Pro Football Focus Says Upgrading at Wide Receiver Should Again Be Offseason Priority for Ravens
The Ravens revamped their wide receivers room this offseason, but Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger believes there is more work to be done at the position before the start of next season.
Spielberger identified an area in which each team could stand to improve going forward, and he listed wide receiver for the Ravens.
"The Ravens look to have landed an emerging young star in Zay Flowers, but Odell Beckham Jr. is on a one-year deal and has dealt with injuries throughout the season, and Rashod Bateman has either been hurt or dropping touchdown passes so far this season," Spielberger wrote. "This offense needs a physical, big-bodied receiver that Lamar Jackson can target downfield."
Spielberger named one college prospect and one pending free agent who would be a good fit from a financial and schematic perspective:
Prospect: Malik Nabers, LSU
"Malik Nabers has taken the third-year leap and established himself as one of the top wide receivers in a class chock-full of talent. Nabers has a 91.2 receiving grade, is averaging 3.6 yards per route run, and leads the nation in deep receiving yards (362)."
Free agent: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay
"Would the Ravens be willing to make a splash near the top of the market for a 30-year-old wide receiver? They just did for Odell Beckham Jr. coming off a prolonged injury rehab, and he's continued to battle different ailments throughout 2023 already. If Evans leaves Tampa Bay, perhaps he takes a page out of his friend Tom Brady's book and prioritizes another Lombardi Trophy over maxing out his earnings in the late stages of his career. Evans … is on pace for the 10th straight 1,000-yard season of his career."
Re-Grading the Roquan Smith Trade One Year Later
What grade would you give the Ravens for the acquisition of inside linebacker Roquan Smith at last year's trade deadline?
The deal, which saw the Ravens send linebacker A.J. Klein, a 2023 second-round pick, and 2023 fifth-round pick to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Smith,[space]would have to be an A for the Ravens, perhaps even an A-plus, right? After all, Smith made an immediate impact on the defense, which has been one of the best in the league since his arrival.
With the 2023 trade deadline just a few weeks away, Seth Walder of ESPN Analytics revisited last year's deadline deals and updated his grades for them. His original grade for the Ravens for the Smith trade was a B.
Surprisingly, the Ravens' new grade wasn't an A, but rather a B-plus.
"This new grade might raise eyebrows, because Smith has been exceptional for the Ravens since they acquired him," Walder wrote. "He was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro in 2022, he ranks second in run stop win rate among linebackers since being acquired by Baltimore and he is tied for first in Pro Football Focus grade among linebackers in 2023. All of that is why this grade has gone up. But let's not pretend like this wasn't an incredibly expensive maneuver for an off-ball linebacker, because a critical factor in evaluating the results of this trade is that the Ravens ended up signing Smith to a five-year, $100 million contract that includes $45 million fully guaranteed.
"At the time of this trade, I figured the Ravens might rent Smith for 2022 before letting him walk in free agency for a third-round compensatory selection. By signing Smith, it became the equivalent of dealing a borderline first- or second-round pick for the right to pay Smith. That's usually a bad bet, but it is one that can pay off if the player plays as well as Smith has. However, the surplus value is limited because the costs were so high."
Walder's point about surplus value is worthy of debate, but what isn't debatable is how much Smith has meant to the Ravens.
In addition to making a good defense even better overall, Smith's presence on the field specifically helped fellow inside linebacker Patrick Queen take his game to a higher level. It's also hard to put a price on Smith's leadership skills and work ethic.
After the Ravens made Smith the highest-paid player at his position last January, Chase Daniel, an analyst for The 33rd Team and a former quarterback who played with Smith in Chicago, said: "He's a difference-maker and worth every penny of that contract."
Ravens Urged to Trade for Dalvin Cook
Speaking of trades, ESPN's Bill Barnwell proposed deadline deals for a number of contenders, including the Ravens.
Barnwell's scenario has Baltimore acquiring four-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook and a 2025 fourth-round pick from the New York Jets in exchange for a 2025 fifth-round pick.
"The Ravens would be buying some additional draft capital and adding a veteran back as a flier to help plug another hole caused by injuries," Barnwell wrote. "J.K. Dobbins is out for the year (Achilles), while Justice Hill has been battling a turf toe injury. General Manager Eric DeCosta has turned to veterans Kenyan Drake and Melvin Gordon III with limited results, but Cook was a more productive back as recently as last season. Adding Cook into the mix would land Baltimore some upside and limited downside, given the guaranteed victory in terms of draft capital."
Coming off four consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, the 28-year-old Cook signed a one-year deal with the Jets in the offseason. In five games with the Jets, Cook has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry (36 carries for 97 yards).