
Platko ranked the Ravens' defensive line as the second-best in the division behind the Steelers, but Baltimore's edge rushers and linebackers came in at fourth and third, respectively.
On the linebackers, Platko wrote: "Baltimore let C.J. Mosley walk in free agency, as they ultimately weren't willing to pay the record-setting price necessary to retain him. This, as well as the fact that they didn't draft a replacement or add anyone in free agency, shows they're confident in Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young as the starting duo. Young showed flashes of promise in his rookie season and 'Peanut' played at a very high level over the final 6-7 weeks of the year, but the Browns and Steelers have more depth."