Seven Ravens made the NFL's Top 100 Players of 2020 list, according to a league post on Reddit, but we won't know who they are until next week, when NFL Network reveals the list from Sunday to Wednesday.
The Ravens tied the New Orleans Saints for most players on the list, which is voted on by the players. That's a huge increase from the recent past, as Baltimore placed just one player in the Top 100 each year from 2016-2019.
So now that we know how many Ravens are on the list, the speculation has begun as to the identity of Baltimore's magnificent seven.
Let's start with the obvious selections. Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson seems like a lock for the top 10 and probably should be somewhere in the top five. Fellow All-Pros Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are safe bets, as is Calais Campbell, who was No. 54 last year as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After that, it gets trickier.
Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz listed running back Mark Ingram II, outside linebacker Matthew Judon, tight end Mark Andrews and safety Earl Thomas III as the leading candidates to claim the Ravens' two remaining spots on the list. All made the Pro Bowl last season.
Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens gave the nod to veterans Ingram and Thomas. Ingram was the Ravens' lone representative on last year's Top 100, coming in at No. 80.
"Despite turning 31 years old this season and potentially having rookie running back J.K. Dobbins eventually make a push for his job, Ingram proved he's still one of the best overall running backs in the league," Stevens wrote.
On Thomas, Stevens wrote: "Thomas played the center-fielder role last year, which saw plenty of quarterbacks completely avoid throwing deep against Baltimore, thus lowering his stat potential. But Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale also turned Thomas into a heat-seeking missile, sending him on blitzes and earning the veteran safety the first sacks of his 10-year career."
Kasinitz identified offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., kicker Justin Tucker, defensive tackle Brandon Williams and fullback Patrick Ricard as long-shot candidates to make the Top 100. A "kicker bias" will probably prevent Tucker from making the list, but it shouldn't.
"If the Top 100 needed to represent every position, Tucker would become a lock," Kasinitz wrote. "Unfortunately for the Ravens' opera-singing, fried-chicken-promoting star, no kicker landed on the list in 2019."
Moreover, only one kicker — Adam Vinatieiri (No. 98 in 2015) —has made the Top 100 since its inception in 2011, per The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer. It seems to me that Tucker should join Vinatieri. He's just the most accurate kicker in NFL history.
Four Moves Ravens Could Make Before the Regular Season Starts
Several pundits believe the Ravens have the most complete roster in the league, but that doesn't mean the team couldn't make some moves before the start of the regular season.
"[General Manager Eric] DeCosta is fond of saying that the quest to improve the roster never stops," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens are never hesitant to bring in a veteran at different points of camp if they believe a need exists. There are also several solid veteran free agents still looking for work, including a handful of accomplished tight ends and pass rushers. The Ravens don't have cap space to do a whole lot, but they have the flexibility to make a minor addition or two."
Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw identified four moves he believes the Ravens could make before the regular season kicks off:
Trade one of their big names.
Judon is the obvious candidate for such a move, as the 27-year-old outside linebacker's long-term future with the Ravens has been a hot topic of conversation this offseason. Judon and the Ravens failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension, but he has signed his franchise tag tender.
"The catch is he may not be in the Ravens' long-term plans," Bradshaw wrote. "A team in need of pass-rushing help could look to add Judon's services for a second-or-third round draft choice."
Sign Jadeveon Clowney.
Baltimore has long been identified as a potential destination for the free-agent defensive end, and as long as he remains unsigned there are those who will dream of Clowney wearing Ravens purple in 2020.
If the Ravens did have interest in Clowney, they'd have to find a way to create cap space, but Bradshaw believes Clowney "could come in far cheaper than expected for Baltimore."
"The 27-year old remains in the prime of his career and could be looking for that new opportunity to prove he's more than his stat sheet suggests," Bradshaw wrote. "If I'm the Ravens, I'm bringing in Clowney while he's cheap and reaping the rewards."
Sign a veteran to a cheap deal.
If the Ravens are looking to sign another pass rusher, there are options that are significantly less far-fetched than Clowney.
"While the unit looks much improved after trading for Calais Campbell and signing Derek Wolfe, along with retaining Matt Judon and Pernell McPhee, adding another veteran could still be in the mix," Bradshaw wrote. "Adding a player like Everson Griffen or Cameron Wake would be a very Ravens-like move."
