Report: Ravens Among Four Teams 'Expressing Interest' in Jadeveon Clowney
It remains to be seen which team Jadeveon Clowney will play for this season, but one thing seems certain: As long as the free-agent edge rusher is available, there will be talk that the Ravens are in play to land the former No. 1-overall pick.
The Ravens are one of four teams "expressing interest" in Clowney, according to Mark Berman of the FOX affiliate in Houston. The Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles are the others. Clowney told Berman he isn't ruling out re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks.
On the surface, Clowney wearing a Ravens uniform in 2020 seems improbable. Clowney obviously won't come cheap, and Baltimore doesn't have much salary cap flexibility, which General Manager Eric DeCosta acknowledged in a conference call with season-ticket holders yesterday. Plus, the Ravens addressed their need for another edge rusher by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with veteran outside linebacker Pernell McPhee a couple days ago.
However, DeCosta also said the Ravens' salary cap situation "could certainly change" and that if they had more room they'd likely use it on another outside linebacker/edge rusher and a veteran offensive lineman. He said the team has two ways to create cap space: long-term deals with Matthew Judon and Ronnie Stanley. DeCosta said the team has had dialogue with both players' agents.
Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz noted that the Ravens also could restructure some players' contracts if they truly have serious interest in signing Clowney.
"The Ravens have enough flexibility to pay Jadeveon Clowney on a one- or two-year deal, paying him somewhere around the franchise tag figure that Judon is currently under," Schultz wrote. "It's unlikely they do so, but entirely possible."
Patrick Queen Is Already Familiar With Ravens' Complex Defensive Schemes
It's not a coincidence that inside linebacker Patrick Queen played like a Raven at LSU. The first-round pick's defensive coordinator/linebackers coach was Dave Aranda, who has long been a student and admirer of Baltimore's defensive concepts, some of which he implemented at LSU.
"Queen's path to a likely starting job in Baltimore was as sudden and impressive as the 20-year-old himself," The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote. "It evinced everything the Ravens covet in a defensive star: speed and strength, versatility and passion. But for Queen to become the first LSU player ever drafted by the Ravens, he also needed a coach whose career was shaped by the franchise."
When Aranda, who left LSU to become Baylor's head coach in January, was early in his coaching career 20 years ago, he formed a long-distance friendship with Mike Nolan, the Ravens' defensive coordinator from 2002-2004.
"Whenever Nolan would see Aranda or Aranda would stop by Baltimore, the young coach would learn a little bit more," Shaffer wrote. "The Ravens' defensive staff in the early 2000s was teeming with bold ideas and rising stars: Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Mike Smith, Jack Del Rio, Mike Pettine.
"But maybe no concept grabbed Aranda's attention like 'creepers,' or simulated pressures. By sending a second- or third-level defender — say, a linebacker or safety — after the quarterback and dropping a first-level defender — like an edge rusher — he could stress an offensive line's protection without sacrificing a player in coverage."
When Aranda was defensive coordinator at Utah State in 2012, coaches would find Aranda watching Ravens film at his desk, Shaffer wrote. "He recalled visits from former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees at other stops. Even as recently as last offseason, he hailed the team's approach to simulated pressures."
Queen, who seized a starting job at LSU four games into the 2019 season, thrived in Aranda's scheme. Aranda attributed Queen's success at inside linebacker partly to his skills as a running back, a position Queen played in high school.
"In a scheme shaped by Aranda's Ravens influences, Queen knew how to process angles," Shaffer wrote. "He understood where running backs wanted to cut. He could play downhill and dictate the action or handle two gaps at an undersized 6 feet, 229 pounds or make plodding linemen whiff in space. He could do all that because he'd already done it on offense."
Aranda believes the Ravens and Queen are an ideal fit, wrote Shaffer, who noted that the schemes of both Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale and Aranda are complex and demanding.
"Whenever he started to install his defense before games last season, only to worry it'd become 'too much,' Aranda's first tell was his linebackers. Queen, he said, was 'always able to handle it,'" Shaffer wrote. "When the Tigers reached the postseason and Queen hit the first-round radar, the defensive tempo revved up even higher. To Aranda, it never seemed like too much, too soon."
