Antonio Brown Posts Picture of Himself in Ravens Jersey
Free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown made headlines over the weekend by posting a photo of himself wearing a Ravens jersey on Snapchat.
Brown has spent time this offseason in Florida working out with cousin Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Lamar Jackson. The three posted pictures together on social media that garnered speculation about Brown potentially joining the Ravens.
Jackson told reporters that he'd be "happy" if the Ravens signed Brown, but "it's not [his] decision." Last week following the draft, Mad Dog Sports Radio's Adam Schein asked General Manager Eric DeCosta about the possibility.
"If we think there's a guy out there who fits us, who's got the skill set to provide value, we'll certainly pounce on that type of guy," DeCosta said. "As Ozzie [Newsome] always used to tell me, we don't play games until September."
Fox Sports' Marcellus Wiley and former Pro Bowl linebacker Bryan Cox Sr. think Brown wouldn't be a fit in Baltimore.
"As much as I go back and forth with this one, I would have to land on he's a bad fit for the Ravens," Wiley said. "This is a 14-win team that underachieved [in the playoffs]. … When they're talking about their potential, they can't do anything risky to abandon where they are in terms of the progress and how close this team is.
"You bring in Brown, let's just be real, he may detonate at any time and blow up the entire situation. You can't take that risk. Yeah, it's a great culture. He even has family on the team. You know he will buy into the Ravens' way in the beginning. But in adversity, nobody can trust Brown."
There's no questioning Brown's talent. He's been one of the league's top receivers when on the field, but rarely saw it in 2019.
After being released from the Oakland Raiders before last season started, Brown played one game with the New England Patriots before he was released as the NFL launched an investigation into sexual assault allegations.
"Brown would need to be re-instated by the NFL before he can play again," Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich wrote. "He is a dominant player when he can get on the field, amassing 841 receptions for 11,263 yards and 75 touchdowns over 10 seasons. Brown has been named to seven Pro Bowl teams and awarded four first-team All-Pro honors over 10 seasons."
"Have the Ravens done enough offensively to build off last year's success?" The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec asked. "[add]The 2019 Ravens finished first in points per game and set multiple league and franchise records with their ability to run the ball. … Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged earlier in the season that the Ravens would have to evolve a little bit offensively and become more dynamic in the passing game because opponents would spend the offseason studying their offensive scheme. The Ravens, however, didn't sign any outside free-agent receivers to help reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson, and they didn't select one of the upper-tier receivers in a deep draft class at the position, either."
Bettors Set the Over/Under on Lamar Jackson's 2020 Rushing Total
Jackson was a human highlight reel with his legs last season, leaving opposing defenders on the wrong end of viral videos each week. Jackson broke Michael Vick's single-season quarterback rushing record with 1,206 yards, but could he repeat the same success again?
Vegas set the over/under on Jackson's rushing total at 999.5 yards and it's now dropped to 949.5.
"For dual-threat quarterbacks, posting big back-to-back rushing seasons has proven elusive," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "Randall Cunningham ran for 942 yards in 1990 but managed just 549 the next season. Vick rushed for 902 yards in 2004 but was limited to 597 the following year. After Vick established the quarterback rushing record in 2006 with 1,039 yards, he didn't play the following season after being convicted on dogfighting charges."
Last offseason, Head Coach John Harbaugh said to "bet the over" on Jackson surpassing Cam Newton's career-high 139 rushing attempts. Jackson did it by almost 40 attempts (176).
The Ravens' run-first offense was explosive, and they added even more firepower to the backfield with second-round pick J.K. Dobbins. DeCosta said he envisions a four-headed monster at running back, which could take the load off Jackson's legs as he continues to improve as a passer.
No quarterback has ever had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said he'd still take the over.
"This year, with limited opportunities to prepare for the season due to the absence of offseason programs, there could be more breakdowns and, in turn, more opportunities for Jackson to run circles around defenders who simply can't catch him," Florio wrote.
Ravens' Linebackers One of the Most Improved Positions Following Draft
There was a clear agreement across the board that inside linebacker was one of the Ravens' biggest offseason needs. How the team planned to address that need was the biggest question.
DeCosta responded by double-dipping in the draft with Patrick Queen in the first round and Malik Harrison in the third.
The addition of two young, talented linebackers with complementing skillsets makes it one of the most improved positions in the NFL.
"The biggest weakness they had when I looked at this roster was the inside linebacker position," NFL Network's Charley Casserly said. "Queen [is] quick, athletic, and can cover … Harrison in the third round will compete for a starting position and I think he might get it there."