Make a splash trade.
Two big-name players who could be traded before the start of the season are Jaguars edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue and New York Jets safety Jamal Adams. Both have been linked to the Ravens by pundits this offseason.
"Adding Ngakoue across from Matt Judon gives the Ravens bookend edge rushers to team up with Calais Campbell up front," Bradshaw wrote. "That dynamic trio would instantly be one of the league's best. The question more or less is what would Baltimore have to give up to acquire Ngakoue's services and do they plan to re-sign him long-term or use him as a one-year rental. There's also the conversation to be had about what to do with Judon long-term."
As for Adams, Bradshaw wrote: "Adams would be the definition of a luxury addition, as the team's secondary is absolutely loaded without him back there. Baltimore also has a lot of resources and money invested in the unit, so adding him doesn't make the most amount of sense. Still, Adams would undoubtedly be an upgrade over Chuck Clark and give the Ravens the best safety duo in the league between Adams and Earl Thomas."
Did Jackson's Supporting Cast Get Better, Worse*, or Stay the Same?*
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley analyzed whether the players surrounding Jackson got better, worse, or stayed the same.
After setting an NFL single-season rushing record last season, the Ravens return their top three running backs —Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill — but Hensley said the unit will be even better thanks to the addition of Dobbins.
"Dobbins, the first 2,000-yard rusher in Ohio State history, played in essentially the same type of offense in college and can help Baltimore immediately by sharing the workload with Mark Ingram, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season in his first season in Baltimore," Hensley wrote. "By bringing in Dobbins, the Ravens have the deepest backfield in the league. The biggest concern is how [Offensive Coordinator Greg] Roman will divide up the touches."
Hensley also believes the Ravens' wide receivers will be better. The unit totaled 1,419 receiving yards last season, the fewest at the position since the 2011 Jaguars, but there are reasons to be legitimately excited for Baltimore's receiving corps in 2020.
"It can be argued the Ravens' wide receivers will be better solely because of Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown, last year's first-round pick," Hensley wrote. "After showing flashes as a rookie, the expectations have been raised after he had a screw removed from his foot this offseason."
Miles Boykin also is expected to make a jump in his second season, and rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche combined for 217 receptions in college last season.
With Jackson, Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley returning, the Ravens are the same at quarterback, but "if Jackson develops more as a passer, you can contend that this position is even better," Hensley wrote.
Hensley wrote that tight end and offensive line got worse due to the trading of tight end Hayden Hurst and retirement of right guard Marshal Yanda.
"Baltimore still has a solid group in Andrews, who led all tight ends with 10 touchdown catches last season, and [Nick] Boyle, one of the top blocking tight ends in the game," Hensley wrote. "Ricard, a Pro Bowl fullback, is basically another tight end, as well.
"The Ravens undoubtedly are going to take a step back after losing Yanda, the best interior offensive lineman in franchise history. The void at right guard can be minimized if [D.J.] Fluker, a seven-year NFL starter who was Baltimore's only notable free-agent addition on offense, has anything left or if one of the young unproven blockers (like [Ben] Powers, [Tyre] Phillips or [Ben] Bredeson) step up."
The Ravens' Most Important Game in 2020
The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes have beaten the Ravens and Jackson the past two seasons, so it's no surprise their matchup at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 3 was chosen by CBS Sports’ John Breech as the Ravens' most important game in 2020.
"This game could end up having major playoff ramifications too, and that's because the winner here should have the upper hand when it comes to earning the top seed in the AFC," Breech wrote. "The reason that's important this year is because only one AFC team will be getting a bye under the NFL's new playoff format."
Meanwhile, the Week 12 game between the Ravens and Steelers at Heinz Field on Thanksgiving night is Pittsburgh's most important game, in Breech's estimation.
"If the Steelers are going to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, one thing they're probably going to have to do is beat the Ravens, and the perfect time to do it would be in this game," Breech wrote.
- The Ravens had the No. 1 offensive line last season, based on Next Gen Stats’ expected rushing yards per carry metric.
- Andrews was ranked as the sixth-best tight end in the league by NFL.com’s David Carr.