Posted in Complicated made simple: X's and O's and scouting for all fans

2022 NFL Draft: 3 things Ravens fans should know for round 1

Chris Schisler

The 2022 NFL Draft is tonight! What are the things that you have to understand before you wait for the Ravens’ picks (and all the other selections?) Let’s get into this.

1. This isn’t your typical NFL Draft

Every NFL Draft is different, but this one could get absolutely bonkers. There’s no hype for the quarterbacks. The premium talent is a little harder to come by and the middle is packed tightly together. This draft honestly feels harder to predict than any year in recent memory. There’s serious steam for Travon Walker going number one overall, but Aidan Hutchinson had that spot locked down for months. Either way, we think we’re starting out with an edge rusher.

There are good wide receivers, but nobody can seem to agree on any of them. Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Treylon Burks, and even Jahan Dotson could all go in the first round. The order, who the heck knows. These should be the guys, though Christian Watson and Skyy Moore have been getting first-round love as well. The excitement really isn’t about the typical skill positions here. It’s edge rushers, offensive linemen, and cornerbacks. The biggest star power may actually belong to Kyle Hamilton, and he’s a safety.

If the NFL goes ga ga for quarterbacks tonight they really are forcing it. Malik Willis belongs in the first round – you want that first-year option. Outside of that quarterbacks should sit on the sideline and the NFL has a bad habit of manufacturing QB talent that isn’t there. If more than two quarterbacks are taken here, somebody reached hard.

2. Value is the name of the game (And that can be frustrating)

The number one thing you want in the draft is to walk out with the courage of your convictions. Eric DeCosta wants to leave this draft knowing he made the team better. The only way to do that is to trust the process and stay true to your team-specific board. You have to be a slave for value, you can’t get excited and do something that works against your process.

The 14th spot is a horrible place to be for the Ravens. It would actually behoove them to be six or seven spots down, where they normally are. Because the premium talent is all that they need (Edge rushers, Offensive tackles, and cornerbacks) and because there is a stiff drop-off after the first wave at these positions, 14 is kind of late to the party. It’s increasingly likely that the Ravens will either take the best player available or force themselves into a slight reach.

Here’s a perfect example. Say the top four edge rushers, the top two corners and both of the elite tackles are off the board at 14. Say the options are Tyler Linderbaum, Trevor Penning, Andrew Boothe Jr., or Jordan Davis. Now say, you don’t value any of them with the 14th spot but would have more comfort taking any of them at 20. Trading back becomes the most valuable option. even if you could live with one of those picks.

This is a draft where there are only so many sure thing home run picks. At 14 you have to get the value that makes a difference. If you can’t do that, make a trade. What if you want the Ravens to trade up though? Well, then do it. Just remember the heart of this class is in the middle rounds and that’s where the Ravens have the most draft picks.

3. Wide receiver isn’t off the table:

The NFL Draft has multiple approaches. The Ravens have always been cozy with the best player available model. Wide receiver may just be the position that offers them the best player available with the 14th pick. On my personal board, Chris Olave is the third-ranked player. I have Drake London at 12 and Garrett Wilson at 13. Should the Ravens take any of these players, I really don’t want to hear any whining. We just watched the Bengals have a surplus of wide receiver talent take them to the Super Bowl. I want some of that.

Next Post: 2022 NFL Draft Prospects that scream Ravens

Marquise Brown hasn’t really proven that he’s the number one, a core franchise player to build around. If Brown isn’t the future at the position, give Rashod Bateman an exciting partner in secondary crime. Why not. The Ravens don’t need to take a wide receiver in the first round but it would be hard to argue with, should they make that call at 14.


Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Ravens NFL Draft spotlight: Evan Neal OT, Alabama

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have the 14th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and the offensive line is at the forefront of their draft needs. It seems like a good place to start our draft coverage is with a look at one of the big guys coming into the NFL. Today we take a look at Evan Neal, the big left tackle from Alabama.

NFL Draft prospect: Evan Neal

Neal is 21 years old and he’s got a mammoth build. The first thing that pops into my head as I started studying him is how much he’s built like Orlando Brown Jr., and how perfect of a fit he could be with the Ravens. This is a 6’7 prospect weighing in at about 350 pounds. It’s safe to say that he has the things that you can’t coach.

Neal has very proactive hands as a pass protector, and his length gives defensive ends fits. His length and reach are elite traits and his hand placement is impressive. Getting inside leverage against Neal is an uphill battle. Neal does a tremendous job anchoring and sinking his hips. The only way through Neal is around him. Getting through him takes a bull rush few players possess, getting inside of him is a hard mission.

