Hello, Ravens fans. My name is Kyle Barber, and I am pleased to greet you as a new Late for Work contributor. A little bit about me: I was born and raised in Gillette, Wyoming. Over the past several years, I've been the managing editor of SB Nation's Baltimore Beatdown, covering the Ravens while completing my degree in Journalism and Media Communication at Colorado State University. I'm excited to join this team and write Late for Work; It's been a staple of my mornings. I hope to deliver you the latest and greatest Ravens-related news and follow in the footsteps of those who produced Late for Work before me. Cheers.
Lamar Jackson Contract Negotiations Going 'Smoothly' With Advisors
Lamar Jackson is set to become one of the highest paid players in NFL history, but it's still a matter of when.
Fortunately, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reports the negotiations have proceeded smoothly.
"So far, it's going smoothly," Florio wrote yesterday. "Coach John Harbaugh has said a deal will get done. And it surely will. While the jury may be out on other first-round quarterbacks from the class of 2018 (more on that in a separate item), the Ravens have decided that they want Lamar Jackson to play the position for years to come. Once that decision gets made, everything else is just details."
With both parties remaining rather quiet regarding the discussions, this is the first we've heard how the talks have gone. And about enlightening information, it's also the first time we've heard who may or may not be conducting the negotiations for Jackson's party.
"Of course, Jackson isn't completely going it alone." Florio wrote. "Despite widespread reports and assumptions, we're told that his mother is not involved. She may be advising him, but she's not negotiating with the Ravens. Jackson has advisers. He's had advisers for all of his business ventures. He simply doesn't have a traditional NFLPA-certified agent."
As others and Florio wrote, the contract negotiations are "a little trickier" without a traditional agent. Jackson was vague this offseason when asked by Baltimore media about who is representing him.
If true that he's working with advisers, a deal can likely be agreed upon more rapidly as experienced lawyers and advisors can help navigate the language of what will be a life-changing contract for Jackson and a franchise-defining deal for the Ravens.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec spoke to several people familiar with negotiations, both from the team and agent side, to share insight on the factors in the timing of the deal. Mostly, they made a case to do it sooner than later.
"This is probably as cheap as it's going to be," said Joel Corry, a former agent who analyzes and writes about NFL contracts and the salary cap for CBS Sports. "You'll have at least Josh Allen in the marketplace and who knows, if Aaron Rodgers is traded or the Packers decide that he's the guy over Jordan Love, maybe he gets a new deal and you have to deal with that as another data point as well."
If Allen were to strike a deal with the Buffalo Bills, it could impact negotiations. It is reminiscent of wide receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas both aiming to set the market for their position back in 2015. In fact, Corry analyzed that very topic back in 2015 and cited how the market would change due to said deals. The same would go for Jackson, or Allen, depending upon whose party puts pen to paper first.
"Corry said one of the primary benefits for the Ravens in getting a deal done now is 'cost certainty,'" Zrebiec wrote. "Having Jackson on the books will allow [General Manager Eric] DeCosta and company to plan accordingly with their other core young players who they'll want to re-sign. The Ravens' group of 2022 free agents includes standout tight end Mark Andrews, Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard, starting center Bradley Bozeman, starting safety DeShon Elliott and reserve cornerback Anthony Averett, not to mention veterans like defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams."
The more time DeCosta is given to navigate the salary cap and the crop of soon-to-be free agents, the better. But all that hinges on completing Jackson's extension.
Experts Predict Ravens' Win Totals for 2021
After winning a franchise-record 14 games in 2019, the Ravens dropped to 11 last year. After this offseason's roster improvements, expectations are high once again.
The Ringer NFL Show podcast predicted AFC Team Win Totals win totals for the 2021 season and host Nora Princiotti, alongside guests Danny Kelly and Doug Kyed, believe the Ravens will go over 11 wins.
"I guess I'll go over and pick the Ravens to win the division," Kyed said. "Overall, I think that Lamar Jackson. … I tie everything to quarterbacks, but I do think that Lamar Jackson's going to be better than he was last season. He's going to be more the Lamar Jackson that he was in 2019 and that's why I see this team taking another step forward and will win the division over the Browns."
