A Potential Reunion With Justin Houston and Other Trade Deadline Buzz
With Tuesday's trade deadline approaching, speculation continues to swirl about players who could be on the move and where they might end up.
Regarding the Ravens, one of the prevailing opinions is that they could be looking to trade for a pass rusher. To that end, NFL.com’s Kevin Patra said a return to Baltimore for Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Justin Houston would make sense.
"Surely, Ravens fans wanted to see a big name like Brian Burns or Chase Young connected to their club. In the absence of that, can I interest you in a familiar, trusted veteran?" Patra wrote. "Houston inked a one-year deal with Carolina this offseason, but with the Panthers sitting at 0-6, it is tough to imagine the 34-year-old wouldn't be excited to join a contender. Heading back to Baltimore would give Houston another shot to chase a ring. The veteran was superb with the Ravens last year, generating 9.5 sacks and a 16.5 pressure percentage, per Next Gen Stats. Adding the veteran to a defense in need of rush help off the edge would also come cheaper than other options."
Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings would be more expensive, but might be worth it, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.
"The Ravens lead the league in sacks, and edge rushers Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Van Noy and Odafe Oweh are playing well. David Ojabo is due back soon. Why pay what would be a significant price for another pass rusher?" Zrebiec wrote. "Well, imagine how dangerous the defense would be with another guy who demands attention and gets to the quarterback.
"Hunter, who is in a contract year, leads the league with nine sacks and would give the Ravens their own version of Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt or Trey Hendrickson. The Vikings improved to 3-4 by beating the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night and have a soft schedule for the next month and a half. They may not be sellers, but [General Manager Eric] DeCosta should at least pick up the phone and find out."
The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer said Carl Lawson of the New York Jets also could be an option.
"With the Jets' considerable depth at defensive end, the 28-year-old has played in just four games this season, averaging only 18.3 defensive snaps per appearance," Shaffer wrote. "Lawson has yet to record a sack, a quarterback hit or a tackle for loss. But the Ravens know what he's capable of. Lawson had 20 sacks over four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before signing a three-year, $45 million deal with the Jets in 2021. He had seven sacks last season, and his 49 quarterback pressures were 28th most among edge rushers, according to PFF. If Lawson wants to bolster his stock before he hits free agency next offseason, leaving the Jets' crowded depth chart could be smart business. His small 2023 base salary ($1.1 million) wouldn't be a deterrent, either."
Running back is another position the Ravens might look to bolster with a trade. Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger proposed a trade that would have Baltimore acquiring Dalvin Cook from the Jets for a 2025 sixth-round pick. Cook, a four-time Pro Bowler with the Vikings from 2019-2022, signed a one-year deal with the Jets this offseason that reportedly is worth up to $8.6 million.
"The Ravens just activated undrafted rookie running back Keaton Mitchell and have gotten decent production from their veteran committee, but they may view a three-down back with the ability to break off the occasional explosive play as a helpful addition to jumpstart this offense," Spielberger wrote. "The Jets and/or Cook may need to revise this contract a bit to lower the amount that travels to Baltimore, but he is believed to be available. His role has already begun to diminish with his new team following Breece Hall's return.
"Baltimore's running backs rank 20th in rushing grade and tied for 21st in missed tackles forced, with the longest rush of the season a 22-yarder. Cook is in the midst of the worst season of his illustrious career by a wide margin, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry on 39 attempts with a long on the season of just 10 yards. However, Cook's 112 explosive rushes from 2020 to 2022 were good for the second most in the NFL, and he forced 0.2 missed tackles per attempt over the span — a top-20 mark among running backs."
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos also has been linked to the Ravens.
"The Ravens don't necessarily need a receiver. They're having a hard enough time utilizing all of the pass catchers they already have," Zrebiec wrote. "However, they could use another big and physical red zone threat, and Sutton, who is 6 foot 4 and 216 pounds, fits that mold. He already has five touchdown receptions this year. The Ravens were in talks to acquire him during the offseason, and the Broncos balked. Has a 2-5 start and a roster clearly in need of more talent changed their minds? Sutton has a big salary-cap number for the next two years, and that could be a deterrent."
Do Ravens Even Need to Make a Bold Move at the Deadline?
DeCosta has made significant deadline deals in three of his four years as GM, and there's no doubt he will pull the trigger again if the right opportunity is there.
However, Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed said the Ravens don't necessarily need to make a bold move at this year's deadline.
"The Ravens have everything they need to make their deepest playoff run in over a decade and legitimately contend for a Super Bowl this year," Reed wrote. "They have a nice blend of young talent, hungry established players that have yet to reach the mountain top, and experienced veterans on both sides of the ball who know what it takes to go all the way. This blend of various ingredients has the makings of a recipe for success now that they are starting to play their best football."
Why Lamar Jackson Is PFF's Top-Rated QB
Lamar Jackson doesn't have gaudy stats, but a number of pundits are saying the Ravens quarterback is playing even better this season than he did in 2019 when he was the second unanimous MVP in league history.
PFF's grading system validates the notion that this version of Jackson is the best version we have seen thus far, as he is PFF's top-graded quarterback through seven weeks at 90.8.
Shaffer spoke with PFF's Gordon McGuinness about why Jackson grades out at No. 1.
"Quarterbacks are rewarded for making accurate throws and sound decisions. They're punished for missing opportunities and creating trouble," Shaffer wrote. "Jackson has graded out so well this season, McGuinness said, in large part because of his strong play-to-play process. Even when Jackson's results have lagged, it's often been because of shortcomings elsewhere on the Ravens' offense. McGuiness pointed to the Ravens' 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5. It was Jackson's highest-graded game this season, according to PFF, and also, statistically, his worst. He finished 22-for-38 (57.9%) — his only game with a completion rate below 70% this season — and had two turnovers.
"But Ravens receivers dropped seven passes, according to PFF, two of which would've been caught in the end zone, another of which could've been raced in for another score. Even Jackson's giveaways weren't marked as grievous mistakes. McGuinness said wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had an opportunity to contest the end-zone pass that Jackson threw for an interception. Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, meanwhile, needed less than three seconds for his blind-side strip-sack."
McGuinness also noted that Jackson is making more "big-time throws" this season than he did in 2019.
"Over 16 games in 2019, PFF said Jackson had 20 big-time throws, which McGuinness said have a high value and high degree of difficulty, typically aimed downfield or into a tight window," Shaffer wrote. "In seven games this season, Jackson has 14 big-time throws. His big-time-throw rate is 6.5%, fourth in the NFL among regular starters and by far a career high. Jackson also doesn't have what PFF considers a 'turnover-worthy play' on his 68 passes of at least 10 air yards this season, according to McGuinness. He had nine such throws in his MVP season."
Ravens Select Michigan Defensive Lineman in ESPN's Mock Draft
ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid released his midseason mock draft and has the Ravens selecting Michigan defensive lineman Kris Jenkins at No. 28.
"Baltimore has a bunch of upcoming free agents on defense, including Justin Madubuike and Michael Pierce along the defensive line. And the Ravens love to draft players in the trenches in the early rounds," Reid wrote. "At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, Jenkins is an ideal fit in their defense, as he has the versatility to line up at either defensive end spot. He's a stout run defender and can penetrate into the backfield to disrupt plays. Jenkins is still improving his pass-rush plan, but his explosiveness and active hands give him room to grow."
If the Ravens do select Jenkins, it would mark the fourth time in five years they drafted a Michigan player.
Reid listed defensive line, running back, and cornerback as the Ravens' top three needs in the 2024 draft.