For the most part, Neal’s footwork is solid. It’s not elite footwork, he’s not Ronnie Stanley and he’s not an explosively quick prospect like Rashawn Slater was a year ago. This is an old fashion monster on the outside of the offensive line. He can swallow up pass rushers with his size and he has great mirroring skills, he’s hard to fool.

Minor Concerns:

He’s a typical first-round prospect from Alabama in the sense that while he’s not perfect you have a good idea of what you’re going to get. The knocks on Neal aren’t deal-breakers. He’s a heavy mover and while he’s decently athletic, it’s an awkward athleticism. Sometimes he misses his target as a run blocker and it would be nice to see him be more of a mauler in the run game.

Neal’s kick-slide is a bit stiff and could get him more ground. Neal plays at an inconsistent pad level, at times he’s a little too upright. Neal is kind of the opposite of Alex Leatherwood was last year coming into the draft from Alabama. Leatherwood was a very experienced and polished tackle prospect but could have used a little more length and things you can’t coach. Neal has unbelievable measurables but needs some polish.

Could the Ravens draft Neal?

The Ravens could be in play for Neal. It very much depends on the way the draft board breaks down and who picks up the most momentum at the tackle position. Last year two offensive tackles went before the 14th pick. Alex Leatherwood and Christian Darrisaw fell a bit later though. If Neal enters the draft considered the third best tackle (Which isn’t out of the realm of possibility) the Ravens could have a good shot at the Alabama product.

One thing to note is that every draft is different. In 2020 four offensive tackles were off the board before the 14th overall pick. In 2019 there was only one offensive tackle taken in the top 20 selections. It’s going to be fun to get to know the offensive tackles in the 2022 crop.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens coaching staff: 2021 exit assessment

Neal would be a common-sense replacement to Orlando Brown Jr.. a player Eric DeCosta didn’t skillfully replace for the 2021 season. Neal isn’t the same player. Brown was a more brutal run blocker coming into the league and Neal is a little more natural of a pass blocker. That’s the player comp I keep coming back to though, and if I’m right, the Ravens have to be interested in this prospect.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Top 3 offseason needs ranked

By Chris Schisler

Technically, the Baltimore Ravens season isn’t over. If you can’t start looking to the offseason and turn a bit to free agency and the NFL Draft though, you’re not living in reality. The Ravens are in a better situation than many teams faced with a likely elimination from a postseason berth. They have their quarterback (stay off the dark corners of Ravens Facebook – they have their quarterback and he wears number eight). The Ravens have their head coach and are looking at a 2022 season where they’ll get back key pieces to the puzzle.

The Ravens are going to miss the playoffs in all likelihood though, so let’s get ready. The first step for any problem solving is admitting you have a problem. What are the Ravens’ team-building problems? Let’s talk about where they need to get better.

1. The Baltimore Ravens need the offensive line fixed

One could say that the secondary is the biggest area of need. It’s a close second. But when the ravens get Marcus Peters back (assuming he returns next season), and Marlon Humphrey is back, a lot of the secondary problems will go away or at least be severely muted. There is no quick fix to the offensive line. The return of Ronnie Stanley will be a great boost, but the unit isn’t set the second he returns.

In the 2020 season, the Ravens were plagued by that awful combination that is Tyre Phillips and D.J. Fluker. In 2021, the offensive tackle was a mess for the Ravens. Alejandro Villanueva made it pretty clear that he’s only comfortable on the left side and he’s not a great left tackle. Villanueva was somewhat solid and on the offensive line’s most important position group that will never fly for long.

The real problem was on the right side though. Patrick Mekari did admirably in fill-in duty but he’s not who you want starting at tackle. Mekari will be back, rightfully so after signing a nice extension with the team. Ideally, he’s your most valuable fill-in who can play every offensive line position.

When Mekari wasn’t at right tackle it was ugly. One goal of the offseason has to be never seeing Tyre Phillips play right tackle again. The Ravens can’t go into next season with Phillips even a plan B at right tackle. The Ravens would be wise to load up on tackles. Maybe Villanueva stays as a backup to Stanley- there are worse situations in the world – but the Ravens need to address this position. From the NFL Draft or maybe even free agency, they need a starting right tackle and a plan B, that doesn’t make Ravens fans cover their eyes.

The Ravens have Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, and Kevin Zeitler. That’s what works for the starting offensive line for next season as of now. Adding two starters and filling out the depth chart for the big guys up front is essential. The Ravens have to win the line of scrimmage before they can worry about anything else. It’s that simple.

