No, the Baltimore Ravens should not intentionally lose to the Bengals on Sunday in order to receive a higher draft slot. Head coach John Harbaugh has dedicated himself to instilling a winning culture on the team. Harbaugh’s over arching philosophy is centered around working hard and fighting through adversity. Tanking in Week 17 would be counter productive.
Furthermore, the Ravens will face the Bengals twice next season. Baltimore has dropped several games they should have won against Cincinnati in recent seasons. They should use this low pressure season finale to test out some new route combinations against their cover-2 defense and some inventive blitzes against their pass blocking scheme.
Nevertheless, the Ravens should absolutely view Week 17 as an opportunity to get a head start on the offseason. Auditioning some young players who have not received much playing time can help the front office gather information and have a clearer picture of what their needs truly are in the coming offseason.
These five young players should be given a chance to show they can be key contributors next season:
- WR Chris Moore
Moore has a place on the 2017 roster for his special teams ability at least. His offensive snaps have dwindled as the season progressed, he did not play on offensive in Week 16. Is he more of a #3 receiver or #5 receiver? Give him a chance to show he has the hands to serve as a viable pass catcher next year.
- TE Nick Boyle
After serving his 10-games suspension, Boyle has been garnering offensive snaps as the blocking tight end over the last few games. He displayed some receiving ability during his 2015 rookie campaign, with a 78 percent catch rate on 23 targets. A good showing against the Bengals could give the Ravens confidence to move on from veteran tight ends Dennis Pitta or Ben Watson this offseason.
- OLB Matt Judon
The small school product has posted a strong rookie year with four sacks and a growing role against the run. He has overtaken Za’Darius Smith in the outside linebacker rotation. Sunday is likely to be Elvis Dumervil’s final game with the Ravens. Can Judon form a competent platoon with Kamalei Correa or Smith at strong side outside linebacker next season?
- DE Brent Urban
Urban has received some meaningful burn after an injury plagued start to his career, but he only saw five defensive snaps last week. Lawrence Guy, the Ravens starting five-technique defensive end, is a pending unrestricted free agent. The team will probably attempt to retain Guy since he was much improved against the run this year, but his progress could push his price tag upwards. If Urban can make an impact with a larger role in Week 17, the Ravens may allow Guy to walk and roll with Urban, Bronson Kaufusi and a draft pick or mid level free agent at end in 2017. Either way, a fair evaluation of Urban will bring clarity to a murky position.
- ILB Patrick Onwuasor
This undrafted rookie was promoted to the active roster in Week 6 and has played the hybrid dime linebacker/safety position on a handful of defensive snaps down the stretch. Onwuasor has been a key special teamer, and forced a big fumble against the Patriots this year. As an exclusive rights free agent, the Ravens can easily retain him for a salary near the veteran minimum. Anthony Levine, a special teams ace and dime linebacker with a similar skill set to Onwuasor, is a pending unrestricted free agent. A productive showing from the rookie could empower the Ravens to save some cap space by not resigning Levine, and put those resources toward other positional needs in the offseason.