Ravens' Strategy Once Again Ahead of the Curve
Since the Ravens' inception, the organization has developed new concepts to gain an advantage on their longer-existing counterparts.
In the early years, according to General Manager Eric DeCosta, the Ravens couldn't participate in free agency, so the team "became a very draft-centric team." They utilized the middle rounds of the draft and the compensatory draft formula to their advantage.
But in the NFL—rightfully deemed a "copycat league," the Ravens' concepts were adopted by others, and Baltimore needed to gain a step once again on the pack. Sports Illustrated's Connor Orr believes the Ravens have done so.
"While some of you might have missed it, the Ravens seem to be fleecing the NFL again," Orr wrote."
"As other teams caught on to their strategy, it looks as though the Ravens began searching for another roster building advantage: constructing a team around the best players at non-premium positions."
In the most recent draft, the Ravens selected "undervalued position" players. They drafted safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. In the fourth round, they picked tight ends Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely, and punter Jordan Stout. Orr sees the latest draft as a demonstration of the Ravens' new theory.
"Here's why this is a big deal: the Ravens are sitting out the NFL's absurd and cutthroat bidding war for non-quarterback premium players," Orr wrote. "The cornerback market is now $21 million per year after the Jaire Alexander deal. This offseason, the Ravens signed the best safety in free agency, Marcus Williams, for $14 million. They drafted Hamilton, believed to be one of the best coverage players in the draft, with the No. 14 overall pick. Hamilton dropped, principally, because he played safety and the position is viewed as unworthy of a top draft selection. In October, he was being discussed as a top-three pick before the senseless truisms of the old football guard took hold."
When it comes to pass-catchers, Orr believes the Ravens have solved the absurd wide receiver market by simply spending capital elsewhere.
"So, Baltimore said (and has been saying): give me all the tight ends. What is the point of destroying your salary cap if Lamar Jackson is better at throwing to tight ends anyway, and the way you move the ball is more conducive to a tight end-centric passing game? Also, you guessed it, the top tight end salary in the NFL is half—half!—of the top wide receiver salary," Orr wrote. "And, as Baltimore seemed to recognize a few years ago, they can still contribute to a wildly efficient offense. Who cares who you are throwing the ball to as long as they're moving it forward…What, then, is the difference between a 10-yard catch from a receiver or a 10-yard catch from a third-string tight end?"
The utilization of tight ends, according to Orr and the metrics, have been successful in practice, too.
"Greg Roman, their offensive coordinator, has orchestrated a top-five offense in terms of rushing net yards per attempt every year since 2015," Orr wrote. "His teams may never have featured a receiver your friends coveted on their fantasy football team, but the Ravens have made the playoffs in three of the past four years and, would have made it last year had they not been blown up by a wave of injuries. Since 2018, they are the third-most efficient total offense in football, behind only the Chiefs and the Packers."
Bleacher Report Considers Four Ravens Trades
Every which way, media outlets are scheming scenarios that land the Ravens a wide receiver. The latest case comes by way of Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton, who believes the Ravens could be involved in two such trades.
Ravens get: WR Scotty Miller
Tampa Bay Buccaneers get: 2023 fifth-round pick
"Miller's lack of impact [last season] was shocking, considering the success he found with Tom Brady in their first year together," Wharton wrote. "The speedy 5'9", 174-pounder averaged 15.2 yards per catch and totaled 501 yards and three scores in 2020. He's stuck behind the deepest receiving corps in the league but would catch on in Baltimore with his ability to get open quickly."
Wharton also nominated the Ravens in a trade with the New York Giants for wide receiver Kenny Golladay.
Ravens receive: WR Kenny Golladay
Giants receive: TE Nick Boyle, 2023 sixth-round pick
"Finding a new home for Golladay is complicated by the fact that his new team would need to pay his $13 million base salary in 2022," Wharton wrote. "Baltimore would need to reshuffle some money to make this work, but it has a need for a playmaking receiver after dealing Marquise Brown during the NFL draft. Golladay would give Lamar Jackson a trustworthy, big-bodied threat who can win on deep jump balls better than anyone currently on the roster."
