This offseason, multiple veteran edge rushers have been linked to the Ravens after starting outside linebackers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue departed in free agency. Another name now joins the fray as ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones has requested a trade.
Jones is among the NFL's best in creating pressure and sacks, ranking No. 1 in the category since entering the league (97.0 sacks) and would be a big-time addition to an already strong defensive unit.
PFF's Brad Spielberger and Austin Gayle agree that the Ravens are a potential landing spot for Jones.
"If no solution can be agreed to, which seems unlikely given the importance of Jones to a team mired in the second-longest playoff drought in the NFL, there should be a long list of teams interested in a trade," Spielberger and Gayle wrote. "The Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens immediately come to mind even after using first-round selections on edge defenders. Both clubs are entering the final rookie-contract year for their respective franchise quarterbacks in Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson and could solidify Super Bowl-caliber rosters with a splash for Jones."
This potential addition doesn't come without question marks as Jones is coming off a season-ending biceps injury in Week 5 of the 2020 season and is 31 years old. Jones is also due $15.5 million in base salary and in the final year of his contract with the Cardinals. According to overthecap.com, the Ravens possess less than $9 million in cap space, meaning General Manager Eric DeCosta and the front office would need to make financial moves to acquire Jones in a trade.
As for what the Cardinals may want in return, Spielberger and Gayle don't see it as being unreasonable, citing the Ravens' trade for Ngakoue last year as a reference point.
"A second-round pick would most likely be the top draft pick Arizona could recoup in a Jones trade because of his age and the fact he'd be looking for a new contract wherever he ends up," Spielberger and Gayle wrote. "If Jones shows a willingness to play elsewhere without a new deal, an acquiring team may take the gamble of bringing him aboard for just one year with the hopes of earning a third-round compensatory draft pick following the 2021 season. The Ravens adopted this approach in 2020 with their mid-season acquisition of edge defender Yannick Ngakoue, sending a 2021 third-round and 2022 fifth-round pick to the Vikings. Ngakoue's free agent contract with the Raiders subsequently awarded the Ravens a fourth-round compensatory pick in 2022."
Marlon Humphrey and Lamar Jackson seem to be fans of the idea.
While PFF expects the Ravens to call if Jones becomes available, Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi believes there's no need to be concerned regarding the Ravens' pass rush, or add a designated "sack artist."
"To address those respective losses [Judon, Ngakoue] the Ravens re-signed Tyus Bowser and drafted edge defenders Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes," Lombardi wrote. "They'll also look to Jaylon Ferguson to step up his productivity. Bowser, Oweh and Hayes are all versatile defenders with plus athleticism, a prerequisite for [Defensive Coordinator Don] Wink Martindale's defense – one that schemes up pressure versus the reliance upon any one individual."
Second-Year Leap Expected for Defensive Lineman Justin Madubuike
In last week's edition of LFW it was noted PFF had labeled Madubuike as the Ravens' 2021 breakout candidate.
It appears the rest of the world has caught on, with ESPN's Seth Galina picking Madubuike in his ranking of 15 second-year players who could become stars. Madubuike came in at No. 12 on Galina's list.
"Madubuike claimed the title of best rookie defensive tackle in 2020, and his 72.1 PFF grade ranks 15th among first-year interior defenders over the past five seasons. He has some quickness to his game, which allows him to get off, come inside counter moves in pass-rush situations and chase down ball carriers from the backside on runs away from him.
"Getting enough reps next year is going to be important. He may not be an every-down starter this season, but he'll come off the bench and provide a spark. And that might just lead to a full-time role in the near future."
Joining Galina in Madubuike's praises is WNST's Luke Jones.
"Madubuike may not become an official starter until 2022," Jones wrote, "but he will lead all Baltimore defensive linemen in sacks and receive a starter volume of snaps by the end of his second season with the Ravens."
Both Gelina and Jones say it's likely Madubuike makes a significant impact but in a limited role. That's due to veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, both of whom are incumbent starters and enter the season healthy. However, Wolfe has howled the praises of Madubuike, stating he has All-Pro ability on The Lounge Podcast.
"This guy is a monster, he's a beast," said Wolfe. "He's got the ability to become an All-Pro football player. He's everything you could ask for in a young football player and he's just going to get better and better and better."
All Eyes on Passing Attack With Training Camp Beginning This Week
Excitement is at a boiling point as training camp kicks off this week. Storylines are being built up and none more prominent than the passing attack. PressBox's Bo Smolka ranked this storyline No. 1 on his top five list:
1. Does the passing game look different?
"It seems Lamar Jackson's passing is dissected after every camp workout, but the questions about the passing game are broader than any specific Jackson throw," Smolka wrote.
"The Ravens ranked last in the league in passing last season, a fact that head coach John Harbaugh somewhat dismisses, noting that the Ravens throw less than any other team. Still, Harbaugh does acknowledge that the Ravens need to be more efficient with their passing attack, and they believe they've added the personnel to accomplish that."
Pro Football Network's Dalton Miller concurs the passing game is the primary storyline. More narrowly, Miller is interested in the additions themselves, along with the final receiver spot(s) on the roster.
"The biggest training camp story for the AFC North division favorites should surround their wide receiving corps," Miller wrote. "Is 2021 the year they finally find production on the outside? Sammy Watkins, Marquise Brown, and rookie Rashod Bateman feels better than what the Ravens put on the field in 2020. Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, and James Proche provide an intriguing camp battle for the final spots on the roster."
These groups have been broken down endlessly, and thankfully, training camp begins this week to toss away the speculation and exchange it with on-field results. We're only days away from hearing the roars of Ravens fans on the sidelines of the Under Armour Performance Center to kick off the Ravens' 2021 season.