Bucky Brooks: Ravens Could Win Now With Blockbuster Trade
Is a major offseason trade brewing in Baltimore?
The recent trend in blockbuster trades in the NFL has featured teams taking advantage of the window with young quarterbacks on their rookie deals. The Ravens are among that group with Lamar Jackson entering his second season.
NFL Network's Bucky Brooks named the Ravens as one of two teams (along with the Texans) that should be aggressive in the trade market in pursuit of a Lombardi Trophy.
"[W]ith Lamar Jackson, do you need a pass catcher, do you need a playmaker, [or] someone on the perimeter who can really scare people to help your young quarterback continue to compliment that dominant running game?" Brooks said. "Maybe it's another pass rusher because they lost Terrell Suggs in the offseason. Either way, the Ravens could be players because this is a team that sees the division is open. Maybe they make a move."
After losing significant pieces in the pass rush department this offseason, Texans edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney has repeatedly been mentioned as a potential trade target.
The Athletic's Aaron Reiss named the Ravens as one of five potential trade partners for Clowney just last month, and Last Word on Pro Football's Ben Ramos-Salsberg believes Clowney would be a perfect fit.
The Texans reportedly tested the trade market for Clowney in April, and the two sides have less than a month to finalize a long-term deal. Once the July 15 deadline passes, Clowney would have to play under the franchise tag this season.
"The Ravens have the advantage of having the majority of their core on rookie deals," Ramos-Salsberg wrote. "Jackson has three (likely four) years left, Marlon Humphrey has three years left, and Marquise Brown is just entering his rookie year. Quarterback, corner and wide receiver are probably the three most valuable positions in football besides to pass rusher and then left tackle. Baltimore also had a ton of key contributors from last year's draft step up that will at least play out and outperform the remainder of their rookie contracts."
In ESPN's offseason rankings, in which the Ravens fell under the "too soon to tell" category, the pass rush remains the biggest question in Baltimore.
"The Ravens watched their all-time sack leader (Terrell Suggs) and their sack leader from last season (Za'Darius Smith) go elsewhere in free agency," Jamison Hensley wrote. "Baltimore failed to acquire a big name (Justin Houston, Ezekiel Ansah and Gerald McCoy) in free agency. That leaves the Ravens trying to fill that void with rookie third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson and veterans Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray."
In Ramos-Salsberg's trade scenario, the Ravens would send Matthew Judon, a 2020 first-round pick, and a 2021 fifth-round pick in exchange for Clowney and a 2020 third-round pick.
The package seems unlikely considering the Ravens are keen on keeping Judon, who has emphasized his desire to remain in Baltimore long-term.
The Ravens are projected to have around $52 million in cap space next offseason, allowing enough wiggle room to make a big move. While Ramos-Salsberg noted that a trade would be "unlikely" given the recent additions of Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray, Clowney would provide an instant impact on the edge.
"In the NFL you need to find a balance of rookie and veteran contracts and the Ravens have room for a veteran," Ramos-Salsberg wrote. "The luxury of being able to spread around the money that most team's teams use on a franchise QB is invaluable. Baltimore has the money to overspend a bit on Clowney with their most important positions still on their first contracts."
Adam Rank Predicts Ravens Will Miss Playoffs
With the regular season less than three months away, NFL.com's Adam Rank predicted all 32 team's teams' record game-by-game.
In Rank's prediction, the Ravens finished with a 9-7 record, third best in the AFC North, but missed out on the postseason. Rank predicted the Ravens would go 9-5 through the first 15 weeks but ultimately lose their final two games of the season to the Browns and Steelers.
"So now you're 9-5 and you're feeling pretty good," Rank said. "One more win gets you into the playoffs, but this is the Ravens though. How do you think this movie plays out? We've seen this before – of course, you're going to lose to the Browns. Now, you've got to beat the Steelers at home to get into the playoffs – obviously [a loss]."
End of season woes have plagued the Ravens in the past, but let's not forget what happened just last year. With the AFC North title and a playoff berth on the line in Week 17, the Ravens clinched a thrilling 26-24 win over the Browns. Wink Martindale's defense made four consecutive stops, ending with a C.J. Mosley interception to seal the victory. And the week before, the Ravens went to Los Angeles and put the brakes on a hot Chargers team.
The Ravens should benefit from their schedule this season. Their strength of schedule (.496) is tied for 12th easiest in the league. Not to mention, the Ravens are the only team that will alternate road and homes games this season.
Despite his prediction, Rank believes Lamar Jackson will make strides during his second season under center.
But wait a second. Rank is the same guy who wrote just a week ago that the Ravens are a "beacon of continuity in a division embroiled in chaos," that the Week 7 game in Seattle "could be a Super Bowl preview," and that "this should be a good year in Baltimore."
So which is it?
Brandon Carr's Leadership Benefitting Emerging Secondary
At 33 years old, Brandon Carr's durability is rare. The veteran cornerback hasn't missed a start in 11 seasons and quietly had a strong season in 2018 in the league's top defense.
As Press Box's Bo Smolka wrote, Carr has exemplified high-quality characteristics on and off the gridiron, from his Walter Payton Man of the Year nominations to his pass coverage. It's a strong presence to have in the locker room after the Ravens lost defensive leaders this offseason.
"It's easy to see why former general manager Ozzie Newsome and others have praised Carr's locker-room impact and why the organization has retained the veteran even at the cap hit of $7 million this season," Smolka wrote. "In terms of teaching young players how to be pros, from the approach to NFL classroom meetings and OTA practices through the grind of training camp and a 16-game NFL season, the Ravens would be hard-pressed to find a better example than Carr."
With emerging talents in the secondary like Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett and fourth-round pick Iman Marshall, Carr has participated in all of the Ravens' offseason programs up to this point, hoping to benefit the young bucks.
"If the Ravens' own stifling unit were even average last year, this 'old talk' would have been a talking point throughout the offseason," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "But [Jimmy] Smith and Carr helped anchor the NFL's top-ranked defense last season.
"[Carr] enjoyed his offseason peace,' as he put it, but showed up for the Ravens' voluntary organized team activities nonetheless, eager to pass on his accumulated knowledge to 'the next young stud out there.'"
- No love for Mark Ingram? The veteran running back came in at 26 on Maurice Jones-Drew's list of every team's No. 1 running back.
- It's a Baltimore reunion in New York as former Ravens scout Phil Savage is expected to join Joe Douglas' staff with the Jets.