Salary Cap Bargains Highlight Ravens' Homegrown Talent
Not only has the Ravens' young talent made an impact on the field, but it has also benefited the team's salary cap.
CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr looked at the five biggest salary cap bargains for the Ravens this season, and all are still on their rookie contracts. The five players on this list will account for roughly nine percent of the team's salary cap space in 2020. That's a bargain considering the impact they've made.
"Eric DeCosta deserves plenty of praise for setting the franchise up to win in 2020 and the years to come, as the Ravens possess some of the best salary cap bargains in the NFL," Kerr wrote.
The list included Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, Orlando Brown Jr., Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Stanley.
Jackson was at the top of Kerr's list. The reigning MVP is the 30th-highest paid quarterback this season, and Kerr said Jackson's contract may be the best "bargain" in the NFL.
"Jackson is entering the third year of his rookie deal and only has a cap number of $2,583,178 in 2020," Kerr wrote. "No wonder the Ravens' Super Bowl window is the highest it's ever been in the 24-year history of the franchise."
The Ravens are in a Super Bowl window because their young players have outperformed their rookie contracts.
"Baltimore reaped the second-best value out of its draft picks over the past decade, according to Football Outsiders' database, and the Ravens' 2018 draft class ranked as the third-best group in the 2010s," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "Only the Seattle Seahawks have drafted better than the Ravens since 2010, per the numbers."
With the emergence of young talent comes a price tag, but Head Coach John Harbaugh believes the Ravens can retain it.
No matter what happens, The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer notes that the Ravens are well-positioned against the cap in 2021.
"However the Ravens proceed, they should have two important assets as the 2021 league year approaches: a mostly proven roster and financial flexibility," Shaffer wrote. "If the salary cap remains around $200 million, the team could spend $40 million next offseason — a market-setting deal for Stanley? An early extension for Andrews? New pieces at outside linebacker? — and still have some wiggle room."
Rex Ryan: 'Only Thing That Can Stop [Jackson] is Himself'
The anticipation heading into Jackson's third season continues to grow.
Pundits have spent the offseason discussing how teams plan to slow down Jackson, and former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan said the only thing stopping Jackson is himself.
"I think he's still going to be a superstar," Ryan said. "... Everybody talks about how Jackson had a poor game against Tennessee. Really? He was over 500 yards when you combine his passing and running. This guy doesn't have a whole lot to improve on. He's just got to be himself.
"The amazing thing that he did between his rookie year and second year was protect the football. That's the one negative that he had, and he did it. To me, I'm thinking this guy is just going to get better and better through experience. That's a scary thought."
Like Harris, ESPN's Ryan Clark agreed that the Ravens' passing attack must evolve outside of the numbers so teams can't stack the box.
"I think he's tried to do that in the offseason," Clark said. "You've seen him working out with different wide receivers to expand that game. Jackson is truly a transcendent talent. And he's going to be in this league for years to come. I believe he'll win multiple MVPs. He will also be a Super Bowl champion."
The confidence in Jackson is largely due to his work ethic. There's no doubt he's one of the most talented players on the field any given Sunday, but that hasn't come without the dedication to his craft.
"And while it's true that defenses will devise new strategies for keeping Jackson from wreaking havoc with his legs and his arm, the more Jackson sees and experiences, the better he'll be," ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio wrote. "He has only 22 career regular-season starts. As he starts more games, he'll see more and learn more and understand more and get more out of an uncanny skillset that already has him among the best in the game — and that could eventually put him among the best to ever play."
Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey Among the Best in Man Coverage
There's a certain comfort for Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale knowing he has two of the league's best cornerbacks in Marcus Peters and Humphrey. Not only that, but the duo was among the best in man coverage last season.
"On average, man coverage was used on just 34% of defensive snaps," Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey wrote. "Part of the reasoning for that is that it's difficulat to find cornerbacks who can stick to the league's top wide receivers in man coverage without getting exploited ─ it's no easy task."
The trade for Peters last year was considered DeCosta's best move. Peters' play elevated after coming over from the Los Angeles Rams, and the Ravens inked him to a three-year extension in December.
"Peters is right enough when he does gamble and talented enough to where you are more than happy to live with those occasional miscues, though," Linsey wrote. "Looking strictly at his time with the Ravens in 2019, Peters put up an even higher man coverage grade (86.9) than [Stephon] Gilmore from Week 7 through the postseason. It's safe to say Baltimore is happy with their transaction."
Across from Peters, Humphrey was just as good. Linsey wrote that the most impressive part of Humphrey's season was his transition playing between the slot and outside. Humphrey had 14 passes defensed and a career-high three interceptions as an All-Pro.
"Humphrey has consistently been one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL at forcing incompletions in man coverage since entering the league in 2017," Linsey added. "His 10 forced incompletions in man last season were a career high and trailed only Gilmore and Darius Slay."
Having multiple cornerbacks who can hold their own in man coverage allowed Martindale to get creative with the rest of the defense. That should continue this season with another strong secondary.
Trace McSorley Eager to Make an Impact
Jackson hasn't been the only Ravens quarterback putting in the work this offseason. Third-stringer Trace McSorley is eager to contribute in 2020.
McSorley worked out with Jackson and other teammates in Florida. He also told Kasinitz that he linked up with Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Jaleel Scott and Miles Boykin around the DMV area.
The Ravens historically haven't been a team that's kept three quarterbacks, but they've done it the past two seasons. McSorley will have more competition going up against undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley.
The New Orleans Saints have had success using backup quarterback Taysom Hill in a hybrid role, and he's quickly developed into one of the NFL's most unique weapons. Similarly, McSorley wants to find a way onto the field and make an impact however he can.
"I want to show coaches that I can help the team on the field this year," McSorley said. "Last year, being inactive all year — this season, I want to be able to get on the field somehow and help the team, help the team win. That's the biggest thing."