Late for Work 9/8: Reports: Jadeveon Clowney Would Be a Raven If This Was Allowed …

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Reports: Jadeveon Clowney Would Be a Raven If Sign-and-Trade Deal Was Allowed

It's been two days since Jadeveon Clowney ended his five-and-a-half-month free-agency saga by signing with the Tennessee Titans, but reports continue to trickle out regarding the edge rusher and the Ravens.

In yesterday's Late for Work, we noted that Clowney reportedly preferred the Ravens, but the team was "lukewarm." Now it's being reported that Clowney would be a Raven right now if the NFL had permitted a sign-and trade deal involving a third party.

The New Orleans Saints had inquired about such a deal in an effort to land Clowney, but the league said it would not authorize the move.

"Per multiple sources, if the league had given the green light to the sign-and-trade concept, Clowney would have ended up not with the Saints but with the Baltimore Ravens," Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio wrote. "From New Orleans' perspective, the Browns would have signed Clowney and traded him to the Saints. From Baltimore's perspective, the Jaguars would have signed Clowney and traded him to the Ravens.

"Once the league told the Saints that it couldn't happen, the strategy was abandoned. If a different answer had been obtained, the Saints would have found out soon thereafter that the Jaguars would have been signing Clowney, and that the Jaguars would have been trading him to Baltimore."

Did the Ravens' 2020 Season End in Triumph or Heartbreak in ESPN Simulation?

Spoiler alert: If you don't want to know how the NFL season will play out, skip ahead to the next item.

ESPN simulated all 269 games using its Football Power Index projection system, which calculates such factors as expected starting quarterback, past performance, returning starters and projected win totals. 

For Ravens fans, the results of the simulation produced good news and bad news. The good news is the Ravens went 12-4, won their third consecutive AFC North title and secured the AFC's top seed for the second year in a row. More importantly, the Ravens and Lamar Jackson won a playoff game and advanced to the AFC Championship Game.

That's where the bad news comes in. In a surprising defensive battle between two explosive offenses, the Ravens fell to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, 17-14. The Chiefs went on to blow out the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl, 42-17.

The Ravens began the season 1-2, losing to the Houston Texans and Chiefs after beating the Cleveland Browns in the season opener. In a foreshadowing of the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs beat the Ravens by a field goal.

"The unofficial Game of the Year comes down to the wire," ESPN's Seth Walder wrote. "Patrick Mahomes finds Travis Kelce for the fourth-quarter go-ahead TD on 'Monday Night Football' in Week 3, as K.C. beats Baltimore, 27-24."

The Ravens bounced back to defeat Washington and the Cincinnati Bengals before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles on the road to fall to 3-3. Then the Ravens got on a roll. They finished the season on a 9-1 run, with their only loss coming to the Titans at home in Week 11 by a score of 20-7.

Baltimore finished in a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North but won the division by virtue of sweeping the season series against its archrivals.

In an AFC divisional playoff game, the Ravens avenged their regular-season loss to the Texans, 19-9. Then, for the first time in franchise history, the Ravens hosted the AFC Championship Game, but it ended in heartbreaking fashion.

"We got a Lamar Jackson-Patrick Mahomes playoff showdown, and it didn't disappoint. But Jackson will need to wait another year to reach the Super Bowl, as Andy Reid is piecing together quite a run in Kansas City early in Mahomes' career," Walder wrote.

"The Ravens held Patrick Mahomes' offense to 10 points in three and a half quarters. But a late drive leads to a Mecole Hardman game-winning touchdown."

Didn't like how the season played out for the Ravens? Don't worry. This simulation was just one of 20,000 scenarios run by ESPN's projection system.

By the way, in ESPN's featured simulation season last year, the Ravens went 9-7 and finished third in the AFC North. They didn't make the playoffs, nor did the 9-7 Chiefs. The AFC representative in the Super Bowl? The Los Angeles Chargers, who in real life went 5-11.

Peter Schrager: Everyone in AFC, Including Ravens, Is Battling to Be No. 2 to the Chiefs

It's not like the Ravens need any additional motivation in their quest for a Super Bowl this season, but if they did, all they had to do was watch the "Good Morning Football" crew gush over the Chiefs and proclaim that everyone else in the AFC — including the Ravens — is battling to be No. 2 in the conference.

"I think it's the Chiefs in a runaway," Peter Schrager said. "If you want to say who are they playing in the AFC Championship Game, that's a fine conversation … but the Chiefs have that great a gap between them and the rest of the AFC —including the Ravens, a team that dominated the conference all season long."

Nate Burleson concurred.

"I can't convince myself right now that there's a team in the AFC that can keep up with the Chiefs," Burleson said. "Until somebody proves otherwise, it's the Chiefs."

Burleson added that he thinks the Ravens pose the biggest threat to the Chiefs, but Schrager gave the nod to the Titans, in part because of the addition of Clowney.

"I just picture in January football Derrick Henry getting the ball in cold weather once again and just dominating the playoffs if they get there," Schrager said. "... I think Tennessee really made a statement saying, 'We're bringing back [Ryan] Tannehill, we're bringing back Henry, and now we're even going to add to the pot with Clowney.

"I think everyone knows that I'm a fan of Lamar Jackson. I think the Ravens are going to have a fantastic season, but when the matchup came [against Tennessee], that was a terrible matchup for the Ravens."

Not every pundit is ready to hand the title to Kansas City, however. ESPN's Jamison Hensley predicted the Ravens to win the Super Bowl.

"Last year, Jackson quieted the critics who said he couldn't become a legitimate NFL quarterback. This time, he silences those who don't believe he can win when it matters the most," Hensley wrote.

Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown Tabbed As a Player to Watch in Week 1

Marquise "Hollywood" Brown's first two NFL receptions went for 47- and 83-yard touchdowns in the Ravens' season-opening rout of the Miami Dolphins last year. It was an eye-opening debut to say the least, and with the second-year wide receiver expected to have a breakout season, he'll be one of the main players to watch when the Ravens host the Browns in Sunday's Week 1 contest against Cleveland, Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey wrote.

"There was talk about Baltimore adding another wide receiver this offseason, but there weren't any prominent free-agent signings or draft selections that give any indication Brown isn't the clear-cut No. 1 option at the position heading into 2020," Linsey wrote. "Now healthy after battling some injuries as a rookie, there's no reason to believe Brown can't thrive in that role.

"Looking at all wide receivers with 50 or more targets in 2019, Brown's 134.4 passer rating when targeted led the way — he was a big play waiting to happen in the league's most efficient offense. He'll likely see a lot of [Pro Bowl cornerback] Denzel Ward in this matchup, which should be a good battle."

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