"Both Queen and Harrison are speed linebackers who can cover backs and tight ends in space," an unnamed evaluator told The Athletic's Mike Sando. "You could argue this was their biggest need coming into the draft and they addressed both in the top 100 picks."
Queen brings speed, and the ability to cover sideline-to-sideline. Harrison doesn't get as much credit for his quickness, but he should, and he is a physical presence that can meet ball carriers at the point of attack.
There's a chance we could see both on the field as starters in Week 1.
"Queen and Harrison will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "The Ravens allowed a franchise-worst 4.4 yards per carry last season, and the other three inside linebackers on the roster (L.J. Fort, Chris Board and Otaro Alaka) have a combined 11 NFL starts."
The Athletic's Ted Nguyen picked Queen as one of his favorite scheme fits in Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's "3-4 aggressive blitzing scheme, man coverage" defense.
"He'll add even more high-end athleticism to an already dangerous Ravens defense," Nguyen wrote. "One of their few weaknesses was run defense. Last season, they had the 13th worst run defense in DVOA, Football Outsider's efficiency metric. Queen will help the Ravens improve in that area with his quick read-and-react ability."
Since drafting C.J. Mosley in the first round in 2014, the Ravens haven't taken an inside linebacker higher than the fourth round. Now they have two players to fill the void.
"The Ravens have a new, cost-effective tandem in the heart of their defense, and based on how they've added linebackers in the past, it will be a long-term solution," Bleacher Report's Chris Roling wrote.
Ravens 'Determined' to Keep Matthew Judon, No Reported Progress in New Deal
One of the Ravens' biggest offseason questions remains the future of Matthew Judon in Baltimore. There were rumblings early in the offseason that Judon could be a tag-and-trade candidate, but there haven't been any reports of trade talks.
Zrebiec said over the weekend that the Ravens are "determined to make things work," but there reportedly hasn't been any progress on a new deal.
"Judon, who led the team with 9 1/2 sacks last year, still hasn't signed his franchise tag," Zrebiec wrote. "There was talk earlier this offseason about the Ravens tagging and then trading Judon, but there's been no indication that they've gotten close to a deal. Having not added any edge-rush help, the Ravens seem determined to make things work with Judon. The clock, though, is ticking on a possible contract extension."
Both sides have until July 15 at 4 p.m. to agree on a long-term deal. If not, Judon would play the season on the tag.
Pundits still believe adding a veteran pass rusher is in play, but Judon remains the focal point of the pass rush. He was one of the NFL's top pass rushers last season but could cost $18-20 million a year on a new contract.
"[T]he team's future at that spot remains murky," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "Just one outside linebacker, 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson, is signed with Baltimore beyond the 2020 season. … Eric DeCosta doesn't need to panic about his outside linebacker rotation. He has time to find solutions. It's just clear he'll need to turn his focus to that position group soon."
PFF: Cameron Wake Is Best Fit for Ravens in Free Agency
If the Ravens want to add more pass rush help this offseason, there are options available. Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey tabbed former Titans linebacker Cameron Wake as his best free-agent fit in Baltimore.
"He may be 38 years old, but Wake has made it clear he has no plans to retire — and why should he?" Linsey wrote. "He is coming off a 2019 season where he played only 195 snaps, but he managed an 83.5 overall grade in that limited time with over 30 pressures on just 181 pass-rushing snaps.
"Wake has been one of the most accomplished pass rushers in the PFF era, posting 10 consecutive seasons with a pass-rushing grade of 80.0 or higher to open his career. A designated pass-rushing role on a talented and diverse defense like Baltimore's would be an ideal way for Wake to close out his career."
Wake had 2 ½ sacks in Tennessee last season, but is best known for his time with the Miami Dolphins. He racked up 98 sacks in 10 seasons.
According to Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland, the Ravens have just over $11 million in cap space. Wake fits the bill as a veteran addition, one who Ebony Bird's Michael Natelli believes they should consider.
"Wake makes a world of sense for the Ravens to bring into the pass-rushing mix," Natelli wrote. "At his age, Wake certainly wouldn't be a full-time starter with Baltimore, but he would provide Wink Martindale with a situational pass rusher that could provide high-level part-time production, while also serving as a mentor for Jaylon Ferguson and any other young pass rushers."
The Ravens could also feel comfortable with their current pass rush situation with Judon, Ferguson, and Tyus Bowser. They didn't add at the position in free agency or the draft, but signed two productive pass rushers on the defensive line in Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.
Even if the Ravens choose to go that route, any free agent signing won't count against the compensatory formula.
- Evaluators also told Sando that third-round pick Justin Madubuike was "an absolute freaking steal."