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Late for Work: Ravens 'Deserve Benefit of the Doubt' for Standing Pat at Trade Deadline

GM Eric DeCosta
GM Eric DeCosta

Ravens 'Deserve Benefit of the Doubt' for Standing Pat at Trade Deadline

After weeks of speculation about which players the Ravens might target via trade, the deadline passed yesterday without General Manager Eric DeCosta making a move.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said that standing pat looks like a sound decision.

"The most pertinent questions surrounding the Ravens heading into Tuesday's trade deadline were: How good do General Manager Eric DeCosta and the organization's decision-makers think they are, and how far were they willing to go to make the team better?" Zrebiec wrote. "When the 4 p.m. ET trade deadline came and went without Baltimore making a move, the answers seemed clear. DeCosta already thinks the Ravens are good enough to make a Super Bowl run, and there was no deal available enticing enough for the team to trade valuable draft capital and potentially complicate its already tight salary-cap situation going forward.

"Now, there's certainly a conversation to be had about whether the Ravens should have acted more desperately and decisively and worried more about the future … in the future. Weighing short- and long-term organizational concerns is always a delicate balance and fair game for scrutiny. The Ravens traditionally take a longer view. But without knowing the specifics of what indeed was available on a tepid trade market and what the cost was, DeCosta and the Ravens deserve the benefit of the doubt. It's not like they have hesitated to make a notable move before."

There was a lot of chatter heading into the deadline that the Ravens were looking to acquire an established running back such as the Titans' Derrick Henry, Giants' Saquon Bakley, or Raiders' Josh Jacobs, but none of them ended up being traded.

CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson said the Ravens coming away empty-handed "definitely wasn't for a lack of trying."

"The first thing was trying to get a running back, and obviously Derrick Henry was the big fish on the market. The sentiment out there with Derrick Henry was that the price was just too steep," Anderson said on CBS Sports HQ. "New [Titans] General Manager Ran Carthon just not dropping that price and ultimately they did not get Derrick Henry, though still were looking at other options. The sentiment I was getting from Baltimore was that it couldn't just be a mediocre running back, it had to be somebody that was going to be a difference-maker."

Zrebiec wrote: "Lining up a dynamic, game-breaking back behind quarterback Lamar Jackson had to be intriguing for Ravens officials. And, by all accounts, they had significant interest in Henry. But offering a first- or second-round pick for a rental running back, when you already rank third in the league in rushing yards per game and you're tied for second in rushing touchdowns, is certainly not an obvious decision. Barkley was said to be off limits anyway, and there was little evidence that the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders were keen on trading Henry and Jacobs, either. And they would have had to be especially motivated to trade one of them to the Ravens, because it would have meant eating salary given Baltimore's cap situation."

Zrebiec noted that none of the trades completed yesterday begged the question, "Where were the Ravens on that one?"

"Edge rusher Montez Sweat, who was traded by the Washington Commanders to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick, is a very good player and would help any team, but Baltimore would have had to trade its first-round pick to beat Chicago's offer, and that would have made little sense for a two-month rental," Zrebiec wrote. "A case could certainly have been made for the Ravens to make a similar offer as the San Francisco 49ers of a third-round pick to Washington for edge rusher Chase Young. However, do we know whether Washington would have let him go down the road to Baltimore unless it had, far and away, the best offer on the table?"

The Baltimore Banner's Kyle Goon said that the Ravens' decision to stand pat will be scrutinized, but he credited DeCosta for showing restraint.

"It takes discipline to do nothing," Goon wrote. "Being active at a trade deadline always feels like the team is taking destiny into its own hands, and thus feels better than inaction in the moment. The Ravens know the downside of following that instinct, after a 2020 bust of a trade for Yannick Ngakoue cost them draft equity."

Why the Ravens Can Win the AFC and Why They Might Not

The Ravens are in the thick of the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC along with the Chiefs, Dolphins, and Jaguars. They're all 6-2, marking the first time in 12 years that four teams are tied for the best record in the AFC through Week 8 or later, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

ESPN looked at each team's prospects for finishing at the top of the conference. Here's Jamison Hensley’s analysis of the Ravens:

Why the Ravens have a legitimate shot at the top seed: "The Ravens have proved they can soundly beat anyone when they're at their best. Case in point: a 38-6 rout of the Detroit Lions two weeks ago. Lamar Jackson has shown flashes of his 2019 NFL MVP form with his efficient passing and elusive scrambling. He has completed a career-best 70.5% of his throws and has produced 16 runs of 10 yards or more, which is tied for most in the league. The strength of this team has been the defense, which has proved to be championship-caliber since the acquisition of Pro Bowl middle linebacker Roquan Smith a year ago. Baltimore leads the league in fewest points allowed at 15.1 per game, as well as sacks with 31. The Ravens have a big advantage in the schedule with only three road games remaining. Jackson is 15-2 (.882) when playing at home in November, December and January."

Why they're vulnerable: "The obvious reason is Jackson's track record in terms of health. He has not finished the past two seasons, and the Ravens are 2-7 without him in December and January. Last season, Baltimore's offense sputtered in Jackson's absence, averaging 13 points. The other concern is the consistency of the offense in the first season under new coordinator Todd Monken. The Ravens rank 29th in the NFL in total yards in the second half (134.9) and have scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter (only three teams have fewer). Baltimore lacks an explosive running back since the season-ending Achilles injury to J.K. Dobbins, and it doesn't have a legitimate No. 3 option in the passing game after wide receiver Zay Flowers and tight end Mark Andrews. This is why the Ravens need Jackson at full strength if they want to earn the second No. 1 seed in franchise history."

Ravens Remain No. 1 in 'Herd Hierarchy'

For the second week in a row, the Ravens are No. 1 in the "Herd Hierarchy," Fox Sports host Colin Cowherd's weekly top 10 rankings.

"Baltimore is the most complete team," Cowherd said. "Receivers, power, run, defense, sacks, coaching, everything works. They're just more explosive now than Kansas City's offense, with as good a defense. … They are a pleasure to watch."

The biggest move in Herd's rankings this week were the Bengals, who jumped from No. 8 to No. 3.

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