There are two other trades by Wharton which involve the Ravens. The less-likely trade of Marcus Peters to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round selection, and a an intriguing deal between the Ravens and Cowboys involving safety Chuck Clark.
Ravens receive: 2023 fourth-round pick
Cowboys receive: S Chuck Clark
"One of the cleanest potential trades exists between two conference contenders," Wharton wrote. "… Clark is set to receive a new contract after this season and would surely rather be in a situation where he can build value and cash in. Dallas has the perfect opening next to free safety Malik Hooker and versatile defender Jayron Kearse. The Cowboys saw both Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee depart in free agency, and Clark could help fill the box safety role they split in 2021."
Despite their surplus at safety, all indications from the Ravens have pointed toward keeping Clark and utilizing his skills in new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald's scheme.
Jeff Zrebiec Gives Post-Minicamp Stock Report
The true offseason for the NFL begins this week with all organized team activities concluded until training camp. But before the wait begins, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec gave his thoughts on whose stock is up and down heading into training camp in late July.
Mark Andrews, TE: "Andrews' stock with the Ravens probably couldn't be any higher after he had an All-Pro season last year and established himself as a top tight end. However, he's still worth a mention here just because of how he approached the various offseason practices at a time when it would have been plenty understandable if he stayed home or coasted through the workouts. Andrews was one of the most active, hardest-working players on the field. Whenever the Ravens started to struggle offensively during last week's minicamp, Jackson would find Andrews and the defense couldn't do anything about it."
Athletic training/strength and conditioning staffs: "After last year's injury-marred campaign, there will be so much attention on the collective health of the Ravens and their ability to avoid injuries. So far, so good. The Ravens had a good number of absences during the various offseason practices, but just about all of the health-related ones were from guys still rehabbing from serious injuries suffered during the 2021 season. When the most significant injury suffered during OTAs and mandatory minicamp was an ankle sprain, that qualifies as good news."
Jaylon Ferguson, OLB: "Ferguson looks like a completely different player than he did over his first three seasons. That's primarily because he dropped a bunch of weight and transformed his body. That's helped him play with a little more quickness and aggression. Before spraining his ankle last week, Ferguson was showing a lot of improvement. He's already a solid run defender. If he can bring more juice off the edge as a pass rusher, he'll get plenty of snaps in 2022."
Daniel Faalele, OT: "The next month will be key for Faalele to get in the best possible shape for training camp. The 6-foot-8 and 380-pound rookie struggled with the heat both in OTAs and at minicamp. He spent considerable time down on one or two knees and getting attention from the athletic training staff last week. Coach John Harbaugh defended the fourth-round pick and said Faalele is at a "good weight" and is learning how to play at an NFL level. Still, it was clear over the last month that Faalele has plenty of work to do."
Ravens Considered a Landing Spot for USFL Star
The USFL playoffs are underway and once the season concludes on July 3, USFL players are eligible to sign with NFL teams. According to Bleacher Report's Alex Ballentine, wide receiver Jonathan Adams should be on the Ravens' radar.
"The 6'2", 210-pound receiver has made the most of his second opportunity," Ballentine wrote. "Adams has been the most productive player on a Breakers squad that also features former NFL receiver Taywan Taylor and Ohio State product Johnnie Dixon. He has hauled in 30 receptions for 398 yards and three touchdowns in nine games."
Throughout the offseason, the Ravens have shown interest in trying out wide receivers similar to Adams' size. Of the six UDFA wide receivers they signed, five were 6-foot-2 or taller, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said, "that wasn't by chance."
It would make sense if they wanted to see if Adams could offer production in the NFL after a solid season in the USFL. However, Ravenswire's Kevin Oestreicher is skeptical.
"While Adams could be a high-upside addition, it feels as if at the moment the Ravens would be better off adding a veteran option at the position such as Julio Jones if they were to bring in an outside option," Oestreicher wrote.