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Late for Work 2/24: Two Vastly Different Takes on State of the Ravens

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Two Vastly Different Takes on State of the Ravens

The Ravens are perhaps the biggest enigma in the NFL at this point in the offseason.

In The Ringer’s offseason power rankings, which are based on the state of each team heading into the offseason, the Ravens are ranked No. 6. On the opposite end of the spectrum, USA Today listed the Ravens as one of six teams "in jeopardy of crippling setbacks during the 2023 offseason."

Given the uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson's contract situation, the vastly different opinions on the state of the Ravens aren't surprising.

"Though restored to the playoffs in 2022, they hardly seemed like legitimate contenders given the primary narratives surrounding this team were QB Lamar Jackson's latest (turned out) season-ending injury and his ongoing contractual impasse," USA Today's Nate Davis wrote. "Per OverTheCap, Baltimore has nearly $25 million in salary cap space – yet that wouldn't even cover the cost of a franchise tag (approximately $32 million) for Jackson, whose rookie contract is expiring, and most certainly not the roughly $45 million exclusive tag.

"And if talks with Jackson, who represents himself, remain stalled, it's possible the Ravens would be inclined to trade him ... which wouldn't be likely to improve their position no matter how many first-round picks came back to them in return. Also, no second-round pick after last year's trade for LB Roquan Smith. And it remains to be seen how the offense evolves, particularly as it pertains to Jackson's uncertainty, under new coordinator Todd Monken."

The Ringer's Austin Gayle expressed a much more optimistic view regarding the Ravens, the Jackson situation, and the hiring of Monken.

"The addition of Todd Monken as the Ravens' new offensive coordinator is huge for Lamar Jackson, whose contract status will be Baltimore's biggest offseason story," Gayle wrote. "Jackson has an athleticism and dynamism that can overshadow his ability as a dropback passer, and Monken, a significant upgrade over former OC Greg Roman, should help with developing downfield passing concepts independent of RPOs and play-action. He should help Jackson and the passing game take a major step forward."

What Those Who Know Monken Best Say About Him

The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote an in-depth profile piece on Monken by interviewing some of those who know the new Ravens offensive coordinator best. Here are some excerpts:

Oklahoma State Head Coach Mike Gundy, who worked with Monken from 2002 to 2004 and again in 2011 and 2012: "Todd is one of the top-five coordinators in football, college or pro. If you just start gathering experience, knowledge, production, work ethic, intelligence, all those things — I've never been in pro football, so maybe it's a little bit unfair for me to say, but he's top five in all of football in my opinion. … With Todd, he just has a really high level of intelligence. You can talk about sports, you can talk about politics, you can talk about horses, you can talk about offense, whatever it may be — some people are just smart."

North Carolina Offensive Coordinator Chip Lindsey, who served as Monken's offensive coordinator at Southern Miss in 2014 and 2015: "Guys that don't want to learn the game, they might struggle with him, but if you love what you're doing, you're going to love him. He can connect with the players. He's hard on them, he holds them accountable, he gets after them, but he's very fair."

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter, who hired Monken as the team's offensive coordinator and also worked with him on the Jacksonville Jaguars staff: "I just think 'Monk' has a really good ability to be demanding but yet be a guy who's fun to be around. He can get those guys laughing … and then the other thing is he does a really good job finding ways to help individual players improve on fundamentals they need to work on. What do players want? They want coaches who can help them reach their full potential. 'Monk's' good at that."

Former NFL quarterback Brandon Weeden, who played in Monken's offense at Oklahoma State: "I think the good ones don't come in and say, 'This is my system, we're going to run it hell or high water.' He came in and learned our system, then took the pieces that were in place and made us better. … He's not going to ask Lamar to do things that Lamar either doesn't like doing or doesn't feel like he can do. He's so good at making people comfortable. That could be a scary little duo, man. They're both really good at what they do."

Ravens Select Colts Wide Receiver in 2020 Redraft

The Athletic did a 20202 redraft, and this time the Ravens selected wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. at No. 28 instead of linebacker Patrick Queen.

"Queen looked much better playing alongside Roquan Smith in 2022 — more like the downhill force Baltimore thought it was drafting. This Ravens passing game needs ball-winners to help Lamar Jackson in the intermediate areas, though," The Athletic's Diante Lee wrote. "Pittman isn't the speed demon that Baltimore typically drools over, but his big frame makes him a viable option in the slot or on the perimeter against one-on-one coverage. This would take a great deal of pressure off of Mark Andrews and then-Raven Marquise Brown."

After catching 88 passes for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns in 2021, Pittman had 99 catches for 925 yards and four touchdowns this past season.

While Pittman undoubtedly would've been a welcome addition to the Ravens' wide receiver room, Queen has been a significant player on a defense that was in the top three in points allowed in two of his three seasons. Queen, who has started every game with the Ravens, has improved each season, and in 2022 he posted career-highs in tackles (117), passes defensed (six), interceptions (two), sacks (five), and quarterback hits (14).

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