Mink: After tons of time spent talking (including in Mailbag) about the possibility of Jadeveon Clowney becoming a Raven, it reportedly almost happened.
The Ravens were reportedly exploring the possibility of the Jacksonville Jaguars signing Clowney last offseason, then immediately trading him to the Ravens. The Jaguars would have absorbed some of Clowney's cost but received draft pick (or player) compensation in return. However, the NFL reportedly put a stop to it. Clowney also reportedly preferred coming to Baltimore instead of Tennessee.
However, after a tough 2020 season for Clowney, it remains to be seen whether there's mutual interest anymore. Clowney played in just eight games for the Titans before undergoing knee surgery. He didn't get a single sack and had just six quarterback hits and 19 tackles.
Clowney was the No. 1-overall pick in 2014. He is a special talent and freakish athlete who plays with physicality. However, injuries have been a problem over the past two seasons, leaving question marks about his durability. That's why, according to Spotrac, his current market value is a one-year, $6.5 million deal.
That seems to be a worthwhile gamble, or it might turn out not to be. There are many quality pass rushers in free agency and a rich crop of prospects, so the Ravens aren't lacking for options.
Downing: The 2020 draft class had a strong rookie season. Several of the rookies stepped into significant roles – Patrick Queen, J.K. Dobbins, Tyre Phillips, Devin Duvernay – and they played well. Sure, they had some rookie hiccups along the way, but the talent in this class in clear. As a whole, this group had an incredibly challenging assignment of stepping into the NFL without offseason practices or a preseason. The fact that so many were able to play right away is a testament to the quality of the class. The status of offseason practices is up in the air, but this group should at least have a more normal training camp and preseason. Plus, they have the knowledge and experience from their rookie season to take their game up a level.
More specifically, Queen and Dobbins have both talked this offseason about the big goals they have for themselves. We caught up with them for episodes of The Lounge podcast (subtle plug, here are the links for Queen and Dobbins) and they're already hard at work getting ready for their sophomore seasons. Queen pointed specifically to film study as an area of focus.
Mink: First of all, you'd better knock on wood, Dan. I'm really hoping Tavon can stay healthy this year, not just so the Ravens finally have the premier slot cornerback they signed to a rich extension a couple years ago, but for Tavon's sake. Three season-ending injuries in four years is brutal. With that said, I do think the Ravens need to consider drafting a backup. While Marlon Humphrey has played well when called into slot cornerback duty, it's time for him to work where he works best – outside. The Ravens need more depth at nickel, and could use a potential future starter to groom.
Downing: I really think that depends on who they add in free agency. For example, if the Ravens found a way to sign wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who will come at a steep price on a long-term deal, then I wouldn't expect them to draft a receiver in the first two rounds. They have other needs to address, particularly if they lose pass rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue.
But if the Ravens sign a free-agent receiver at a much lower cost, potentially on a short-term deal, then I wouldn't rule out an early receiver in the draft. The Ravens may lose veteran Willie Snead IV in free agency. Devin Duvernay and James Proche flashed some talent, but they're still unproven. The Ravens could benefit from adding multiple new receivers to this group, and they'll likely look at both free agency and the draft.
Mink: I thought John Harbaugh's explanation of the roles of Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin and Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams was interesting. Martin will have a more traditional role, whereas Williams will focus on route-running across all weapons in the Ravens offense. Neither of those job descriptions includes making over Baltimore's passing scheme. The Ravens' scheme and routes will go under the microscope this offseason, but I don't expect the offense to dramatically change with the addition of a couple of new assistant coaches and some fresh ideas. Rather, Williams seems to be brought in to coach the mechanics of better execution.
I asked John Harbaugh about Devin Duvernay and James Proche II, and he said he expects both to "make a big jump." To do that, they'll need more reps. With some turnover coming to Baltimore's wide receiver unit, I bet they get their shot in 2021 (if they earn it this offseason).
Downing: I'll start this answer with two caveats: 1. The Ravens and NFL have made no official announcement on the seating capacity for the upcoming season. 2. As we know, a lot can change in six months. Now with that out of the way, it sure looks like things are trending in the right direction to have fans back at M&T Bank Stadium this fall, potentially even at full capacity. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan just eased restrictions on outdoor sporting venues to 50% capacity, and the vaccine rollout should have all adults vaccinated well before the start of the football season.
Harbaugh made it clear during this week's press conference that he expects to have fans back in the stands this season. "I'll go on record saying that it's absolutely going to happen," Harbaugh said. "I mean, come on. That's a no-brainer to me."