Late for Work 5/26: Antonio Brown 'Will Probably Play With Ravens,' Tiki Barber Says

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WR Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown 'Will Probably Play With Ravens,' Tiki Barber Says

The Antonio Brown-to-Baltimore speculation began in April when video surfaced of the free-agent wide receiver working out with Lamar Jackson and Brown's cousin, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown.

Earlier this month, Antonio Brown added fuel to the fire by posting a digitally altered photo of him wearing a Ravens uniform on social media.

And now there's this: CBS Sports Radio's Tiki Barber said he believes the former Steelers wide receiver is likely to play for the Ravens in 2020.

"I think that he will probably play with the Baltimore Ravens. It just feels like his messaging, his personal messaging has changed," Barber said on the Scoop B Radio Podcast. "Would I trust that fully? Probably not, just because history has shown that he gets erratic at times. But he's got a relationship there obviously because 'Hollywood' Brown is his cousin and it seems Lamar Jackson and him have a good working relationship.

"I do think he'll get a shot. As long as he stays stable, and I don't know if he's getting counseling or help, but his outbursts have ceased. And really that's what was keeping him out of the league. You just couldn't trust what was going to come out of his mouth; not really his mouth, but what was going to come out of his Twitter account. And I think if that calms, there's an absolutely great chance that he can come back into the game."

Whenever General Manager Eric DeCosta has been asked by the media whether the Ravens would have interest in Brown, DeCosta responded by saying the team always has interest in any player that could help the team win.

Meanwhile, ESPN Seattle's John Clayton reported last week that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is pushing for Seattle to sign Brown.

There has been much debate on whether Brown, who turns 32 in July, would be worth the risk for any team despite the four-time All-Pro's undeniable talent.

After Brown demanded a trade from Pittsburgh before last offseason, the Steelers dealt him to the Raiders, but Oakland released him before the start of the season. Brown went on to play one game with the New England Patriots before he was released as the NFL launched an investigation into sexual assault allegations. He would have to be reinstated by the NFL in order to play again this season.

Ravens' Passing Attack Could Soar to New Heights

Regardless of whether Antonio Brown puts on a Ravens uniform for real this season, Baltimore's passing attack has huge upside in 2020, Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich wrote.

As noted in Late for Work last week, Pro Football Focus ranked Ravens receivers 25th out of 32 teams and last in the AFC North.

"The early consensus is the Baltimore Ravens' passing attack rates behind their AFC North rivals. They have huge potential to close this perceived gap," Karpovich wrote.

Karpovich said he doesn't expect the Ravens, who set a single-season rushing record last season, to stray too far away from their strength, but they possess the talent to be more dangerous in the passing game.

It all starts with Jackson and Hollywood Brown. Despite leading an offense that ran 156 more times than it passed, Jackson threw a league-high 36 touchdown passes in just his first full season as a starter. Brown had 584 receiving yards and tied a franchise rookie record with seven touchdown catches despite playing with two screws in his foot.

Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead IV went as far as to compare Jackson and Brown to Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

Baltimore also got more weapons for Jackson in the draft to go along with Brown and the rest of the returnees.

"The Ravens are confident they picked up two more solid wideouts in this year's draft — Devin Duvernay and James Proche," Karpovich wrote. "Baltimore has the sure-handed Willie Snead on the roster and he's also adept at blocking. DeCosta expects second-year player Miles Boykin (13 receptions for 198 yards with two touchdowns) to also have a bigger impact. In addition, Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle are among the best tight-end duos in the NFL."

NFL Defenses Won't Figure Out Jackson

The question about Jackson before the start of last season was whether he could make enough strides as a passer to be more than one-dimensional. A year later, the question is whether NFL defenses can figure out how to catch up to him.

When discussing how defensive coordinators eventually were able to neutralize former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, like Jackson, had Greg Roman as his offensive coordinator, Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo said the same thing won't happen with the Ravens quarterback.

"[Kaepernick] didn't develop the touch or the whole array of throws I think that you need to take the next step," Palazzolo said. "I think what we saw from Lamar Jackson last year, not only is he a more dynamic runner that can be used in different situations, [but] even when you account for him and the math is right, Lamar makes the math wrong because he's so elusive. They'll have that covered, but he also developed as a passer. He loves to go through his progressions. He loves to find that next guy. He's a pass-first quarterback and he started to be able to make all the throws at a higher rate."

PFF's Sam Monson agreed.

"I think he's already too sophisticated a passing quarterback and too sophisticated a diagnostication to even be found out the way Kaepernick was."

Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler said the Ravens being held to 12 points in their loss to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs last January was an anomaly, not a blueprint.

"You may be thinking that Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens got figured out by the Tennessee Titans. The thing is that we didn't learn anything in that game," Schliser wrote. "Sure, Jackson probably shouldn't drop back to pass [59] times in a game. We already knew that. … What didn't happen was a switch going off that made the NFL all [of a] sudden know how to deal with the 2019 MVP.

"The Ravens will always be ahead of the rest of the league. The Ravens set out to start a revolutionary offense. Greg Roman wasn't tasked with building a fad. He was asked to call an offense that would truly be different than any offense the NFL has ever seen. Lamar Jackson is different than any quarterback you have ever seen."

ESPN's Prediction Model Gives Ravens Second-Best Chance to Win Super Bowl

The Ravens have the second-best chance to win the Super Bowl, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. Baltimore is given a 17 percent chance, trailing only the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (21 percent).

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"Offense predictability is also why the Ravens -- not the 49ers -- are FPI's second-best team in the NFL and second-most-likely team to win the Super Bowl," ESPN's Seth Walder wrote. "Simply put, Baltimore has a better offense than San Francisco. But while the Ravens have a far superior defense to the Chiefs, it's not enough to make up for Kansas City's advantage on offense."

FPI's ratings are based on each team's Las Vegas win total; last season's performance on offense, defense and special teams; the number of returning starters; coaching staff changes; and starting and backup quarterbacks.

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