Welcome to my new column. I first have to thank John Harbaugh. His "I could care less what Ryan Mink thinks" comment (with a grin) last week was the inspiration. So here goes nothing. Harbs won't care, but I'm hoping you will!
Dunkin', Coca-Cola, french fries, Pearl Jam, and extra draft picks. Those are things Eric DeCosta likes, and he'd probably take draft picks in the first round.
The Ravens have long been the NFL's king of compensatory picks. No team has been awarded more than Baltimore's 53 since the system was implemented in 1994 – two years before the Ravens even existed.
But this year is different. This year offers such a unique opportunity to stockpile extra selections that it makes saying goodbye to excellent young talent even more understandable, even if still painful. This year, it makes the Ravens' long-held strategy even stronger.
After getting just two compensatory picks for the 2021 NFL Draft, a number that probably left DeCosta feeling a bit shortchanged, the Ravens could get three extra high compensatory picks next year.
Baltimore will already get one third-round pick for the loss of David Culley to the Houston Texans, as part of the NFL's diversity hiring initiative. With Matthew Judon's reported departure to New England and Yannick Ngakoue's reported exit for Las Vegas, Baltimore is in line for at least two fourth-round comp picks and potentially a third and fourth.
In order to secure them, the Ravens can't negate the losses with other free-agent additions – that is, unless they were released by their previous team. For years, the Ravens have scoured the cap-casualty market looking for bargains. This year, that crop is richer because of the tightened salary-cap restraints.
That's why guard Kevin Zeitler hit the market. It's not because he's not a good player (he very much is), but because the New York Giants were in salary-cap purgatory. And there are more players like him.
If the Ravens can address their remaining needs by adding players who are cut, re-signing their own free agents, or inking bargains that won't offset the losses of Judon and Ngakoue, they will be richly rewarded. And with more free agents still out there, the Ravens have a chance to add more compensatory picks in later rounds too.
Of course, the Ravens would love to have kept Judon and Ngakoue, but after a dozen players went to the Pro Bowl in 2019, we all knew Baltimore wasn't going to be able to keep everybody. They re-signed Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Stanley to mega deals last year, and there's only room for so many of those contracts when Lamar Jackson is coming around the corner.
With Jackson approaching what will be a massive second contract, the Ravens will have to build a more inexpensive roster around him while maintaining a high level of talent. The best way to do that is with more draft picks.
So keep stacking up those comp picks, because the Ravens will need more Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown Jr. third-round gems. They'll need more fifth-round Judon steals. And every pick is another chance.
Three extra prime draft picks next year? You can bet DeCosta's mouth is watering thinking about that possibility as he dunks his donut this morning.