Report: Ravens Could Be Top Candidate to Sign Jadeveon Clowney
In this space nearly four months ago, I wrote: "As long as free-agent edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney is available, there will be talk that the Ravens are in play to land the former No. 1-overall pick."
Clowney is still available, and yesterday Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline reported that the Ravens could be the leading candidate to sign the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end.
"A lot of people in the league believe that in the end, he's going to end up with the Baltimore Ravens," Pauline said on the latest episode of the NFL Draft Insiders podcast. "The Ravens need an upgrade with their pass rush. The belief from league insiders is don't be surprised if he ends up with the Baltimore Ravens."
Speculation about the Ravens having interest in Clowney goes all the way back to the spring of 2019, when there was talk that he could be traded by the Houston Texans. He ended up being dealt to the Seattle Seahawks last August.
Pauline's report comes several days after the Ravens terminated safety Earl Thomas III's contract. The move is expected to create an additional $6 million of salary cap space, according to Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland, but did it give the Ravens enough room to sign Clowney if they were so inclined?
Given that Clowney reportedly "hasn't budged" on his $17 million asking price, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec is skeptical.
"The Ravens have approximately $13 million of salary cap space, but they figure to want to enter Week 1 with at least half of that, just to maintain roster flexibility during a season that could feature roster volatility," Zrebiec wrote. "Would Clowney accept a one-year deal in the $6 million-$7 million range? That seems doubtful given his reported salary stance for much of the offseason. If the Ravens land him, they'd likely have to get creative or Clowney is going to have to accept far less money than he's reportedly seeking."
If the Ravens don't land Clowney, he still could end up in the AFC North, according to Pauline, who said the Pittsburgh Steelers might be interested. Clowney reportedly rejected a one-year, $15 million offer from the Cleveland Browns a few months ago but could ultimately land back there.
"A source close to Clowney told me the Pittsburgh Steelers have been poking their nose around to see if they can sign him. I don't think he's going to end up with the Steelers," Pauline said. "… With the Steelers, they're strapped at the cap. They don't have a lot of room. They'd have to make room and the situation would have to be right."
As for the Ravens, Zrebiec said there are more affordable options if they are looking to add a veteran pass rusher.
"Ezekiel Ansah, Clay Matthews, Terrell Suggs, Jabaal Sheard and Cameron Wake are still free agents and would come cheaper than Clowney," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens will have to decide whether any of them constitute a significant enough upgrade over what they already have to warrant bringing them in this late in the game."
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported that Ansah is on the Ravens' radar.
AFC North Is Ranked NFL's Second-Toughest Division
The Ravens were the only team in the AFC North to have a winning record last year, but several pundits believe the division will be much more competitive this season and could produce as many as three playoff teams in the seven-team AFC field.
Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab ranked the AFC North as the second-toughest division in the league, trailing only the NFC South.
"This division is going to be fun," Schwab wrote. "The Baltimore Ravens are loaded, led by MVP Lamar Jackson. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be very good, too, if Ben Roethlisberger is healthy. Just because the Cleveland Browns flopped last season doesn't mean they don't still have a talented roster. Maybe a coaching change is all they need to make the leap. And the Cincinnati Bengals will at least be more interesting to watch with top pick Joe Burrow at quarterback.
"If all this division gives us is another great Steelers-Ravens race, it deserves this ranking."
The Ravens are trying to become the first team to win the AFC North three years in a row since the NFL's realignment in 2002.
Jackson's College Career Will Be Celebrated on ACC Network
Ravens fans have an opportunity to relive some of Jackson's greatest moments from his college days at Louisville tomorrow, as the ACC Network will air 12 consecutive hours of content featuring the reigning NFL MVP.
The marathon begins with "ACC Legends: Lamar Jackson," a 30-minute program that features interviews with Jackson's former teammates, opponents, and insiders. From there, the network will air four of Jackson's best games from his college career.
Three of the games are from Jackson's Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2016, and the other game is the Cardinals' 2015 Music City Bowl victory against Texas A&M.
- Fox Sports Radio's Colin Cowherd ranked the Ravens at No. 8 on his list of the NFL's top 10 fanbases.