Todd Gurley Reportedly Visiting Ravens Today
It seemed as if every available big-name wide receiver was linked to the Ravens this offseason, but the opposite has been true with running backs.
That's understandable considering the Ravens have one of the NFL's best duos in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, the latter of whom signed a two-year contract extension earlier this week.
However, two-time Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley is visiting the Ravens today, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
"The Lions have also spent time with Gurley, and they've been so open about their interest that some thought it was just a matter of time until Gurley landed in Detroit," Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith wrote. "The interest from Baltimore comes as a surprise, as the Ravens have a crowded backfield with J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill."
As a member of the Los Angeles Rams, Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards and scored 19 total touchdowns in 2017, and he followed that with 1,251 yards rushing and 21 total touchdowns in 2018.
His production declined significantly the past two seasons, however. Last year with the Atlanta Falcons, Gurley ran for a career-low 678 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per carry, although he did score nine rushing touchdowns (tied for 11th in the league).
Gurley, who turns 27 in August, was born in Baltimore and grew up a Ravens fan.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: 'If I Went to Ravens, Fans Would Destroy Me'
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster cited loyalty to his coaches and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the reasons he re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason rather than joining the Ravens or Kansas City Chiefs, both of whom reportedly offered him more money.
Speaking to Pittsburgh media yesterday, Smith-Schuster also said he took into account how Steelers fans would've reacted to him signing with the Ravens.
"I already knew if I went to the Ravens, fans would destroy me," Smith-Schuster said.
Smith-Schuster signed with the Steelers for one year, $8 million with no incentives. The Ravens reportedly offered him a one-year, $9 million deal with $3.5 million in incentives, while the Chiefs' offer reportedly was for one year for $8 million with $3 million in incentives.
After Smith-Schuster decided to stay with Pittsburgh, he said the Chiefs were his second choice over the Ravens because of the latter's run-heavy offense.
Steelers Wire's Allison Koehler speculated that there could be a more practical reason why Smith-Schuster took into account Steelers fans' feelings about him signing with the team's AFC North rival.
"One would have to think that the bulk of Smith-Schuster's current fan base consists of Steelers fans. And unlike some athletes, JuJu cares about how fans perceive him since he earns money as a social media influencer," Koehler wrote.
"It's possible that if Smith-Schuster had gone to Baltimore via free agency, he would've had to rebuild his fan base from scratch. Even though football is first and foremost a business, there are very few Steelers fans who would forgive such a massive betrayal."
It's not as if Steelers fan favorites haven't switched sides in the rivalry before. Longtime Steelers defensive back Rod Woodson spent three seasons with the Ravens and helped the 2000 team win the Super Bowl. Just this offseason, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva left Pittsburgh after six seasons to come to Baltimore.
Then again, Woodson and Villanueva weren't social media influencers.
Lamar Jackson Among Hungriest Players Entering 2021 Season
"Good Morning Football's" Peter Schrager named Lamar Jackson as his choice for the league's hungriest player entering this season.
Schrager said Jackson "got a lot of people to shut up" when he won his first playoff game last season, but Jackson and the Ravens fell short of their ultimate goal. Jackson's obsession with being great and winning a Super Bowl is well-documented.
"I think Lamar Jackson needs to silence everyone by getting one step further," Schrager said. "I want to see Lamar now win two playoff games, maybe three playoff games. Who knows, maybe Lamar Jackson is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy out there in Los Angeles.
"Lamar Jackson is hungry as ever, authentic as ever. Be you, go get it done."
Wink Martindale Is No. 2 in Pro Football Focus' Defensive Coordinator Rankings
Wink Martindale is regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, and Pro Football Focus said the analytics back up that assessment.
Martindale is No. 2 in PFF's rankings of defensive play callers heading into the 2021 season, based on its grading system and play-by-play data.
"The Ravens are one of the league's shining lights in terms of using data and building their defense from back-to-front, opting to pay the likes of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters while jettisoning Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in favor of cheaper, but just as effective, options — such as Tyus Bowser — this offseason," PFF's Eric Eager wrote. "Baltimore withstood the release of star safety Earl Thomas III in the preseason and still finished seventh in yards per play allowed."
In three seasons under Martindale, the Ravens defense finished No. 2 in points allowed twice and No. 3 once. The unit was in the top 7 in yards allowed each year, including No. 1 in 2018.
Pundit Says Mark Andrews Likely to Remain Centerpiece of Passing Attack
Tight end Mark Andrews, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, made it clear earlier this week that he wants to spend his entire career in Baltimore.
That's certainly good news for Ravens fans. After watching Andrews put on a show in red zone drills during Tuesday's practice, The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer said Andrews' importance to the team's passing attack cannot be overstated.
"For three years now, Andrews has been the most reliable piece of a work-in-progress passing game, the centerpiece of Jackson's between-the-numbers attack," Shaffer wrote. "His showing Tuesday was a reminder, if anyone needed one, that wherever the Ravens' remade passing attack goes this season — up, down, into the limelight, under center — Andrews will probably be option No. 1."
Andrews, who is set to become one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league, reiterated Tuesday that he's not focusing on his contract. The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said that Andrews' decision to attend voluntary OTAs speaks volumes about his commitment to maximizing his potential.
"Nobody from the Ravens would have even flinched if given his contract situation, Andrews opted to stay home from OTAs and remained in Arizona to work out on his own," Zrebiec wrote. "However, after missing the first session because he was attending his sister's graduation from dental school, Andrews has been a fixture at the Under Armour Performance Center."
In early March, General Manager Eric DeCosta said he'd held "some preliminary discussions" with Andrews about a contract extension and "he's the type of guy we want to keep."
Ebony Bird's Justin Fried said Andrews' desire to be a Raven for life — a sentiment also expressed by Jackson — says a lot about the organization.
"That's a testament to the culture that the Ravens have constructed over the years," Fried wrote. "This is a winning organization — one where everyone loves to play. It's no surprise that two of the team's biggest stars have made this statement."
- Diversifying their offense is the burning question for the Ravens heading into this season, Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr wrote: "Baltimore's pivot toward its current system was brilliant. At a time when NFL rosters were populated by smaller, faster bodies, the Ravens forced opponents into their base defense and thumped them to death with heavier personnel. That advantage may be shrinking. The AFC North has matched toughness with toughness. The Browns and Steelers, in particular, are better suited to stop the Ravens than ever before."