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Mailbag: What Are the Chances of Getting Derrick Henry?

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) is tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell (32) during their NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) is tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell (32) during their NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.

Mink: Well, Vegas says the Ravens have the best odds. I'm not going to put a number on it, but it does seem like a legitimate possibility that Baltimore adds a prominent free agent running back – whether that be Derrick Henry or someone else.

The fit makes sense. The Ravens want to boost their rushing attack this offseason. Keaton Mitchell showed great promise, but he'll need time coming back from his major knee injury. This year's draft class is stronger in the middle than the top. Meanwhile, the running back market is flooded with premier veteran options. ESPN's Adam Schefter described it as "one of the finest and deepest RB classes in the history of free agency."

A major storyline last summer was the tumbling "value" of running backs. With so many talented backs available, prices may tumble even further. In simple economic terms, the supply exceeds the demand. That's good news for the Ravens, who want an upgrade but don't have much salary-cap space to spend much on it.

It seems most of the league now subscribes to drafting running backs instead of paying them. There's merit to that (Mitchell was an undrafted rookie, after all). But Baltimore seems uniquely positioned as a team that has the pieces in place and need for an instant injection of firepower at running back to take the offense to another level. Prices for Henry or others would have to fall within Baltimore's budget, but if that happens (and I think there's a real possibility some of these big names sit unsigned for a while, making prices drop further), I think the Ravens could ultimately determine there's real value and pounce. I don't expect running backs to fly off the market and Baltimore has always been a team that's willing to be patient.

Mink: These kinds of massive deals take time. I do think Eric DeCosta's statement that the Ravens will probably use the franchise tag on Justin Madubuike if he doesn't re-sign before the deadline could speed things up. Madubuike and his agent know the options are to get a deal done with the Ravens this summer or play on the $22.1 million tag and wait another year for the giant payday. The tag is Baltimore's leverage in these negotiations.

Madubuike probably wants to cash in now on his monster season (a payday he has earned) and the Ravens want to keep him on a long-term contract, which would give them more short-term roster flexibility. When both sides want the same thing, a deal typically gets done. The franchise tag deadline is next Tuesday, March 5. After that, they would still have until July 15 to hammer out an extension before Madubuike would be locked in on the one-year tag. Sometimes these deals go down to the wire.

Mink: Lamar Jackson would be the top candidate. According to Russell Street Report’s Brian McFarland, the Ravens could create $11.1 million in salary-cap space with a "simple" restructure of his contract. This is how it works with these massive quarterback contracts these days. They keep getting tweaked to allow for more moves to be made, and ultimately likely ripped up and re-done with a new extension.

Other candidates that would offer smaller cap relief and seem to make sense include Roquan Smith and Mark Andrews, but the Ravens probably want to avoid doing these restructurings as much as possible because they can cause salary-cap headaches down the road. You want to do them with players you absolutely expect to have around long-term. Jackson certainly falls into that category and offers the most relief.

Mink: Yes, the Ravens will absolutely work on their cornerback corps this offseason and I expect it will be via a mixture of free agency and the draft. Baltimore could bring back one or more of its own pending free agents. Ronald Darby would seem to be a good candidate after he had a strong season.

Mostly, however, I think Baltimore will add another cornerback via the draft with a Day 1 or Day 2 pick. The Ravens are in good position for 2024, but they need to keep adding potential starters into the pipeline.

Mink: Yes, I do think the Ravens plan to make Rashod Bateman WR2 next season. He's ready after staying healthy last season, and the talent has always been there. Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear that Bateman will get the ball thrown his way a lot more in 2024.

The key, as you're alluding to, is to make those targets count. That comes down to offseason reps between Jackson and Bateman. Last summer, Bateman was hobbled coming back from his foot injury. A full, healthy offseason together this year would go a long way in boosting their connection.

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