2. The Secondary

What the Baltimore Ravens need more than anything is a free safety. The Ravens need a defensive back who can play the middle of the field, who has the range to take away big plays and make some in the process. Think about how different this defense would be with a player like Ed Reed. Then find a player who gives you the closest possible match to that. You’ll never find another Reed but the idea is getting a ballhawk, with range and football instincts you can’t coach. A play-making free safety who takes the ball away would make Don Martindale a more dangerous defensive coordinator.

If this season taught us anything it’s that you can never have enough cornerbacks. Anthony Averett is a free agent and I could see him getting paid elsewhere more than the Ravens should pay him. The Ravens have to add a bit to the cornerback position. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, and Brandon Stephens make a nice start. You need to draft a guy who can chip in right away and has a chance to develop. You could make an argument that the Ravens should go with a defensive back in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but with many picks, they need to address the secondary with a couple of players.

3. Defensive Line/ Pass Rushers:

The Ravens added a piece to the puzzle with Odafe Oweh in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Ravens need to add another young edge rusher to the mix. They need to find a complementary talent that will grow up with Oweh in this defense. You always need pass rushers. You always need more pass rushers. We already know that. With Justin Houston being a free agent, an edge rusher could be a bigger need.

Let’s look at this defensive line though. Calais Campbell may call it quits after this season, and if he does continue his career he’s a free agent. Brandon Williams is getting up there and even if he’s solid we’re seeing diminishing returns. Justin Madubuike’s okay but he didn’t have the year two breakout we were looking for. The defensive line is not a high-impact group right now. The Ravens may have needs in front of this one, but they have to fix that.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens fall to Rams: Good, bad, ugly



Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens 2021 1st round is looking like a smash hit right now

By Chris Schisler

Can we stop for a second and just gush over the Baltimore Ravens’ first-round selections of the 2021 NFL Draft? Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh both look the part of a first-round pick.

Baltimore Ravens loving what Rashod Bateman brings:

Rashod Bateman was the 27th overall pick. Ravens fans had to wait for Bateman to make his mark as a groin injury prevented him from suiting up until the game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The rookie from Minnesota has had at least three catches each week. He has 25 receptions for 301 yards and averages 12 yards per catch.

Bateman has been a consistent first-down provider for the offense. While he’s still waiting for his first touchdown, he’s shown off. Unfortunately, Bateman has had his biggest statistical production in bad games for Baltimore. In the loss to the Cinncinatti Bengals Bateman reached 80 yards on just three catches. Bateman got to the 80-yard mark against the Dolphins on six receptions.

Bateman has shown off great hands. Other than a pass being intercepted off his hands in the game against the Chargers, there’s been nothing to complain about with his catching ability. He’s been staging the football out of the air like his life depends on it. Bateman has shown impressive speed and his quickness coming out of breaks has surprised more than one of the opposing cornerbacks tasked with staying on top of him.

The Baltimore Ravens have just six games remaining. If Bateman appears in each game he’ll have a 12 game rookie season. If Bateman simply doubles his production from his first six games he’ll have 50 receptions for 602 yards. That would put him just over the marks set by Marquise Brown in his rookie campaign. In 2019 Brown had 46 grabs for 584 yards, though he did score seven touchdowns.

When you think of it with that perspective, you have to be pleased with Bateman. You couldn’t have realistically asked for much more of an impact out of a rookie receiver who missed the first five games of the season.

Odafe Oweh is putting on a show:

Odafe Oweh has played well this season. He’s getting off the edge quickly and is strong in run defense. Oweh has played a lot of snaps as a rookie edge rusher. Five sacks and three forced fumbles is a nice start. He’s literally responsible for the two takeaways that allowed the Ravens to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the second week of the season.

When the Ravens spent the 31st overall pick on Oweh there was a lot of skepticism about the move. Picking him in the first round essentially meant that the Ravens needed him to be a starter at outside linebacker. They needed this pick to work out for their defensive offseason plan to really come into fruition. It worked.

When you consider that Oweh has been the difference between a win and a loss already, and he’s a consistent key figure of the defense, you have to be impressed. What Eric DeCosta pulled off here was finding a difference-maker near the end of the first round. Oweh probably won’t win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award (His Penn State teammate Micah Parsons, is probably the front runner). Still, Oweh is easily the steal of the NFL Draft, at least when it comes to the defensive players.

Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

When you consider what the Ravens did in the 2021 NFL Draft, Eric DeCosta has to come out favorably. His grade for this draft class needs to be near an A at the minimum. When you add in the fact that third-round pick, Brandon Stephens is having an impact in the secondary, it has to help the grade of this draft class.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top concerns against Pittsburgh Steelers


Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens wise not to force it at trade deadline

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t make a move up against the Tuesday at 4:00 pm NFL trade deadline. There were many speculated moves and none ended up going through. What should we make of this? Let’s dive into it.

First, Eric DeCosta showed discipline. He didn’t make a trade just to make a trade. Either there were no solutions available or no prices worth it. The Ravens were up against the cap and they value their draft picks. The Ravens aren’t the Los Angeles Rams, they like to keep busy in April.

DeCosta didn’t have a perfect trade out there. There weren’t a lot of options for offensive line help and they already made their play with the Cedric Ogbuehi signing. A running back like Marlon Mack would have been an acceptable trade – the offensive line still would have been an issue and Mack stayed with the Colts. 

The trade deadline happened to be relatively quiet. Sure, there was that flashy Von Miller trade. Most of the trades however were low-cost rentals like the Pittsburgh Steelers sending Melvin Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 6th round pick.

Ravens fans have gotten a bit spoiled by the unbelievable work DeCosta has done with limited draft capital. This is the general manager who swiped Marcus Peters away for Kenny Young and a fifth-round pick. It’s also the GM, who got Calais Campbell for a fifth-round pick.

Last year the Ravens made a move to get Yannick Ngakoue. The move didn’t pan out as the Ravens hoped it would. A trade that doesn’t accomplish much is what you try to avoid. No move is better than a bad move. DeCosta showed that his aggressive tendency isn’t aggressive for the sake of going for it.

The Baltimore Ravens are 5-2. Repeat that mark and they’ll be 11-4 with just a couple of games left. After their bye week, the Ravens are back in first place in the AFC North. They certainly weren’t in a position to be sellers. The sky isn’t falling so they didn’t need to resort to drastic measures. The Ravens didn’t need to make a move just because there was a deadline. 

If you wanted help for the offensive line, I have to seriously ask you, what could the Ravens have done? It’s not like there’s a lot of options. A right tackle in the middle of the season doesn’t fall out of the sky. Even bad teams need to get through the season and offensive linemen are the least expendable players other than quarterbacks. 

The truth is that you could go right down the line of every potential position to trade for and come to the conclusion that it was either slim pickings or the trade you wanted was unrealistic. If you’re looking at the whole situation there was no way you could expect a trade even with DeCosta’s history of making moves to help the team. 

Where does this leave the team? 

The Ravens have problems that could sink them. The offensive line was their demise against the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs last season. The inconsistent play at running back and linebacker has resulted in bad outcomes on the field and the problems aren’t magically going to go away. The team needs to figure these things out with signings or by working with what they have. 

The Cedric Ogbuehi signing is likely to work out. In this sentence, the term works out is defined as better than Tyre Phillps at right tackle and serviceable overall. That’s not a high bar and it’s a realistic one. Nick Boyle will automatically improve the run game due to his blocking. The Ravens adding a pass rusher to the mix was never going to happen. 

The Ravens addressed linebacker with the addition of Josh Bynes. It’s worked out well and in a less pivotal role, Patrick Queen is playing better. The Ravens can’t further their cost at linebacker. They’ve already invested draft picks into the position. The linebackers just have to tackle better in the open field. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens bye week went as well as it could

The Baltimore Ravens could have been reckless. They didn’t go all-in just to announce to the football world they were looking for a Super Bowl. Baltimore stayed disciplined. They kept their plans for the future intact and they bet that a 5-2 team would find a way to continue their march towards the playoffs. DeCosta either believes in his team, or he values his draft picks more than what was out there for the taking. Either way, it’s not a bad thing for the Ravens. 

Posted in NFL News

Baltimore Ravens: Moving forward after Marcus Peters injury

By Michael Natelli

Apart from the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie class, there were two players I was particularly excited to watch this year: JK Dobbins and Marcus Peters. As both entered their second full seasons in Baltimore, each seemed poised to have a year that would start to truly etch them into team lore as one of the key cogs of this era of Raven football. Evidently, that’s not going to happen. At least not this year.

As if that weren’t enough, Gus Edwards, L.J. Fort, and Justice Hill are all set to miss the season with injuries as well, and several other key contributors enter the season injured or still working their way back from injury. 

It’s enough to make your head spin and your hope wane. But the growing IR list is no excuse for this Ravens team to phone it in and take their eyes off a postseason run. Not only is there still plenty of talent on this loaded roster, but as bumps in the road emerge, Baltimore may have more ways (and ammo) to address injuries and roster needs than ever before.

