Prediction Lands Todd Gurley and Justin Houston With Ravens
Free agency has all but slowed down since the beginning of March, but some notable free agents are still available.
Could the Ravens be in the mix for one or more?
The Score's Jack Browne predicted where some of the top names could land before the start of the season, and he has Todd Gurley and Justin Houston signing in Baltimore.
Gurley reportedly visited the Ravens and left without a deal last week, but Browne believes the veteran running back could add even more depth to one of the league's top rushing attacks.
"Gurley could still be a valuable asset to a team that can set its expectations based on who he is now rather than who he used to be," Brown wrote. "… Baltimore's depth at the position would allow Gurley to take on a less taxing role, and while his receiving skills have waned, he would still be the best pass-catcher in the AFC North club's backfield."
But perhaps Houston makes the most sense out of the two because the Ravens still have a need for another veteran pass rusher.
"The possibility of returning to his former squad ended after the Colts used a first-round pick on Kwity Paye," Browne wrote. "However, the Minnesota Vikings could use some insurance with Danielle Hunter coming off an injury. Houston's other likely options are joining the Ravens or returning to the Chiefs. Both AFC teams have plenty of defensive ends but should be intent on fielding the strongest defense possible to help their star quarterbacks."
"Houston would be the easy answer because he already visited and interest is said to be mutual," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec added. "But I really don't know. There are still a ton of quality players available or at least players that could help the Ravens, even in reserve roles. Some of these guys may not be household names or get the fan base excited, but they'd still be characterized as veteran additions."
PFF: Kevin Zeitler is Ravens' Best Contract
One of the Ravens' most notable offseason signings this year continues to receive plenty of praise.
Pro Football Focus' Brad Spielberger looked at best and worst contracts for every AFC team, based on their on-field value relative to compensation.
The Ravens' best was Kevin Zeitler, who signed a three-year, reported $22.5 million deal in March.
"Baltimore has become known for moves like the Zeitler signing," Spielberger wrote. "The Ravens smartly added a quality offensive lineman who did not count against them in the compensatory pick equation following his release by the New York Giants. Zeitler's 72.4 grade over the 2019-20 seasons ranked 16th among all guards with at least 300 total snaps. While his above-average play didn't justify being one of the highest-paid guards in the NFL for the Giants, it's certainly worth $7.5 million per year over three years."
It's not often teams can find a plug-and-play guard that early in the offseason.
According to Spotrac, Zeitler is the 17th-highest paid guard on a per-year basis. That's a steal when you consider the highest-paid at the position are making double that.
At 31, Zeitler will be the veteran of the starting offensive line. It hasn't taken him long to assume that duty in the early parts of mandatory minicamp.
"The Ravens not only expect Zeitler to solidify the right guard spot, but they are anticipating him becoming a leader on what's a relatively young offensive line in certain spots," Zrebiec wrote. "After one series Tuesday, Zeitler, center Bradley Bozeman and guard/tackle Tyre Phillips were huddled around a tablet reviewing the previous series and it was Zeitler doing most of the talking."
Pundit Says Ravens, Not Browns*,* Will Challenge the Chiefs
One of the biggest questions coming into the season is about who will challenge the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.They've represented the conference in the Super Bowl the last two years, and show no signs of slowing down.
The AFC North could pose one of the biggest threats, returning three playoff teams from last season. NFL Network's Willie McGinest McGinnest believes if it's going to be any team in the division, it will be the Ravens.
"It's a two-team race … and if I have to pick one, I'm going with the Ravens," McGinest said. "… There is no question that [the Ravens] did everything in their power to put more explosive skill sets and weapons around Lamar Jackson to go out and elevate the passing game.
"This year is going to be different. They're going to open it up in the passing game. They're going to continue to control the trenches. … When you look at a balanced team, a team that has everything … it's got to be the Ravens coming out of that division."
Is the Run Defense a Concern?
"The Ravens addressed two of their biggest 2020 problems early in the draft," Knox wrote. "They lacked a No. 1 receiver, and they took Minnesota's Rashod Bateman in Round 1. They needed to reload a pass rush that lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, so they used their second first-round pick on Penn State edge-defender Odafe Oweh.
"This leaves run defense as a potential red flag for the Ravens. While Baltimore ranked eighth in rushing yards allowed, this was largely due to the potency of its offense, which regularly left opponents looking to pass."
Knox said it's one of the only issues facing the Ravens, but pointed out they ranked 22nd in yards per carry allowed last season (4.6).
"This shouldn't be a major issue against most opponents, but against run-heavy AFC foes like the Browns and Indianapolis Colts, it could be a problem," Knox added.
The Ravens have young players like Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington, who could see bigger roles on the defensive line this season. Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, and Derek Wolfe should all return healthy. Campbell dealt with a calf injury and COVID-19 last season, which hampered the line.
Still, it's an area Zrebiec wouldn't be surprised to see the Ravens address further.
"I'll say this: I don't think the Ravens are done along the defensive line," Zrebiec said. "It wouldn't surprise me if they add a rotational-type veteran there."
● "One of their unheralded returning receivers who keeps showing up every week is Jaylon Moore," Zrebiec wrote. "A 2020 undrafted free agent out of Tennessee Martin, Moore spent last season on the practice squad after having a solid training camp for a rookie. He's shown more consistency through the various offseason practices this year. On Tuesday, he made an acrobatic catch in positional work and then he had two nice grabs early in team drills. Moore is pretty low on a deep receiving depth chart, but he definitely has some ability."
● "[T]he way Rashod Bateman runs such smooth routes and attacks the football by snatching it from the air stands out from others," WNST's Luke Jones wrote.