Three Ravens Among Top 25 Players Under 25
The Ravens had three players named to Pro Football Focus’ Top 25 Players Under 25 rankings, which was more than any other team. Quarterback Lamar Jackson (No. 8), cornerback Marlon Humphrey (No. 18) and tight end Mark Andrews (No. 24) made the list.
Their inclusion isn't surprising, but Jackson not placing higher than eighth is. The reigning NFL MVP was the third-highest quarterback on the list, trailing the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes (No. 1) and Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson (No. 7). The rankings were based on "PFF grades, signature stats and team impact over the course of the players' respective NFL careers."
"This time last season, there were still a lot of questions about Jackson as a passer, but he answered some of those in 2019 with an 82.5 PFF passing grade that ranked sixth among qualifiers," PFF's Ben Linsey wrote. "Jackson still wasn't a beacon of accuracy, but when you bring the dynamic ability he does as a runner, that simply doesn't matter as much. As for those contributions on the ground, Jackson has no peers at the quarterback position. He forced 42 missed tackles as a runner in 2019, more than double that of the next closest quarterback (Josh Allen, 20)."
Coming off an All-Pro season, Humphrey made the list for the second year in a row.
"The Ravens have one of the most talented secondaries in the NFL, and Humphrey has been a big part of that group," Linsey wrote. "Humphrey has been a playmaker regardless of where he has lined up, notching 47 forced incompletions over the last three seasons (fourth in the NFL behind Stephon Gilmore, Darius Slay and Kyle Fuller). Don't expect that to change on a defense that should only get better in 2020."
Andrews led the league's highest-scoring offense in receptions (64), receiving yards (852) and touchdown catches (10) en route to his first Pro Bowl.
[Andrews'] 2.89 receiving yards per route run trailed only George Kittle at the tight end position in 2019, and he was one of three qualifying tight ends to put up an average depth of target of 11 yards or more, joining Jared Cook and Mike Gesicki," Linsey wrote.
Right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who made his first Pro Bowl last year at 24 years old, was likely also in consideration for making the list. Brown was PFF's ninth-highest graded offensive tackle (left or right) in the league last year.
Oddsmaker Predicts TD Pass Regression for Jackson
After what Jackson accomplished last year in his first full season as a starter, it seems he's just scratching the surface of how good he can be. At least one oddsmaker doesn't agree with that assessment, though, at least as it pertains to Jackson's passing production.
BetMGM is predicting a significant regression in Jackson's touchdown passes in 2020, setting the over-under at 26.5. Jackson led the league in touchdown passes last season with 36, and he did so despite sitting out the regular-season finale and being pulled early in several games because the Ravens were so far ahead. Jackson had three games with five touchdown passes.
Being underestimated is nothing new for Jackson, but neither is proving his doubters wrong.
"It can't help but feel like a slight against Jackson and the Ravens," Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens wrote. "Top quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes all have higher over/under totals for passing yards and touchdown passes. With Baltimore adding more weapons for Jackson in the 2020 NFL Draft, there's seemingly no reason for a regression other than oddsmakers expect the 2019 NFL MVP to struggle a little more in his third season."
NFL Writer Is Rooting for Calais Campbell
Ravens fans won't be the only ones cheering on Calais Campbell this season. NFL.com’s Adam Rank will be, too.
Rank named one player from every team he'll be rooting for, and Campbell was his choice for Baltimore.
"The Jaguars are clearly in rebuilding mode after parting ways with some big-name talents this offseason. Campbell might be better suited for a team poised to win now, like the Ravens," Rank wrote. "Which is great. I always appreciated how he didn't take shots or start a Twitter feud with the owner on his way out of Duval. He's also the reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year. So, yeah, I'm rooting for this guy to succeed with his new team."
There's obviously a lot to like about Campbell, a class act off the field and a fierce competitor on it. The veteran defensive end, who the Ravens acquired in a trade with Jacksonville, has yet to put on a Ravens uniform, but he knows what it means to "Play Like a Raven."
"Just from virtual meetings you can tell there's a different aura about this place," Campbell recently told NBC's Mike Tirico. "That 'Play like a Raven,' people take that to heart, and there's definitely a standard that is set there that came from the people that came before me. So I'm looking forward to putting my hand in the pile and trying to play like a Raven the best I can."