Mailbag: Will Ravens Use a Third Tight End?

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FB/DL Patrick Ricard

Mink: Considering how much the Ravens used three tight ends last year, it's quite a deviation that Baltimore kept just two on the 53-man roster this season. However, it shouldn't be all that surprising. You play to your strengths. After trading Hayden Hurst this offseason, Baltimore isn't as loaded at tight end but is stronger at wide receiver.

The Ravens have a pair of exciting rookie wide receivers in Devin Duvernay and James Proche II, not to mention second-year wideouts Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Miles Boykin. It would not be surprising if those wide receivers gobble up the targets Hurst got last year. Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins could also see some of those targets and Mark Andrews/Nick Boyle may get more. Fullback Patrick Ricard could help as a third tight end blocker and see some more pass targets than last year, but don't expect him to become some kind of major receiving weapon.

So, to your question, I don't think the Ravens need to bring a third tight end up to the 53-man roster. They do have the option of doing so with Jerell Adams and Eli Wolf on the practice squad if they need to or there's an injury.

Downing: We've seen questions about adding various safeties since the Ravens parted ways with Earl Thomas III last month, but the Ravens have consistently said that they have confidence in third-year safety DeShon Elliott. He had a strong training camp and seamlessly moved into the starting lineup, and he looks prepared to make the most of this opportunity. Clinton-Dix is an intriguing player considering his experience and the fact that he's a former first-round pick, but the Ravens seem committed to entering the season with Elliott and Chuck Clark as the starters on the back end of their defense. They also have some veteran depth with versatile defensive backs Anthony Levine Sr. and Jimmy Smith, as well as rookie Geno Stone. Adding Clinton-Dix at this point would be a surprise, but if the Ravens were to have an injury at the position, that could change the calculation.

Mink: This is a great question. For those who don't understand the context, it has to do with the reported sign-and-trade that the Ravens tried to make for Jadeveon Clowney. The NFL reportedly said that teams could not have another team with more cap space sign a player, then trade him to a more cash-strapped team (while eating some of the salary) in exchange for draft pick(s).

The short answer is I don't know why the NFL wasn't willing to embrace this. To me, the NFL should let the market dictate itself. It's not like it would create a competitive disadvantage for anyone. It's just both teams determining what best helps their club, based on short- and long-term strategies. If the report is true, it's another example of how General Manager Eric DeCosta is ahead of the game, and it's a shame the NFL wasn't willing to keep up.

Downing: It's always tough to predict things like the "unsung hero" or the "sleeper" or the "X-factor." If my prediction is correct, does that the mean player truly is "unsung?" Anyway, I'll play along and give you a name. Let's go with the veteran outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. The 10-year veteran re-signed with the Ravens this offseason with the hopes of getting his second Super Bowl ring, and he's a valuable piece of this defense. McPhee isn't someone expected to put up huge numbers, but he brings great value to the defense in so many ways. He's great at setting the edge against the run, which will be critical in this week's matchup against a Browns offense featuring talented running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. This game will be a test for Baltimore's run defense, and while much of the media attention will be on newcomers Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and Patrick Queen, don't overlook the contributions from McPhee.

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