Eric DeCosta has been just about as effective in the trade and free agency markets as any general manager in the NFL and should stand to capitalize from the wide range of options he has available.

The Free Agent Market

The Baltimore Ravens are a team that went 14-2 in 2019 in part thanks to their ability to get production out of off-the-street free agents like LJ Fort, Josh Bynes, Domata Peko, Justin Ellis, and a rejuvenated Pernell McPhee.

In 2020, it was signings like Trystan Colon-Castillo and Devontae Harris that helped the Ravens stay afloat as they weathered COVID issues and a depleted secondary. Time and time again, the Baltimore front office and coaching staff have made a living turning post-prime veterans and undrafted free agents into solid contributors, and this year’s free-agent market has them well-positioned to do it once again in addressing current and potential roster needs.

At corner, Richard Sherman, Quinton Dunbar, and former Raven Pierre Desir headline a shallow group of options. Sherman obviously offers the most star power and upside, though pending legal troubles make his status for the season somewhat unclear (to say nothing of his less-than-ideal fit in Wink Martindale’s defense). 

Desir is interesting because he comes with some level of familiarity with the defense having spent time with Baltimore late last year. Metrics didn’t like his play in limited action with the Ravens, but he was highly graded as recently as 2019 and could return to form given a longer stretch to get comfortable with regular reps. 

Dunbar has likely been asked too much of in recent stops and wasn’t up to the task. But at 6’2, the 29-year-old offers the kind of length the Ravens like in corners and could thrive (or at least reasonably contribute) in a more complementary role.

Early to start dealing with injuries: 

Perhaps the most unfortunate part about the injuries Baltimore has endured so far is the unknown of what’s still to come. Injuries come up throughout the course of a football season, so there will inevitably be a few roster holes that need to be plugged between now and January. Will the free-agent market be somewhere that gives the pieces the Ravens need to go win a Super Bowl without key players? Probably not. But does it offer savvy veterans that can help the team stay afloat and at least scrap their way to the postseason in a year with a seventh playoff spot? Absolutely.

Mitchell Schwartz and David DeCastro are out there as options along the offensive line. Geno Atkins and Kawann Short are available in the trenches, and Olivier Vernon is out there to rush the passer. John Brown is available to make his second tour through Baltimore if the receivers can’t get healthy, and Trey Burton is there if tight end depth becomes a problem. Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, and Frank Gore are all ready to go if the running back room hasn’t exorcised whatever continues to haunt it yet. 

Make your jokes about how those names all sound good as options in Madden 17, but while most are not what they used to be, enough talent is out there in a pinch that injuries at just about any position shouldn’t be the reason the Ravens aren’t a playoff team this year. 

The Trade Market:

If DeCosta (understandably) finds the free-agent market to have uninspiring options, he also has more than enough draft capital to fill a need or two via trade without putting the Ravens in a disadvantageous position come April.

Before even factoring in any compensation picks for departing free agents this coming offseason, the Ravens are slated to have 14 picks in their 2022 war chest. While such a loaded draft arsenal will come in handy next offseason with Mark Andrews and likely Lamar Jackson signed to new expensive contracts, it also gives the team more than enough ammo to comfortably part with a pick or two for midseason upgrades.

Whether that means swinging a trade for a corner Jacksonville’s C.J. Henderson or Denver’s Bryce Callahan, or star chasing at other spots around the roster, there’s no reason that the Week 1 roster has to be as good as it’s going to get in Baltimore this year. It may take until close to the Trade Deadline, but one would have to think DeCosta is already exploring options to make sure John Harbaugh and company can still be successful this year.

No Excuses

The Ravens are not a team that looks to make excuses. They say the right things because they believe the right things. “Next man up” is not just good coach speak in Baltimore, it’s a culture, and fans should expect nothing short of that attitude and that approach regardless of what the IR list looks like.

NEXT POST: More Ravens injuries are sobering: Next man up starts early

Even as more challenges emerge, the Ravens should be more than equipped enough to weather the storms that come their way and charge forward towards another postseason run.


Posted in NFL News

Mark Andrews contract extension: Baltimore Ravens get it right

By Chris Schisler

You have to give a lot of credit to the Baltimore Ravens for getting a deal done with Mark Andrews. Andrews according to the report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $56 million.

This contract shows that Andrews is one of the core players for the Ravens. He’s the favorite target of Lamar Jackson and a top-five tight end in the NFL. The news was announced on Mark Andrews’s birthday. The timing of this news couldn’t be better. This is one less thing the Ravens have to worry about. Eric DeCosta chose not to let his star tight end even dream of touching the free-agent market.

