La Canfora: Ravens Should Sign Newton
There's going to be competition at backup quarterback this offseason. Behind Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley, and undrafted quarterback Tyler Huntley will be vying for a spot on the 53-man roster.
It's one of the most important positions in football if the starter goes down, and CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora suggested on "The Rich Eisen Show" that the Ravens could go a different route and sign free-agent quarterback Cam Newton.
"Can you get him for five million, seven million, 10 million?" La Canfora said. "I don't know what the price point will be. Obviously, the injuries are significant in this and the inability to get the kind of physical [and] the kind of workout you'd like to have.
"If I'm Cam and I'm seeing what's out there now, any money he'd get wouldn't be upfront. You'd have to earn it in the future in all likelihood anyway. … You might as well continue to get healthy, do your thing, and see what's on the other side of this."
In late March, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks named the Ravens as one of the best fits for Newton.
"Newton's presence in the building won't threaten Jackson, but it would upgrade the talent behind the spectacular playmaker," Brooks wrote. "... Naturally, coach John Harbaugh would need to be comfortable with Newton's willingness to embrace a new role, but having a former MVP at his disposal could keep the Ravens in title contention in the midst of a catastrophe were Jackson to miss time with an injury."
Newton remains one of the most notable free agents left on the market. He played in just two games last season after suffering a Lisfranc foot injury and was released by the Carolina Panthers.
It may not seem like a need given the current roster, but oddsmakers see it as a possibility. According to DraftKings, the Ravens have the fifth-best odds (+800) to land Newton. The New England Patriots have the best odds at +300, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers at +500.
Newton would fit into Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's offense as a mobile quarterback. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Newton is open to signing as a backup in the right situation.
"He does want to be a starter – former MVP, he should be a starter. But the reality is that there just aren't any starting jobs available, so now – maybe a little bit of a shift in philosophy here – my understanding is that Newton has not ruled out taking a backup job in the right situation," Rapoport said. "It remains to be seen where and when that will be, but obviously Newton is still unemployed and really only has two choices: take a potentially prime backup job right now or wait until another starter gets injured, which may or may not come."
Lamar Jackson Continues to Avoid Hits
It's easy to assume that mobile quarterbacks like Jackson are more susceptible to injury because of their play style, but Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens found that Jackson is better at protecting himself than you may think.
Stevens went through every game last season and counted how many times Jackson ran out of bounds or took a knee. He then compared that to Jackson's rushing attempts and sacks.
"Even without counting quarterback slides and touchdown runs where he wasn't hit at all, Jackson avoided hits 36.18 percent of the time, running out of bounds or kneeling the ball 72 of 199 touches," Stevens wrote.
According to Stevens, Jackson took 23 sacks, ran out of bounds 54 times and took 18 kneel downs on 176 rushing attempts last season. For comparison, he took fewer sacks than 26 other quarterbacks.
"Even if we were to ignore other plays where Jackson wasn't tackled (touchdown runs and slides) or the idea his athleticism allowed him to take less damage on hits than other quarterbacks, it would still mean he only got tackled 127 times last season," Stevens added. "Compare that to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who took 48 sacks and ran the ball 75 times (123 total plays). Or to the four other quarterbacks who had a minimum of 40 sacks and 54 rushing attempts last season (minimum 94 total plays)."
Stevens isn't the only one who has used statistics to make this argument.
A study done by Sports Info Solutions found that quarterbacks are injured on designed runs just one in every 236 plays. In the same study, scrambling quarterbacks were hurt once every 91.7 plays, compared to 92.5 plays for quarterbacks who were sacked.
"Jackson] has answered the bell every time, has barely shown up on the injury report,” [Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy wrote. "He is even more run-oriented than most quarterbacks who are viewed as dual threats."
Jackson hasn't missed a start through two seasons, and his elusiveness has protected him from more hits than he's taken.
"We as Ravens fans know that he takes hits, but rarely are they massive hits in the open field," Russell Street Report’s Ben Dackiw wrote. "I was impressed with how Lamar took care of himself and the football in year two, and if he continues this pace, I see no reason to fear serious injury."
Marshal Yanda Details Weight Loss Journey
As we've all struggled to keep our hands out of the chip bag during quarantine, one of the biggest offseason surprises has been Marshal Yanda's transformation.
The recently retired guard turned heads last week when he made an appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show," looking like a completely different person.
Yanda dropped from 312 pounds after his final snap to 245 pounds and detailed his weight loss journey to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
"Fans, teammates and friends are astonished at how different a trimmed-down and clean-shaven Yanda looks these days," Hensley wrote. "Yet no one is surprised by how he attacked a healthier way of living."
According to Hensley, Yanda sought out Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle for help and used former teammate Matt Birk as an inspiration. Yanda cut down from 6,000 calories a day to 2,000. Meals like breakfast were reduced to two eggs, while dinner was reduced to three to four ounces of protein.
Yanda told Hensley his daily routine consists of riding his wife's Peloton bike for 45 minutes, then burning off more calories in the sauna. Staying in shape looks much different now after spending 13 seasons mauling opposing defenders in the trenches.
"When Yanda was over 300 pounds, any extended time on his feet would've resulted in his ankles and lower back killing him," Hensley wrote. "Now, five days a week, he's putting in 4 miles in an hour alongside his wife. ... [He's] under 250 pounds for the first time since his sophomore year of high school. All of his dress clothes and jeans fall off him. He used to wear pants as big as size-44 waist. These days, the size-38 ones are feeling loose on him.
"Yanda doesn't plan to lose more weight. He has settled in at 245 pounds for the past two to three weeks, and he doesn't foresee himself dipping below that."
Miles Boykin Is Ravens' 'Best-Kept Secret'
Every year there are players that break out and surprise. For the Ravens, that player could come with an improved passing game.
Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport identified every team's "best-kept secret," and believes it's second-year wide receiver Miles Boykin.
"Boykin entered the NFL a talented but raw prospect—a lanky, quick 6'4", 220-pounder who drew a comparison to Kenny Golladay," Davenport wrote. "With a year of experience under his belt, Boykin should be set for a larger role opposite Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown. Give Boykin a bump in targets, and more than a few defensive backs are going to be surprised when he blows past them."
Boykin has been mentioned by pundits as a breakout candidate heading into his second season. The Ravens haven't signed a free-agent receiver up to this point but added two rookies in the draft. It's stayed consistent with General Manager Eric DeCosta's tone this offseason that the team is confident in its current receiving core.
"We feel really, really good about that. We love the mix of personalities and players and the upside and leadership that we've got," DeCosta said. "And I think Lamar's got a great chemistry with those guys as well. We think our younger guys are going to continue to make a jump."