ESPN Survey Ranks Ravens' Front Office, Drafting Ability No. 1
The Ravens have put themselves in position not only to be a top contender this season, but also the two seasons after that.
That's the opinion of a panel of ESPN analysts, who projected which teams are in the best shape for the next three seasons based on quarterback situation, remaining (non-QB) roster, front office, drafting ability, and coaching.
The Ravens were ranked No. 3 (trailing only the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and finished in the top eight in all five categories, including No. 1 in drafting ability and front office.
"The Ravens are masters of perpetually doing good football business: quality drafting, shrewd free-agent signings and knowing when to extend a player and when to allow him to test free agency," Field Yates wrote. "With a quarterback in Lamar Jackson whose apex is literally the unanimous MVP of the league in any given year, the Ravens have a chance to challenge in the AFC over each of the next three seasons."
Baltimore's defense, which has ranked in the top three in points allowed the past three seasons, could be even better over the next three seasons, according to Jeremy Fowler.
"The defense, as always, is in good hands, with quality young players to complement Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tyus Bowser and Calais Campbell," Fowler wrote. "Baltimore believes Odafe Oweh will be a force in Year 1, and some evaluators consider Patrick Queen a top-10 linebacker after just one season in the NFL. Those are two quality pillars for future years."
As for the team's biggest worry going forward, the oft-maligned passing game was cited.
"If they can throw the football efficiently and effectively on their terms, they will win a Super Bowl," Louis Riddick wrote. "If they can't, they won't."
ESPN's panel projected the Cleveland Browns to be the biggest threat to the Ravens in the AFC North during the next three seasons. The Browns were No. 5 in the rankings, while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals were 17th and 29th, respectively.
If Passing Game Improves, Ravens Offense 'Could Be Borderline Unstoppable'
Rather than regarding the passing game as cause for concern, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox identified it as the Ravens' biggest reason for optimism heading into training camp.
.By surrounding Jackson with more weapons, the Ravens have a better chance to advance past the divisional round of the playoffs, where they have been eliminated the past two seasons.
"Jackson and the Ravens could be poised to take the next step this season thanks to their revamped receiving corps," Knox wrote. "Baltimore added Sammy Watkins in free agency and drafted Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the spring. Bateman has the potential to be the No. 1 perimeter target that Jackson has lacked in his NFL career. … This is big because if Jackson can improve even a little in the passing game, the Baltimore offense could be borderline unstoppable."
While the additions to the receiving corps are getting most of the attention, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown — the Ravens' leading receiver last season — should not be overlooked, and 2020 third-round pick Devin Duvernay could become a bigger contributor.
"This group can improve even more if Brown, a first-round pick in 2019, can deliver some consistency," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. "He finished last season strongly (six touchdowns in last six games), and he just participated in his first full offseason."
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote: "After a more traditional offseason, Duvernay might be closer to a regular role than expected. If, say, injuries sideline Watkins, as they have throughout his career, the Ravens would need another wideout to step up; they used three-wide receiver sets on over half of their plays last season. The next man up won't get a Brown-level workload, but Duvernay will likely be a busy man anyway."
Market for Edge Rushers Thins As Melvin Ingram Reportedly Signs With Steelers
One of the top remaining free-agent edge rushers is coming to the AFC North. No, Justin Houston has not signed with the Ravens.
Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Melvin Ingram is signing a one-year deal with the Steelers, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.
Ingram, 32, was limited to seven games with the Los Angeles Chargers last season due to knee injuries and did not have a sack. If Ingram is healthy, he and two-time Pro Bowler T.J. Watt would give Pittsburgh a formidable pair of edge rushers after Bud Dupree left for Tennessee this offseason.
The consensus among pundits has been that the Ravens would sign a proven edge rusher this offseason after losing Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Houston and Olivier Vernon are the top two edge rushers still available.
Houston reportedly visited the Ravens in April. As noted in Late for Work on Friday, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora tweeted that Houston "turned down some recent offers and at least four teams have reached out in the last few days as interest heats up ahead of camp."
Jackson Snubbed From Olympic-Themed QB Rankings
In honor of the Tokyo Olympics starting later this week, a panel of NFL.com analysts ranked the top three players at five positions heading into the 2021 season. Yesterday, they revealed their gold, silver and bronze medalists at quarterback.
Not only did Jackson not get a medal, he didn't even receive a single vote from any of the 25 panelists.
The gold went to Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, while Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Tampa Bay's Tom Brady got silver and bronze, respectively. Four other quarterbacks received votes: Seattle's Russell Wilson, Buffalo's Josh Allen, Las Vegas' Derek Carr (whose lone vote came from David Carr, who awarded his brother the gold) and Houston's Deshaun Watson.
While lists such as this one are fun and make for interesting debates, they obviously don't mean anything. Still, not a single vote for the 24-year-old 2019 unanimous MVP who has a 30-7 record as a starter in the regular season?