This makes Andrews the third highest-paid tight end in the NFL. An average of $14 million per season may sound like a lot, though it’s a very fair deal for both parties. Andrews goes into the 2021 season without his contract on his mind. He essentially got paid his market value. While he could have gotten a bigger deal later (We’ve seen that happen before) signing the deal now avoids risking it all together.

The Ravens have a fully established group of core players. They’ve signed Marlon Humphrey, Ronnie Stanley and now Andrews to extensions. The Ravens even agreed to an extension with Gus Edwards over the offseason. The Ravens are taking care of their top talent and they’re putting young talent around it through the NFL Draft process. Signing Andrews to this deal is further proof that the Ravens understand team building.

Why Mark Andrews is a core player

In three years in the NFL, Andrews has 20 touchdowns and 2,105 yards. He’s been to the Pro Bowl once already, and he’s been statistically consistent. In 2019 he had a career year with 10 touchdowns and 852 yards. In 2020, he still put up seven touchdowns and 701 yards.

While the Ravens still have to come up with a contract extension for their MVP quarterback, this is a move that can’t hurt the franchise’s relationship with Jackson. When you boil it down to the most important fact, you see that Jackson and Andrews are one of the elite combinations in the NFL. Their chemistry is amazing.

Andrews is incredibly important to the Ravens. For a team that was last in the NFL in passing yards a year ago, he may just be the most important player not named Jackson. This year especially, Andrews is needed. The Baltimore Ravens have been banged up at the wide receiver position. As long as Andrews is on the field, Jackson has a receiving option that can make a big play.

Being in sync with Jackson gave him a huge advantage as a rookie in the 2018 season. Remember, Hayden Hurst was the first-round pick and Andrews was a third-round selection. Andrews exceeded expectations. In Jackson’s rookie year, almost all of his big throws down the field went to Andrews. These two stars have grown up in the NFL together.

The Bottom Line

Other than the occasional drop, Andrews is the perfect tight end for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s a huge target who is a matchup nightmare in the middle of the field. He’s the prototype player for his position in a lot of ways and he’s become a better blocker each season. What is the top quality of his game? It’s Andrews’s ability to feel through the defense and find the window.

When a deal like this gets done, it’s a moment for a sigh of relief. It shows the Ravens are committed to building the future around Lamar Jackson. Andrews doesn’t have to worry about free agency and the Ravens don’t have to worry about the franchise tag.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens in need of another running back

The Ravens didn’t have to overpay Andrews, a player who may not have even reached his full potential. Andrews could have even bigger seasons on the horizon. It’s very possible that we’ll look back at this deal and think the Ravens got a bargain. However you think about it, the Ravens had to make this move. The Ravens absolutely understand that Mark Andrews is a core player.

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens: The meaning of their preseason game win streak

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have won 19 preseason games in a row. The streak dates back to 2015, The question is does winning meaningless games matter? From a player-personnel perspective, I’d say this is a mark of an outstanding front office.

The preseason doesn’t show the merit of your starters. The Ravens have played this preseason even more conservatively with some of their key starters than they usually do. We still haven’t seen the 2021 edition of Lamar Jackson football. The preseason measures the quality of your overall roster during training camp.

The idea that the games are meaningless is fair. The Baltimore Ravens get no advantage from winning these games, they don’t even get a cookie. Do they like winning them? Sure. Is winning preseason games why they operate the way they do? Absolutely not.

What have the Ravens always been known for other than dominant defense, The Ray Lewis Squirell Dance, and running the football? The answer is finding gems late in the draft process including during undrafted free agents. It’s no surprise that the Ravens had a streak of undrafted free agents making the week one roster that went on throughout this preseason winning streak.

A Baltimore Ravens tradition

Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta are great team-building general managers. People severely underestimated how helpful it was to have the two of them acting as a pair of decision-makers near the end of Newsome’s tenure. Newsome always cared about depth.

He was great at finding underappreciated players. Adalius Thomas was a sixth-round pick. Players like Jameel McClain and Gus Edwards were undrafted free agents. This thing has been going on for quite some time.

DeCosta seems obsessive about stacking the roster. This doesn’t just mean finding depth, this means finding the players of the future early. This means the secondary doesn’t just have backups they have the next in line helping now. Brandon Stephens is a perfect example of that.

The Ravens have more defensive back talent than any team ever does. DeCosta built that. The only high draft pick he used was on Marlon Humphrey. Heck, he got Marcus Peters with a fifth-round pick and then signed him to a team-friendly extension.

