Late for Work 5/21: Ravens An Unlikely Suitor for Julio Jones, But 'Don't Rule Them Out Completely'

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Free Agent WR Julio Jones

Ravens Again Mentioned As Potential Destination for Julio Jones

Julio Jones being on the trade block is making headlines again. And, yes, the Ravens are still being mentioned as a potential trade partner.

The Athletic's Jeff Schultz reported that the Atlanta Falcons would like to trade the 32-year-old Jones because of salary-cap problems, and he named the Ravens as one of six teams that could be interested in the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.

When it was reported last month that teams were calling the Falcons about Jones' availability, SportsLine.com had the Ravens as the favorites to acquire him.

That was a few days before the draft, however. After drafting wide receivers Rashod Bateman (in the first round) and Tylan Wallace (in the fourth), the Ravens' wide receivers room has gotten crowded. That room also includes free-agent signing Sammy Watkins, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II.

There's also the issue of how expensive Jones is. He carries a $23 million cap hit in 2021 and a nearly $20 million hit the following two seasons.

Russell Street Report capologist Brian McFarland came up with a scenario in which the Ravens could afford Jones (it involved restructuring several players' contracts), but — again — that was before the team invested in Bateman and Wallace.

Although it seems highly unlikely that the Ravens would trade for Jones, they're still being linked to him by the media.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec was asked to devise a hypothetical trade offer from the Ravens. His proposal has the Ravens sending a 2022 second-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick and Boykin to Atlanta.

"The Ravens are tight on cap space, and they wouldn't be able to accommodate Jones without the Falcons eating some money and the receiver being willing to alter his contract," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens also aren't looking to put a ton of money onto future caps with quarterback Lamar Jackson awaiting a contract extension."

Zrebiec also noted the Ravens' crowded wide receivers room as a stumbling block, which is why he included Boykin in the offer.

"Given all of those factors, it would be easy to rule them out on Jones," Zrebiec wrote. "Yet, fixing the receiver position has been an offseason obsession for [General Manager Eric] DeCosta, and Jones' talent is enticing. Consider the Ravens an unlikely suitor, but don't rule them out completely."

USA Today's Charles Curtis ranked the Ravens at No. 2 on his list of best landing spots for Jones.

"While this team would probably continue to run and run some more, wouldn't having Jones change, like, everything?" Curtis wrote. "Jackson might want to get the ball into Jones's hands a lot more. Brown might be a lot more open downfield. Any added attention to the receivers just opens things up for Jackson and the ground game. I love this idea. Do it, Eric DeCosta!"

Deadspin's Jon Hoefling was much less enthusiastic about the Ravens being a good fit for Jones. Of the six teams Schultz mentioned as potential destinations (the 49ers, Patriots, Colts, Chargers, and Titans were the others), Hoefling put the Ravens at No. 5 in his rankings of teams who would benefit the most from adding Jones.

"Would Jones make Baltimore's offense more dynamic? Oh yeah. It'd be fun to watch … for about four weeks," Hoefling wrote. "Then when you realize that Julio has only had one game with eight or more targets and hasn't eclipsed 100 yards in any, you'll probably focus your attention elsewhere.

"If you think it's a stretch to predict something like that, just consider that Marquise Brown has been the team's No. 1 receiver for two years now. In that time, he's reached the 100-yard threshold just twice in the regular season, and has only seen eight or more targets seven times. Julio would — without a doubt — see more balls thrown his way than Brown, but it's unlikely John Harbaugh would change up his game plan with Lamar Jackson enough to maintain Julio's production over the last several years."

Pundit Predicts Blowout Win for Ravens in Week 1

Even though the Ravens' regular season-opener against the Raiders on "Monday Night Football" in Las Vegas is nearly four months away, Pro Football Focus' George Chahrouri has already made his prediction for the game.

The Ravens opened as 5-point favorites after the schedule was released last week, but Chahrouri doesn't think the game will be close.

"Lamar Jackson is on a revenge tour after he had kind of a down year last year. They're going to run over the Raiders defense, which isn't that great. Ravens by a lot," Chahrouri said.

Recent history suggests Chahrouri's prediction isn't bold. The Ravens have won their past three season-openers by an average of 41.7 points, the highest in the NFL in that span. Overall, the Ravens have won five straight season-openers and outscored their opponents, 177-26.

"The Ravens are amazing in Week 1. John Harbaugh gets them prepared," Chahrouri said. "They have blown the doors off teams."

The last time the Ravens opened the season on "Monday Night Football" was 2012, when they routed the Cincinnati Bengals, 44-13. Baltimore went on to win the Super Bowl that season.

Rashod Bateman Is Biggest Reason for Ravens Fans to Be Excited About This Season

Ravens fans have a number of reasons to be excited about the 2021 season, and the addition of Bateman is the biggest of all, according to Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox.

"Jackson is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher who reads defenses well and possesses more than enough arm talent to keep opposing secondaries honest. If Bateman can be the No. 1 receiver that Baltimore has lacked, Jackson could be even more dangerous," Knox wrote. "That's a scary thought for other teams in the AFC, but one that should get Ravens fans excited."

NFL.com's Marc Sessler expressed a similar sentiment about Bateman, writing that he "was brought on board to start right away" in an offense looking to be more balanced.

Sessler added that Bateman is one of several members of a talented rookie class that the Ravens should lean on.

"Feisty fourth-round receiver Tylan Wallace feels like a Raven, while third-round guard Ben Cleveland has a shot to win a starting job," Sessler wrote. "On defense, first-round pass rusher Odafe Oweh is all but locked in for a lead role after Baltimore's other edges — Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson — collectively piled up just seven sacks in 2020.

"It cuts against the grain of Baltimore's typical approach to youth, but the Ravens can't ignore the newbies in 2021."

Eagles RB Miles Sanders Was Starstruck Meeting New Teammate Joe Flacco

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders is a fan of new teammate Joe Flacco now, but that wasn't always the case. When Flacco was with the Ravens, he brought Sanders, a Pittsburgh native, to tears on multiple occasions.

"Growing up a Steelers fan, I definitely know Joe Flacco very well," Sanders said, via Delaware News Journal's Martin Frank. "He even gave me headaches, made me cry a couple of times. ... But I'm a fan. That's a Super Bowl quarterback, and I look forward to stuff like that."

Sanders, who is entering his third NFL season, said that he was starstruck when meeting the veteran quarterback, who signed with the Eagles this offseason.

"(Flacco) doesn't know that," Sanders said. "But I'm a little starstruck looking at Joe Flacco."

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