Lamar Jackson, John Harbaugh Ranked No. 2 QB/Coach Duo Under Most Pressure
When a quarterback and head coach have had as much success as Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh over the past three seasons, expectations will be high. With those expectations comes pressure to meet them.
In the opinion of NFL Network's Bucky Brooks, there is more pressure on Jackson and Harbaugh this season than all but one other quarterback/head coach combination.
Specifically, Brooks contends that the pressure is on for the Ravens to diversify the offense and perform better in the postseason.
"Jackson has posted a 30-7 career regular-season record and claimed an MVP award in 2019 while dazzling as an electric dual-threat playmaker. But questions persist about his pocket-passing ability after observers watched the Ravens' run-heavy offense fizzle in three straight early playoff exits," Brooks said. "With Jackson and Co. underperforming in the postseason, the pressure is mounting on Harbaugh to diversify the offense to give the Ravens a better chance of advancing in the tournament.
"Will the Super Bowl-winning head coach stick to the unorthodox script that has made the Ravens perennial title contenders in the Jackson era? Or will he scrap the plan in favor of a traditional approach that could produce better results in the postseason? The outcome of the decision could make or break the Ravens' next few seasons."
Brooks's point about the Ravens needing to diversify the offense and advance further than the divisional round of the playoffs given their talent level is fair. Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman have talked this offseason about the need to balance the offense and improve the passing attack.
However, as has been said numerous times in this space and elsewhere, the Ravens have won too many games with their unique offensive approach to "scrap the plan in favor of a traditional approach."
The Ravens are fully aware that they need to do better in the passing game and the postseason. Whether Jackson and Harbaugh are under more pressure than 30 other quarterback/head coach duos in the league is debatable. (Brooks ranked the Los Angeles Rams' Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay No. 1 on his list.)
"In such a list where teams are ranked relative to each other, Baltimore shouldn't even be considered anywhere within the top 15," NBC Sports Washington's Mike DePrisco wrote. "Brooks even noted how Jackson is 30-7 over the last three years and has led his team to three-straight playoff berths.
"There are teams that can't get out of their own way enough to make it to the playoffs once, let alone put together three consecutive winning seasons. Just ask literally every team in the NFC East. There are levels to this, and while the pressure is certainly on for this team to win more in the postseason, you can't honestly say teams like the Cowboys, Bears, Dolphins or Bengals aren't facing more heat if their seasons go sideways."
Former Agent Looks at 'Interesting Dynamic' in Jackson's Contract Negotiations
CBS Sports' Joel Corry, a former sports agent, looked at potential contract extensions for 2018 first-round quarterbacks Jackson, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Regarding Jackson, Corry gave his take on the "interesting dynamic" of not having an agent. Jackson's mother, Felicia Jones, reportedly is acting as his business partner.
"The lack of agent wasn't an impediment to Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Texans offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and Seahawks inside linebacker Bobby Wagner setting the market at their respective positions," Corry wrote. "Each had competent advisors to help with the process.
"Jackson doing a deal without an agent or experienced advisor might have a bigger impact on the contract's structure than the compensation. The Ravens signed [Ronnie] Stanley for five new contract years while [Laremy] Tunsil only gave the Texans three new contract years. It wouldn't be surprising for the Ravens to insist on a fifth new contract year although the trend with quarterbacks is signing for four new contract years. The contract guarantees could potentially be more favorable to the Ravens than ordinarily contained in the top quarterback deals."
Corry referred to Jackson as "the greatest dual-threat quarterback in NFL history," and said Jackson not being a traditional pocket-passer won't preclude him from becoming one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.
"The Falcons made Michael Vick, who was the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, the league's second-highest paid player in 2004 even though he wasn't a polished passer," Corry wrote. "The safest thing for Jackson to do under the circumstances would be to let Allen sign first and use that deal as a roadmap for his own extension.
"Regardless, Jackson's worst-case scenario should be a deal comparable to [Deshaun] Watson's. The Texans quarterback signed a four-year, $156 million extension ($39 million per year) worth a maximum of $160 million through incentives with $110,717,124 million of guarantees right before the 2020 regular season started. $73,717,124 was fully guaranteed at signing."
Will 'Normal' Offseason Benefit Ravens More Than Any Other Team?
The COVID-19 pandemic created an NFL offseason like no other last year, with no OTAs, minicamps or preseason games.
While it affected every team, Baltimore Beatdown's Joshua Reed contends that the Ravens were impacted more than most and a return to normalcy will be a bigger asset to Baltimore than any other team in the league.
"The most pivotal difference between this offseason and last year's was the return of the in-person, offseason programs and I believe that no team will reap the rewards of it more than the Ravens," Reed wrote. "They are a very young team at their core and are made up of a bunch of players that get better with the more reps they receive."
Reed said the Ravens offense, which added more weapons for Jackson this offseason as the unit looks to be more consistent in the passing game, will especially benefit from a normal offseason.
"Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's unit specifically will be the biggest offseason program benefactor of any in the league because now that they've had the time in shorts to install what they plan to execute in pads come training camp and the preseason," Reed wrote. "Hopefully, by the time the season opener gets here, they'll have their 'expanded profile' perfected or [as] close to it as they can get.
"I believe that this team has the potential to not only return to their 2019 form but surpass it now that [it has] better and more experienced foundational pieces and more weapons in the passing game for Jackson."
Should Ravens Consider Trading Miles Boykin?
Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon identified one player each NFL team should consider trading before the start of the regular season. His choice for the Ravens is wide receiver Miles Boykin.
As Gagnon noted, the Ravens' wide receiver room got more crowded this offseason with the addition of veteran Sammy Watkins, first-round pick Rashod Bateman and fourth-round pick Tylan Wallace.
"Someone in need of pass-catching help might be willing to pay up for an inexpensive 24-year-old with a good combination of size and speed," Gagnon wrote.
Boykin, a 2019 third-round pick, has 32 receptions for 464 yards and seven touchdowns in 32 games over his two seasons (he hasn't missed a game). While his statistics don't jump off the page, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boykin has earned a reputation as a strong blocker and has proven himself as a red-zone threat.
For those reasons, Boykin could have the edge over James Proche II and others competing for one of the final wide receiver spots on the roster.
"A handful of fresh-legged field-stretching grabs and red zone scores, coupled with blocking and special teams contributions, should make Boykin a valuable role player," Baltimore Beatdown's Vasilis Lericos wrote.
- Marshal Yanda, a 2007 third-round pick (86th overall), was named the Ravens' best value pick by Pro Football Focus since PFF's inception in 2006. "If PFF had a Hall of Fame vote, Yanda would be a lock," PFF's Michael Renner wrote. "He was quite simply the best guard of his generation. In 13 seasons, he never earned a grade below 80.0. The crazy thing is, two of those seasons came at right tackle, where he earned an 85.9 grade as a rookie and an 80.5 grade in 2010."