The winning streak in the preseason coincides with the time the Ravens got back to drafting well. Take out the 2015 and the 2017 NFL Draft (other than their first pick- Marlon Humphrey) and the Ravens have been knocking it out of the park. 2018 may have been the Ravens’ best draft since the 1996 masterpiece that gave them Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis.

The stars of this preseason have come through some of that great drafting. Jaylon Ferguson is starting to look the part, Stephens and Shaun Wade are impressive rookies and all the competition on the offensive line comes from drafted players. Ty’Son Williams and Nate McCrary have been impressive running backs as undrafted free agents. Speaking of undrafted players, Ar’Darius Washington has made a name for himself in camp.

The bottom line:

Another example is the Ravens pro-personnel department. It’s not all about plucking guys out of college. Chris Westry is an example of a player who is making his second career NFL stop that has performed well in preseason play. The Dallas Cowboys had a chance to make Westry their undrafted free agent success story, now he has a real chance to stick around with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs in 2014, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The streak started in a 2015 season that was dreadful because of injuries more than anything else. Even in 2016 and 2017, the Ravens were in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Ravens’ principles of team building have been consistent and the back end of their depth chart is better than most organizations can compete with.

When you have a head coach who thinks of winning like a good habit and has a Harbaugh family enthusiasm most can’t reach in exhibition games, it’s also going to chip into winning in the preseason. The Ravens have tied Vince Lombardi’s record.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ty’Son Williams deserves a roster spot

On Saturday against the Washington Football Team, the Baltimore Ravens have a chance to break that record. Lombardi was the coach to come up with the idea that winning is a habit. It seems fitting that the Ravens, an organization that obviously agrees with that idea can break the record.



Posted in NFL News

Baltimore Ravens (Finally!) Ink Justin Houston

By: Ashley Anderson

Good morning, and happy Saturday, Ravens fans! This is not a drill. I repeat this is not a drill! Justin Houston is on his way to Baltimore.

After being linked to the Ravens since the start of free agency, Adam Schefter reported this morning that veteran edge rusher Justin Houston has agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal. This is the news we have all been waiting for, as pass rush seemed to be the only area of glaring weakness on the roster. Schefter also noted that Houston took significantly less money than he was offered from other clubs due to his preference to play for the purple and black.

Immediate Impact

Although the Ravens repeatedly stated they felt good about the guys they had, Houston represents at least a moderate upgrade. Tyus Bowser recently re-signed with Baltimore on a four-year, $22 million deal, but he is more of a coverage linebacker than a pass rusher. His versatility is extremely useful, but he only has 10.5 career sacks. Wily veteran Pernell McPhee is much the same, with a career high 7.5 sacks coming back in 2014 during his first stint in Baltimore.

Beyond them, the Ravens were counting on a breakout from third-year man Jaylon Ferguson. Although he holds the FBS record for sacks, he has yet to emerge in the NFL. Baltimore also drafted Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes to bolster the unit. Unfortunately, relying on rookies can be dangerous. Oweh has all the talent and athleticism in the world yet failed to record a sack in 2020. Hayes, although he has flashed in practice, lasted till the fifth round for a reason.

Bottom line, the Ravens pass rush group was a mix of versatile, talented guys, but not one of them is known for being a sack artist. That is where Houston makes a difference.

Career Stats

Justin Houston was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He played in all 16 games his rookie season, starting ten, and recorded 5.5 sacks. His best season came in 2014 when he racked up an astonishing 22 QB takedowns with the Chiefs.

Twice in his career, including recently in 2019, Houston recorded 11 sacks in a season. His lowest output came in 2016 when he was limited to five games and had just one sack. However, Houston has been fairly healthy for the most part, and the Ravens are hoping that using him as part of a rotation will keep his tank full this year.

A four-time Pro Bowler and 2014 All-Pro selection, Houston is looking to win a Super Bowl before he calls it a career. He may have been considering a return to Kansas City, recently teasing fans by working out in a Chiefs helmet. However, he ultimately decided on Baltimore.

Low Risk, High Reward

For the Ravens, this scenario could not be more perfect. Houston’s deal only carries a base salary of $1.075 million with a signing bonus of $1 million. To get to the possible $4 million total, Houston will have to hit other incentives.

If Houston does indeed hit those incentives, it can only be good news for Baltimore. That means he is doing his job by recording sacks and reaching the Pro Bowl. If not, the team saves money, and they are not on the hook heading into 2022.

Given the fact that Houston will turn 33 during the season, Baltimore was wise to limit the deal to a single season. That way, if he falls off in production, they can let him walk without a financial burden. If he plays great, they will have the option to try to re-sign him during the year, or let him test the open market and attempt to keep him in free agency.

