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Late for Work 9/7: Jadeveon Clowney Reportedly Preferred Baltimore

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Jadeveon Clowney Reportedly Preferred Baltimore*, But* Ravens Were 'Lukewarm'

Throughout the offseason the Ravens were named as a potential destination for Jadeveon Clowney. The Clowney sweepstakes finally ended Sunday as the edge rusher agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans.  

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Friday that the Ravens were a "wild-card" as Clowney mulled offers from the Titans and New Orleans Saints. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported a different angle, saying Clowney preferred Baltimore, but the team was "lukewarm."

"It's unclear why Baltimore was lukewarm on Clowney while still having some interest in signing him," Stevens wrote. "But with limited salary cap space and Clowney earning a maximum of $15 million from the Titans, he might have been a little too rich for the Ravens' tastes."

According to Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland, the Ravens have $6.8 million in cap space. The fact that Clowney's deal is reportedly worth up to $15 million means General Manager Eric DeCosta and the front office would've had to get creative with the cap.

Pundits Top Takeaways From Ravens' 53-man Roster

In an offseason that provided more uncertainty than normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ravens' 53-man roster didn't leave many pundits surprised. The roster, which Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox ranked as the second-most talented in the NFL, valued experience.

"With all due respect to the 23 players who were let go Saturday, it never seemed likely that this would be a particularly surprising roster cutdown day for the Ravens," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "When the team's biggest questions are at the No. 3 quarterback spot, the third tight end role and whether they decide to keep four or five inside linebackers or safeties, it doesn't lend itself to a particularly dramatic day."

Young Roster Thrives With Experience

You would think a roster that values experience would be one of the oldest in the NFL, but that's not the case. According to The Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski, the Ravens' average roster age rose from 25.9 to 26 this season. That gives them the 17th-oldest roster, up just one spot from last season.

The Ravens have a core of young talent with NFL experience. As Zrebiec noted, only three players who were cut didn't play a game for the Ravens last season.

"The bottom line is the Ravens didn't have much wiggle room," Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich wrote. "The team is loaded with talent, including 12 players that made the Pro Bowl last season."

"Baltimore clearly valued experience and continuity this year at the roster cut deadline," Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens wrote. "The Ravens didn't keep a single undrafted free agent this year, breaking a 16-year streak. They also didn't cut any players who had a significant role on last year's squad. With the exception of the 10 draft picks and three main offseason additions, this roster looks very much like last year's team."

The Ravens and Minnesota Vikings have the most homegrown players (45), according to Over The Cap, accounting for almost 80 percent of their entire roster.

"As for teams that select the best overall the Ravens and the [New England] Patriots always stand out and it is no different this year," OTC wrote. "The Ravens have 83 players on a NFL roster this year while the Patriots have 74. They are the only teams over 70. If you pull their own roster out of the mix they have 38 and 35 players on other rosters, the only teams over 30."

No Doubt About Keeping Four Running Backs

DeCosta said in April that he envisioned a four-headed monster at running back this season, and the Ravens are sticking with that plan. The NFL's leading rushing team from last season left few doubts about keeping four running backs.

"There was never much doubt that the Ravens would keep four running backs, given how prominent the run game features in the Ravens' offense," Press Box’s Bo Smolka wrote. "Hill has missed extensive time in training camp and could be a candidate for short-term IR. Dobbins, the second-round draft pick, was one of the standouts of training camp. Undrafted rookie Ty'Son Williams, who was signed last week, showed well in the stadium scrimmage in his first day on the job and is a candidate for the practice squad."

Mark Ingram II, Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Hill are all expected to factor into the rushing attack. Williams did land on the practice squad, as Smolka predicted. Then there's still Lamar Jackson, who led the team in rushing yards last season.

The bigger question is how much of a share will each have?

CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan predicted the Ravens will break the single-season rushing record again.

"Jackson may not break the quarterback rushing record again in 2020, but he's more than capable of going over a thousand yards on the ground," Sullivan wrote. "As for true running backs in the backfield, Baltimore has a pretty strong stable. … The Ravens have the personnel, the talent, and buy-in from the coaching staff to run the football early and often, so they are extremely well-positioned to break their own record this year."

Depth Concern at Safety?

After the release of Earl Thomas III, the Ravens chose to roll with just four safeties (Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Anthony Levine Sr., and Geno Stone). It's a relatively young group, and Clark is the only player who started a game at the position last season.

Pundits like The Baltimore Sun’s Daniel Oyefusi and Smolka expressed concern about depth, but expect the Ravens could add to the group within the coming weeks.