"I feel pretty good about the Ravens this year," Kelly said. "I share the concerns about the pass rush, I think that's going to be, like, the big thing this year but I just think this team — the offense is going to be really, really good. They're going to score a lot of points. They can control the clock. I do think their passing game is going to be improved. This is something I've been sort of preaching in the fantasy podcast. They've told us what the last couple drafts, two out of their last three, they've drafted a receiver in the first round. They want to get more efficient. They want to get more explosive in the passing game. I think that Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, they're going to be significant improvements and upgrades over what they had last year at receiver. I think Mark Andrews is going to bounce back from what was a pretty bad season last year and at the end of the day this is a pretty diverse, multiple, hard-to-defend offense."
"I think 11 [wins], I would love to push here," Princiotti added. "I feel like I have a logic problem in [also] picking the Browns over [10.5 wins] but maybe I just think the Steelers are going to lose all their games and the Ravens can go over this as well. I just feel that 11 is the sweet spot for them."
It should be noted that this is the first year of a 17-game schedule, so 11 wins this season is a dip below 11 wins from last season. So it's a bit surprising given that they believe Baltimore has improved this offseason, while noting the losses of pass rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue.
Most agree with the Ravens being at or above 11 wins. NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund projects the Ravens as AFC North champions and third in the AFC at 10.8 wins.
"Excluding divisional games, which kind of follow a different cadence from regular-season contests, the Ravens have pretty optimal spacing between the two most difficult dates on their schedule, with the Chiefs coming in Week 2 (Sept. 19) and Packers coming in Week 15 (Dec. 19)," Frelund wrote. "The stretch of Weeks 12-14, which includes the Browns twice and one trip to Pittsburgh, could go a long way toward determining which AFC North team wins the division and which ends up as a wild-card squad; this division is the most likely in all of football to send at least two teams to the playoffs."
Achieving 11 wins this season is a tall order, as the Ravens face the second-toughest schedule in 2021. That said, the team still expects to contend for the top seed in the AFC and possess Super Bowl aspirations.
NFL Writer Ranks Ravens' Cornerback Duo Among League's Best "Batman and Robin duos"
Since trading for Marcus Peters in 2019, the Ravens cornerback tandem has been rated among the league's best.
Pro Football Focus had Peters ranked No. 4 in its Top 25 cornerbacks through Week 17 of the 2020 season with Humphrey only a short scroll below at No. 12. Before that, PFF also had the pair among their top five man-coverage cornerbacks in 2019. And while this isn't a new take, it is a testament to the pairs' production since Peters' arrival.
NFL Network's Bucky Brooks ranks Peters and Humphrey has the NFL's third-best “Batman and Robin” duo.
"Playing great defense in today's NFL is all about forcing turnovers," Brooks wrote. "With that in mind, the Ravens' defense will always rank among the game's best units as long as Peters and Humphrey are leading the way as ball magnets in the secondary. Peters is a turnover machine with 31 career interceptions and nine forced fumbles in six seasons. Although he will give up an occasional play as a fearless gambler, the veteran routinely makes up for his mistakes with a timely interception that changes the momentum of the game."
Of the stats mentioned by Brooks, Peters has accumulated seven interceptions, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three defensive touchdowns in a Ravens' uniform. Undoubtedly, Peters is in a league of his own when it comes to creating takeaways, but Humphrey has perfected the craft of dislodging the football from unsuspecting ball-carriers.
"Humphrey is the best ball puncher on the perimeter since Charles 'Peanut' Tillman helped the Bears' defense wreak havoc on the league years ago," Brooks continued. "The All-Pro finished 2020 with a league-high eight forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks as a slot/outside corner with superb instincts and awareness. These two former first-round picks give the Ravens the league's best turnover producers in a defensive backfield."
The signature punch-out by Humphrey sprung multiple fumble recovery touchdowns in 2020, including a 22-yard return by LB linebacker L.J. Fort and a 53-yard return by LB linebacker Patrick Queen.
Overall, Brooks' ranking for the duo isn't new; the pairing has been categorized as the league's best for awhile now. Nonetheless, the recognition for this elite pairing is a welcome addition. It is a testament to Humphrey's and Peters' accomplishments and dominance for multiple seasons now.