Final Thoughts

It was a rough week for Ravens fans seeing Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson land on the Covid-19 list. Many of us were looking for good news, and it was finally delivered to us this morning.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Looking at offensive line depth

Houston could be the missing piece to win a Super Bowl, which is the ultimate goal every year. After what feels like an eternity, it is finally Houston to Baltimore!

Posted in Complicated made simple: X's and O's and scouting for all fans

Baltimore Ravens salary cap: Strategy or coincidence?

By Jiji Nakaba

Did the Baltimore Ravens switch their offense to optimize their use of salary cap dollars better?

In 2019 the Baltimore Ravens created a new offense based on running the ball better than any other team in the League, utilizing Lamar Jackson’s unique running talent and his threat of running, requiring defenses to pay attention to him.

This offense is ideal for optimizing the running talents of running backs, the blocking talents of Tight Ends and Fullbacks, and is sub-optimal for passing statistics. The effects: great stats for rushing attempts, poor stats for passing yards, and this style of offense keeps the defense off the field for much of the game.

Fact: QB: Ravens have one on a rookie contract for now. An extension will be signed for >40 million/year but Franchise quarterbacks take up a large percentage of the cap. There are no exceptions.

Opinion: The only way to avoid paying big for a Franchise quarterback is to have a journeyman quarterback or a good one on a rookie contract. I’m not saying I don’t want the Ravens to extend Lamar Jackson. I believe an early extension for Jackson will put pressure on the Browns to pay Mayfield too much or make him unhappy.  It will be interesting to see how the Browns handle the cap trying to keep all the talent they accrued because of their losing seasons. They either franchise players, pay them too much, or let them walk starting with Chubb.

Fact: Premier Rushers are at the top of the salary scale.

Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens don’t have any premier rush ends and don’t try to sign any (after Terrell Suggs). They used a first-round pick on a pass rusher instead of going after a highly-paid veteran.

Fact: Defensive Tackles are paid less than Defensive Ends.

Opinion: Raven sign Defensive Tackles at the end of their careers, but don’t try to sign top tier Defensive Tackles, preferring to draft and develop them or add UDFA’s.

Fact: Running backs and tight ends are among the lowest-paid skill position players.

Opinion: The Ravens frequently have Pro Bowl-level running backs and tight ends and don’t need to spend first-round picks to get them. I think they were going to draft a running back in the later rounds in 2020 but J.K. Dobbins fell to them and they couldn’t pass him up.

Fact: Premier Receivers are among the highest-paid players.

Opinion: Ravens don’t have any ultra highly paid receivers and don’t try to sign any. They’ve never had a Pro Bowl receiver. The Ravens are drafting receivers every year now. Are they trying to create a succession plan of rookie salaried receivers? Will they let receivers walk after their rookie contracts?

Fact: Top tier cornerbacks are at the top of the salary scale but cheaper than Defensive ends

Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens are prioritizing cornerbacks over defensive ends because they’re cheaper – they have Pro Bowl level cornerbacks but sign them to extensions early when it’s less costly. The Ravens also always draft secondary talent every year – trying to create a cheap succession plan?

Fact: Linebackers are mid-scale salary-wise

Throughout their history, the Ravens have frequently had Pro Bowl quality linebackers. They are at the top of the league in drafting and developing Inside linebackers – it’s in their DNA.

Fact: Safeties are at the bottom of the defensive player salaries

Opinion: The Ravens’ current safeties are signed to reasonable contracts.  Though they did sign Earl Thomas to a big contract, they got burned and should have learned from that.

Fact: Kickers are at the bottom of the salary scale

Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens have always had one of the top kickers in the game and develop them as well as any team in the League.

Fact: Fullbacks are at the bottom of the salary scale

Opinion: The Ravens nearly always have one of the best fullbacks in the League and let them walk at the end of their rookie year. Patrick Ricard is an exception because he’s a one-of-a-kind irreplaceable player.

Strategy or coincidence? In my opinion, I think the Ravens offense and the priorities on drafting is a salary cap strategy, not a coincidence. If the Ravens draft more receivers each year that will be strong evidence of it.



Average salaries (from a year ago, some adjustments made by me):

QB’s: 16 m

Defensive Ends: 13m

Defensive Tackles: 9.5m

Running Backs: 9.25m

Wide Receivers: 12m

Cornerbacks: 11.5m

Safeties: 8.2m

Tight Ends: 7.1m

Linebackers: 11.3m

Offensive lineman: 11.4m

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Punters/Kickers: 3.3m