Late For Work 9/21: Ravens Getting One Of NFL's Biggest Returns On Free Agency Spending

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Ravens Getting One Of NFL's Biggest Returns On Free Agency Spending

The Ravens don't often open their wallets in March to spend money on free-agent acquisitions, but when they do, they want to see dividends on their investment.

It's still early through two weeks of the season, but so far it looks like the Ravens are getting bang for their buck with wide receiver Mike Wallace and safety Eric Weddle, who were signed on back-to-back days in mid-March.

"When you invest capital in another team's marquee players, you want to make sure they uplift your team," Bucky Brooks, a former NFL scout, said on his podcast, "Move the Sticks."

"Some of these 2-0 squads are definitely getting benefits."

Brooks and co-host Daniel Jeremiah, another former NFL (and Ravens) scout, named three undefeated teams that are getting the biggest return on their offseason free agency spending:

Houston Texans: QB Brock Osweiler (4 years, $72M), RB Lamar Miller (4 years, $26M)
New York Giants: CB Janoris Jenkins (5 years, $62.5M), DE Oliver Vernon (5 years, $85M)
Baltimore Ravens: WR Mike Wallace (2 years, $11.5M), S Eric Weddle (4 years, $26M)

While the Giants and Texans spent nearly $150 million and $100 million, respectively, on their top two free agents, the Ravens gave up less than $40 million. (Baltimore also invested $7 million over two years in Benjamin Watson, who is on injured reserve with a torn Achilles.)

As such, Jeremiah said the Ravens' signings were maybe the most "cost effective."

Wallace has seven receptions for 132 yards and three touchdowns in two games. Those three scores are more than he amassed all last year and tied for the most among NFL receivers this season (Carolina Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin and Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald also have three).

"Money well spent," Brooks said of the Wallace signing. "He's certainly been a bargain-basement find for the Baltimore Ravens. He has given them the vertical element that they really lacked.

"Also, he's kind of become a bit of a touchdown-maker for them. You have to like, if you're Joe Flacco, to alleviate some of the pressure on Steve Smith to carry the passing game."

Weddle has become a trusted quarterback in the back end of the defense, notching 10 tackles, two pass breakups and one interception. The pick was key in the Ravens' 25-point comeback win over the Cleveland Browns.

His influence goes beyond the stat line, as Weddle is like another coach on the field and can put teammates in position to make plays. He also offers a unique perspective to Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees to help him make small adjustments on the fly.

"Smart player, heady player that understands where the ball is going and makes plays on the ball," Brooks said. "Sometimes you have guys in the backend that are ball magnets. The ball finds Eric Weddle. He has a knack, he's talented.

"I believe they needed someone in the middle that could really fill the role that was vacated when Ed Reed departed. Eric Weddle has been that guy."

Despite Undefeated Start, Ravens Get Average Rankings

Baltimore may have an undefeated 2-0 record, but it is only average in most national NFL power rankings.

You really can't be angry at the Ravens' status, however, as there are seven other undefeated teams who have earned more style points in their wins. There are also a couple of 1-1 teams ahead of Baltimore that are still expected to be major forces in the league, including the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers.

The highest Baltimore ranking I've seen is No. 5 from former Ravens receiver Qadry Ismail, who admitted in the video below that it was a biased "homer" ranking.

Bleacher Report: No. 12 (moved up six spots)
"A 20-point hole in the first quarter? Joe Flacco stayed calm. The guy engineered three scoring drives in between the second and third quarters, including a seven-yard strike to, you guessed it, Mike Wallace. These two can make up deficits in a flash."

ESPN: No. 13 (no movement)
"The 2-0 Ravens should be thankful to the schedule-makers. After wins against the Bills and Browns to start the season, the Ravens get the Jaguars, Raiders and Redskins the next three weeks, and don't play another division game until Week 9. The top of the North just got more crowded."

USA Today: No. 13 (no movement)
"They'll gladly take the 2-0 start. And a kind early season schedule next offers up a Jacksonville team that's already allowed 65 points."

CBS Sports: No. 13 (moved up two spots)* *"They are 2-0, but they beat a bad Bills team at home and the Browns on the road. That's not exactly hard to do."

Fox Sports: No. 14 (moved up three spots)* *"For most of Week 2, it looked like the Ravens were going to lose to the Browns. That would have dropped them to 32nd in these rankings (kidding). In all seriousness, it would have been a complete disaster, but Joe Flacco was able to lead them to a 25-20 victory late. They get the Jaguars next, which could mean a 3-0 record for Baltimore."

NFL.com: No. 15 (moved up one spot)* *"It was gut-check time in Cleveland, with the Ravens falling behind 20-zip early. (Seriously, how in a frog's fat @#$ did Baltimore get in a 20-nuthin' hole to the Browns in the first quarter?) At the center of the comeback was the burgeoning relationship between Joe Flacco and Mike Wallace. The two have linked up for three scoring strikes already. That said, the most impressive component of this offense might be the play of Dennis Pitta, who has returned from serious hip injuries to be productive again. Remember, this guy was essentially projected to be Ben Watson's caddy. Yet, there was Pitta, catching nine balls for 102 crucial yards Sunday."

Timmy Jernigan Helping Maintain Pass Rush

One of the reasons the Ravens rank in the top 8 for sacks without outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil is because of the pressure the interior defensive line is generating.

A person who deserves a lot of credit for that is defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. He leads the team with two sacks, four tackles for a loss and five quarterback hits.

"The Ravens have mostly relied on their interior pass rush and blitzing to create pressure, but their edge rushers have yet to make a dynamic impact in disrupting the pocket," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "A healthy Dumervil would figure to change that after accumulating 32 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons with the Ravens.

"With Dumervil out, Albert McClellan has served as the starting strong-side outside linebacker in the base defense opposite veteran rush linebacker Terrell Suggs. Za'Darius Smith and Matt Judon have received more opportunities in pass-rushing situations, especially with Suggs not yet playing at his pre-injury level in returning from last season's Achilles injury."

Some 2015 Ravens Standouts Not Getting As Involved

With the Ravens boasting one of their deepest rosters in recent memory at receiver, tight end and running back, we knew not everyone could get involved.

Through two games, we're seeing some 2015 standouts not as involved, including receiver Kamar Aiken, tight end Maxx Williams and running back Buck Allen.

Here are the snap counts for each player at those positions, per PFF:

 Dennis Pitta: 101

 Steve L. Smith: 98

 Mike Wallace: 97

 Justin Forsett: 76

 Crockett Gillmore: 67

 Kamar Aiken: 67

 Breshad Perriman: 52

 Terrance West: 50

 Chris Moore: 39

 Kyle Juszczyk: 35

 Maxx Williams: 32

Allen didn't make the list because he hasn't been active for either game this season.

Carson Wentz Following Fellow Small-School Quarterback Joe Flacco

There hasn't been a more impressive rookie this season than Carson Wentz, who was drafted second overall by the Philadelphia Eagles out of small-school North Dakota State University.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Wentz is off to a strong start like fellow small-school draftee Joe Flacco. The Ravens selected Flacco in 2008 out of Delaware.

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