"Behind starters Clark and Elliott, the team doesn't have much experience," Oyefusi wrote. "Levine has typically played closer to the line of scrimmage in a defensive back-linebacker hybrid role, and Stone is a seventh-round pick from the 2020 draft. Smith will be an option at safety in certain packages, but the team could also look to add another safety to the 53-man roster."

The depth at cornerback could allow Smith to see more reps at safety. Outside of the organization, former Raven Tony Jefferson remains a potential option as he recovers from a knee injury.

Practice Squad Players We Could See More of

While the Ravens' streak of an undrafted player making the 53-man roster ended, there's a good chance we could still see one contribute early in the season. Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler highlighted safety Nigel Warrior and quarterback Tyler Huntley as two practice squad players he'd like to see more of.

Warrior earned strong reviews throughout training camp. If there are concerns about the Ravens' depth at safety, Warrior could be one of the first practice squad players activated to the 53-man roster.

"Warrior is one of those players that just needs a chance to show that he was a diamond in the rough," Schisler wrote. "... Players like Warrior are the reason the NFL needs bigger rosters. He did everything in his power and it wasn't enough to suit up on game day or be on the 53 man roster. Having no preseason also deprived him of the chance to show off under the lights. Some players show up more in a game when their adrenaline is flowing, even if they work their hardest in practice."

The Ravens stuck with Trace McSorley over Huntley as the third quarterback, but that doesn't mean we've seen the last of the undrafted rookie. Huntley impressed in camp and his dual-threat ability makes him a fit in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's system or as an emergency option if a quarterback goes down. 

"Huntley is the project quarterback the Ravens should be building up," Schisler added. "Building up a third string quarterback like Huntley would be building up a chance for a profitable trade. Neither quarterback can run the show like Jackson and neither give you the stability of Robert Griffin III. If you are going to have a third string quarterback, building up a project is the only worthwhile pursuit."

How New Deals Could Affect Markets for Lamar Jackson and Marlon Humphrey

After this weekend, it's clear now more than ever that Lamar Jackson and Marlon Humphrey won't come cheap.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson agreed to a four-year extension reportedly worth $160 million with the Houston Texans and cornerback Tre'Davious White agreed to a four-year extension reportedly worth $70 million with the Buffalo Bills.

Watson's deal makes him the second-highest paid quarterback behind Patrick Mahomes, who struck a record-breaking 12-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason. Both landed big deals after their third seasons, and Jackson's time could be right around the corner.

"Jackson became just the second player to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player by a unanimous vote, joining Tom Brady in 2010," Karpovich wrote. "He is also the youngest quarterback to win the award at age 23. "No doubt that Jackson has put himself in a position for a huge payday like Mahomes and Watson."

White's new deal makes him the NFL's highest-paid cornerback on a per-year basis ($17.5 million), setting the market for Humphrey, who is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract. The Ravens have already exercised the fifth-year option on the Pro Bowl cornerback.

"The Ravens have made their intentions regarding their desire to retain Humphrey clear, although there hasn't been much news regarding negotiations to date," Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz wrote. "Humphrey earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2019 – his first season as a full-time starter. The former University of Alabama first-round pick is looking to continue his ascension as one of the league's best young defenders in 2020. 'Marlo' is one of the top press-man cornerbacks in the league, who showed the ability to thrive in the slot when needed throughout 2019.

"With [Ronnie] Stanley, Humphrey, Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown Jr. all in the final two years of their rookie contracts, the Ravens proverbial checkbook appears set to get put to good use over the next year or two."

Could Jackson Lead the NFL in Rushing Yards Over the Next Decade?

Jackson took the league by storm last season when he broke Michael Vick's single-season quarterback rushing record with 1,206 yards. One pundit believes he could be a threat on the ground for years to come.

Sports Illustrated’s Mitch Goldich had some fun and predicted which players will lead the NFL in all major statistical categories over the next decade. For rushing yards, he chose New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, but picked Jackson as a dark horse candidate.

"[I]t's a little weird to think about a quarterback leading the league in rushing yards for a whole decade, but maybe in this case it shouldn't be," Goldich wrote. "... If Jackson continues to be a star, he's much more likely than any of the running backs I mentioned to still be a starter in 2029. It's possible his style will evolve as he ages—either because he becomes better as a passer or because every young, mobile quarterback eventually gets to the point in their career when everyone starts telling them they need to run less and take fewer hits. But what if this is just who Jackson is for his whole career? Even if he gives us just three or four more seasons in that 1,000-1,200 range (I say 'just' even though that would be a historic output), a graceful decline to 600 or 700 yards through the back end of the decade could still put him in lofty territory. It's more than possible that Jackson puts up a 4,000-yard passing, 600-yard rushing season (or better!) as a 32-year-old in 2029 after guys like Joe Mixon and Dalvin Cook are out of the league."

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