Aaron Rodgers Talks About Competing With Jackson, Mahomes
When you're a superstar like Lamar Jackson, other quarterbacks get asked if they want to be like you – even the other greats.
Green Bay Packers quarterback and two-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers was asked on “The Ringer’s 10 Questions with Kyle Brandt” podcast whether he ever thinks about wanting to incorporate the playing styles of Jackson and Patrick Mahomes into his game.
"First of all, I think we all know we can't do hardly any of the stuff that Lamar can do. His athletic ability is unbelievable," Rodgers said. "To do what he did last year was so phenomenal. So I don't think there's any of us – myself, Drew [Brees], Tom [Brady], Ben [Roethlisberger] – going, 'Man, I need to start running more in the offseason.' You pretty much are who you are at this point.
"They do some pretty amazing things, and I think it's great. The more eyes we can get on our game the better. It's fun having some great, young talent at quarterback."
Ravens Retaining All of Their Young, Homegrown Pro Bowlers 'Virtually Impossible'
Every NFL team has its share of questions. For the Ravens, one of the main questions is: How are they going to retain all these good players?
As the saying goes, that's a good problem to have and we should all enjoy it while we have them. Nevertheless, it is a challenging situation the organization will have to deal with in the near future.
The Ravens have drafted a league-best six Pro Bowlers since 2016, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, all of whom will be seeking new contracts over the next two years. The players in question are Jackson, offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., tight end Mark Andrews, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and outside linebacker Matthew Judon.
The odds of keeping all of them in Baltimore aren't encouraging.
"It's virtually impossible," said Mike Tannenbaum, ESPN's front-office insider and former executive for the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. "You have to get creative. You have to see if they can be selfless. It's a good problem to have."
What is encouraging is the Ravens' history of keeping their homegrown stars.
"While many will remember how Baltimore was outbid last year by the Jets for middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, the fact is the Ravens have signed 13 of 18 drafted Pro Bowl players to second contracts," Hensley wrote. "In addition to Mosley, the only exceptions have been guard Ben Grubbs and three fullbacks (Ovie Mughelli, Le'Ron McClain and Kyle Juszczyk)."
The franchise tag is a useful tool in keeping valued players in the fold in the short term in the absence of an agreement on a long-term deal. Judon is playing under the tag this season, and Stanley could receive the designation for 2021.
Stanley, the protector of Jackson's blind side, is coming off one of the best seasons ever for a left tackle. He could be destined to become the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league.
"While Stanley is presumably the top priority for the next big deal, the Ravens held no contract talks with Stanley for six months before resuming them last week," Hensley wrote.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec suggested it might make more sense for the Ravens to prioritize getting a deal done with Humphrey.
"Stanley is a superb player and certainly a guy you make every effort to re-sign. And yes, in many cases, the longer you wait, the more expensive a player becomes," Zrebiec wrote. "The market for offensive tackles, though, doesn't figure to move much in the near future. If Stanley goes out and has another dominant year, how much more expensive will he get, especially with the franchise tag potentially coming into play?
"With Humphrey, not only could another strong season increase his asking price and further solidify himself among the best players at his position, but the other top corners around the league getting big deals would impact that as well."
The biggest question, of course, is what Jackson's next contract will look like, especially in light of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes landing the richest contract in sports history last month.
Spotrac estimated Jackson's current market value at $170 million over four years, for an average salary of around $42.5 million. That would make Jackson, who is entering the third year on his rookie contract and averages $2.38 million per season, the second highest-paid player in the league.
"Jackson would begin talks on a blockbuster deal after the season if he followed the same time frame as Patrick Mahomes," Hensley wrote.
Further complicating matters in the Ravens' quest to hold on to the aforementioned players is there's a chance the salary cap could be significantly reduced next year.
"The Ravens had been financially set up to keep many of these players. After lacking much salary-cap space over the past seven years, Baltimore was excited over the possibility of being a whopping $63.2 million under the projected $215 million cap," Hensley wrote. "But following the money crunch from the pandemic, the Ravens might have just $10 million in space if next year's cap drops to $160 million."
Jackson, John Harbaugh Unanimous Picks for Best in AFC North
Coming off a season in which the Ravens had the No. 1 offense in the league, it's no surprise the unit fared very well in The Athletic's AFC North offensive position rankings.
The Athletic's four AFC North writers ranked the teams at five position groups as well as head coach. Jackson and Head Coach John Harbaugh were unanimous choices for the top spot in their respective categories.
"Wasn't Harbaugh on his way out like two years ago and now he has a Super Bowl-contending team? That says it all," wrote Matt Kaboly, who covers the Steelers. "Mike Tomlin isn't far behind but is a step behind."
Baltimore also took the top spot at tight end and placed second at running back (behind the Cleveland Browns) and offensive line (behind the Steelers).
The only position in which the Ravens did not place in the top two was wide receiver, where they were a unanimous choice for last among the division's four teams.
There's no denying the Browns, Bengals and Steelers have talented receivers, so the Ravens' ranking is understandable. That said, it won't be a shock if second-year receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Miles Boykin have breakout seasons and third-round pick Devin Duvernay makes a significant impact.
"Three of the Ravens' top four receivers are first or second-year guys, so the jury is still out on them," Zrebiec wrote. "I'd venture to guess that they'll have the best blocking wide receiver group by season's end."
Meanwhile, NFL.com’s Adam Schein put the Ravens at No. 3 in his rankings of the top nine offenses in the league, behind the Dallas Cowboys and Chiefs.
Incidentally, another AFC North team made Schein's list, and it wasn't the Browns or Steelers. The Cincinnati Bengals came in at No. 8.
"Too soon? Too high? Or just right?" Schein wrote. "I love Joe Burrow's talent and moxie. Plain and simple, he has it. And while 2020 has clearly been an offseason like no other – putting all rookies way behind the typical learning curve – Burrow is special. I think he hits the ground running. Especially with the talented cast of playmakers by his side."
Ravens Select Ohio State Guard in Todd McShay's 2021 Mock Draft
ESPN’s Todd McShay believes the Ravens might look to the first round of next year's draft to find a long-term replacement for right guard Marshal Yanda, who retired in March after 13 seasons and eight Pro Bowl selections.
In McShay's early 2021 mock draft, he has Baltimore picking Ohio State junior guard Wyatt Davis with the 30th-overall selection.
"The Ravens could pop Davis right into the lineup for free-agent-to-be D.J. Fluker in 2021," McShay wrote. "He did not allow a sack or a hit on his quarterback in 400-plus pass protection reps last season, shows above-average foot quickness and mobility, and has the power to open lanes in the run game. Baltimore can't let Lamar Jackson take extra hits, and shoring up the guard position with a potential high-end NFL starter here would go a long way."
The Ravens drafted two Ohio State players – running back J.K. Dobbins and inside linebacker Malik Harrison – in 2020. With the Big Ten cancelling its football season, at least of the fall season, it will be interesting to see how NFL teams evaluate players from that conference.