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Mailbag: Will the Ravens Trade for Julio Jones?

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones

Downing: I'm guessing this is a question in nearly every other team's Mailbag this week. This is one of the biggest stories in the NFL right now, and of course any team would love to have a future Hall of Famer like Julio Jones on their roster. But things are never that simple. Jones has three years remaining on his contract and carries a salary cap hit north of $20 million this year. The Ravens don't have to the cap space to make that work, unless they were to do some serious restructuring or moving of players.

Plus, did you forget that the Ravens just used a first-round pick on Rashod Bateman last month? There were rumors leading up to the draft that Jones was available, so if the Ravens wanted to go in that direction, they could have done that before drafting Bateman. Maybe the price has gone down for Jones since the Falcons haven't received the reported first-round pick they're looking for, but I can't imagine the price has dropped too much. The Ravens don't like to part ways with high draft picks, and it would be particularly surprising at a position where they just invested a first-round pick. If the Ravens added Jones to this roster, what would that mean for Bateman or Hollywood Brown? Sure, neither has a resume like Jones, but they also come at a fraction of a price. This is one of those scenarios that is fun to talk about, but I think there are too many barriers to make this happen.

Mink: The battle for left guard matters more than starting wide receiver, but I don't think it will be as tightly contested. In my eyes, it's rookie Ben Cleveland's job to lose. If he's ready, that moves Bradley Bozeman to center. Ideally, the Ravens would probably love to give Cleveland most of the first-team practice reps at left guard and Bozeman the reps at center to get both up to speed in their "new" spots as quickly as possible. But if Cleveland isn't ready, that probably means Bozeman would stay at left guard and Patrick Mekari or Trystan Colon would start at center. Ben Powers and Ben Bredeson will also likely be in the mix at left guard. Thus, a lot hinges on Cleveland's progress.

I think the competition at wide receiver overall is one of the most fascinating because there's an odd man out if the Ravens only keep six. I'm interested in who the starter will be between Sammy Watkins and Bateman, but in the end, it probably doesn't matter all that much. Unlike at guard, where the starter takes 100% of the game reps, the wide receivers will rotate and all get a slice of the pie. To me, it's just a matter of how big a slice Bateman gets versus Watkins. Remember, Bateman also played in the slot quite a bit last year at Minnesota, so that flexibility would allow he, Watkins and Hollywood to be on the field at the same time.

Sidenote: Two other under-the-radar interesting competitions this summer will be for the third tight end spot and at backup quarterback.

Mink: I haven't spoken to Jaylon yet this offseason, but Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said last week that, "He's in great shape. His mind's in the right place. He's working on the right things that's going to help us win." I'm sure Ferguson feels the heat after the Ravens drafted a pair of young pass rushers. I don't think his roster spot is in jeopardy considering Baltimore also lost three veterans in Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward, but Ferguson surely knows that his third season will be sort of a make-or-break year.

There have been plenty of late-blooming edge rushers in Baltimore's history. Za'Darius Smith only had one sack in 13 games in his second season, for example. Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee and Paul Kruger jump to mind as well. All three got lucrative second contracts, including Bowser just this offseason after he was at a similar crossroads a couple years ago.

But others young edge talents, such as Tim Williams, Kamalei Correa and Bronson Kaufusi, didn't develop fast enough and found themselves somewhere else. Ferguson needs to make sure he's in the prior category with a strong summer and 2021 campaign. He doesn't have to be a breakout sack guy, but he has to play his role well.

Downing: Let me start this answer by making two important points: It's very early, and Shaun Wade was a fifth-round pick. Expecting him to replace Tavon Young as the nickel cornerback is premature at this point. He's a strong insurance policy at the position, and it's well documented that he played at a very high level as a slot cornerback when he was healthy in 2019. Wade is a talented player with ideal size – he's 6-foot-1, 191 pounds – and he comes from a premier program at Ohio State. He's a smooth athlete and that was evident throughout rookie minicamp practices. Eventually, he could find himself playing important reps as a nickel corner in the NFL. How soon until that happens, however, is tough to predict. It depends on how quickly Wade adjusts to the NFL game, and probably more important, how quickly Young gets back to full strength and whether he can stay that way.

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