The Athletic: Is Ravens Trading for Clowney Realistic?
The idea of Jadeveon Clowney in a Baltimore Ravens uniform is an enticing one, but is it realistic?
I wouldn't necessarily get my hopes up, but it's probably not out of the realm of possibility. The Athletic's Aaron Reiss, with the aid of other NFL beat reporters for The Athletic, listed five potential trade partners for the Houston Texans outside linebacker, and the Ravens were among them.
Clowney, the first-[add]overall pick of the 2014 draft and a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has been unable to reach a new deal with the Houston Texans, and the team reportedly is open to trading him. If an agreement for a multi-year contract isn't reached by July 15, Clowney, who has been absent from OTAs this week, will have to play under the franchise tag.
"If [Texans General Manager Brian] Gaine doesn't think Clowney and his asking price fit into the Texans' long-term future, he must consider whether to seek a trade," Reiss wrote. "Soon enough, Deshaun Watson will be playing under a much more expensive deal, and Houston's need for quality players on rookie contracts will only become more important. Receiving an extra first-round pick (and possibly more) for Clowney would be enticing."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote that the Ravens – who lost Za'Darius Smith (team-leading 8.5 sacks in 2019) and Terrell Suggs (seven sacks) in free agency and missed out on free agent edge rushers Justin Houston and Ezekiel Ansah – would likely have some interest in trading for the 26-year-old Clowney.
"It would be foolish to rule them out in the bidding for any stud pass-rusher, and they have a ton of cap space in 2020 and beyond, where they could comfortably accommodate a contract extension for Clowney," Zrebiec wrote. "But the issue would almost certainly be what they'd have to give up.
"They are still a team in transition in a lot of ways, and new GM Eric DeCosta abhors trading prime draft picks. My guess is they'd at least put in a call, but their involvement would depend totally on the asking price."
Earlier this week, ESPN's Bill Barnwell wrote that adding defensive help should be the Ravens' top priority before the start of the regular season.
"The Ravens have shed front-seven pieces this offseason, and in return they've ... brought back Pernell McPhee and signed former Broncos first-rounder Shane Ray," Barnwell wrote. "They already had plenty of talent and will promote from within, but they could sorely use veteran help."
Clowney, who has a history of injuries but is freakishly gifted, has recorded 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
Mariucci: Ravens Made Worst Offseason Move
The Ravens have received plenty of praise from media members for their moves this offseason, which include signing safety Earl Thomas and running back Mark Ingram, but not everyone is a believer.
NFL Network analyst and former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci said the worst move of the offseason was the Ravens letting core defensive players Suggs, Smith, C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle go.
"All these guys are Pro Bowlers and great players for their great defense, and all of a sudden that great defense may not be great anymore," Mariucci said on NFL Total Access. "Yeah, they signed Earl Thomas, but you watch 'Game of Thrones?' You know they've got that raven with the three eyes? This defense used to have three eyes. Now it's got two eyes or one eye. It's a cyclops defense."
Mariucci's point about the quality of the players lost on defense is well taken, but his mention of Thomas came off as a throwaway line (although he did clarify that he thinks Thomas is "a great player").
Plus, it seems unfair to criticize the Ravens too harshly for losing Suggs, Smith and Mosley in free agency. DeCosta made it clear that he would've liked to have re-signed all of them, but Suggs surprisingly decided he wanted to play in his home state of Arizona, Smith's price tag was too high, and Mosley reportedly rejected a strong offer from the Ravens to sign a massive five-year, $85 million deal with the New York Jets that was substantially higher than pundits expected.
Grading the Ravens' Defense
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shafer took an in-depth look at whether the Ravens upgraded or downgraded – or if it was a push – on each unit on defense.
The defensive line received an upgrade.
"The Ravens bring back all but one of their down linemen, starting defensive end Brent Urban, from a group that finished third in the NFL in yards per carry allowed and sixth in Football Outsiders' rush-defense efficiency," Shafer wrote. "And more help, old and new, is arriving. The question remains whether the defense can get any pass-rush pressure from its line rotation. The Ravens will need it more than ever this season."
Shafer wrote that defensive tackle Willie Henry, who missed most of last season with injuries, is an unknown quantity, and noted that Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said he expects "big things" from him this season.
The secondary, which is expected to be a strength, received a push because there isn't much room for improvement for a unit that was "second in average passer rating allowed and third in Football Outsiders' pass-defense efficiency" last season, Shafer wrote.
One area in which the secondary could improve is in creating turnovers.
"For as well as the Ravens locked up passing attacks last season, only three players finished with more than one interception — Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey had two apiece — and the defense had 12 total, tied for 18th in the NFL," Shafer wrote. "Free-agent signing Earl Thomas could be a savior. The former Seattle Seahawks star has more seasons with three-plus interceptions in his career (five) than he does two or fewer (four). He has had four 'elite' seasons in the past five years, according to [Pro Football Focus]."
It was no surprise that linebackers got a downgrade, as Shafer noted that "Ravens linebackers were probably hit harder than any position group in the NFL this offseason."
"At both edge rusher and up the middle, the Ravens have rebuilding projects worthy of time on HGTV," Shafer wrote. "The pass-rush picture is especially worrisome."
The Case for Baltimore to Host the NFL Draft
The NFL announced yesterday that Cleveland and Kansas City will host the NFL Draft in 2021 and 2023, respectively. The 2022 draft is undecided but expected to go to a big city.
Ravens Wire's Matthews Stevens believes Baltimore should be on the short list of the next potential host cities.
Stevens cited Baltimore's rich NFL history, going back to the days of the Baltimore Colts, as well as the success of the Ravens in the present day. He also noted that from a logistics standpoint, Baltimore fares well.
"Baltimore has several locations that would be ideal for the draft," Stevens wrote. "If the NFL wanted it inside in a historic theater, the Hippodrome has a capacity of 2,300 and is on the National Park Service's registry of historic places. If that wasn't enough seating to accommodate the draft, the Royal Farms Arena is capable of handling 14,000 seats.
"The 2017 NFL draft was held outside in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That would open up the idea of Baltimore holding the draft in a historic outdoor location like Fort McHenry. Of course, M&T Bank Stadium — one of the league's prettier and updated stadiums — is a solid option as well. Baltimore is within easy driving distance of two major airports. Washington D.C. is about an hour away while Philadelphia is about two hours away. That would effectively make Baltimore a good mid-way point for three major football cities and a total population of around 15 million combined."
- Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic signed with the Washington Redskins. Bostic reportedly worked out for the Ravens last week.
- The Ravens came in at No. 4 on Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski's ranking of every NFL team's depth at running back. The AFC North division rival Cleveland Browns, with a three-headed attack of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt (who is suspended for the first eight games) and Duke Johnson, were one spot ahead of the Ravens.
- Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda, Henry and cornerback Tavon Young were named to the All-Small Team ("players who are notably lighter and shorter than the average height and weight of players at his position") selected by Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit.
- Sportsnaut's Jesse Reed took a look at the top 10 active players for most consecutive games played. Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr, who has never missed a game in 11 seasons, is No. 2 at 176 straight games.