New Era, But Still in Win-Now Mode - John Eisenberg
The Thomas signing screams “win now.” The Ravens could have just let one of their young safeties replace Weddle if they were more concerned about clearing up their cap situation than winning in 2019. Instead, they went all-in to create an elite secondary.
They’ve also held onto cornerback Jimmy Smith as part of that effort even though Smith is 30 and in line to generate the team’s biggest cap hit in 2019 – circumstances that can lead to a player being cut or traded. The Ravens need Smith, who was excellent in 2018, to take their best shot at limiting the Cleveland Browns’ sudden armada of playmakers.
The Ingram signing also is clearly about immediate dividends. Running backs aren’t known for having the longest NFL shelf lives, and Ingram is 29. He isn’t here as part of some long game.
To be clear, it’s 100 percent true that the front office wants to manage the cap and roster more effectively over the long haul now that Flacco’s contract is off the books except for a whopping dead-money charge this year. They’re going to try to lock up young players to relatively affordable deals before free agency looms, avoiding the deadline situation that led to Mosley’s departure.
Asked about his salary cap situation after these not-inexpensive moves, DeCosta said, “We’re kings of the world right now. We still have some money available to make additional moves in the next few weeks.”
Instead of a rebuild, DeCosta’s has chosen a reallocation.
5. C.J. Mosley, LB, Jets – 5 years, $51M guaranteed
The Jets paid top dollar for a guy who unofficially ranks somewhere between 6-12 at his position. The Jets, with more cap space than every team except Indy, could afford to splurge. And Mosley is a fine player who stabilizes the run defense and enhances the blitz packages that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves. So we’re not going to rip this move. But paying above sticker price on a monster-sized deal will always land the team and player on lists like these.
One thing to watch is New York in Cover 2. When Williams is not calling blitzes, Cover 2 is his favorite look. Its zone structure often has the middle linebacker run with an inside receiver downfield (making the coverage “Tampa 2”). The Ravens did this a lot under defensive coordinator Dean Pees in 2017 but got away from it under new coordinator Wink Martindale in 2018. One reason for that may have been the team grew leery of Mosley covering deep down the middle, as he doesn’t have great speed.
2. Earl Thomas, S, Ravens – 4 years, $32 million guaranteed
Was it a bargain? Not really. But the safety position is more important to the disguise-oriented, blitz-intensive Ravens than it is to any other defense. Thomas will only be 30 come Week 1. For a free safety, who endures contact on fewer than half the snaps, that’s not old, even for a guy who had a rod inserted into the leg he fractured last October. Plus Thomas isn’t only a free safety...in passing situations as a Seahawk, he came down into the box to have a greater impact in coverage. That versatility is crucial to Baltimore’s approach. With Thomas and seventh-year pro Tony Jefferson, the Ravens have football’s best safety tandem.
According to Over the Cap, the Ravens are currently in line to receive one third round compensatory 2020 draft pick. They could potentially collect an additional fourth round comp pick if an unrestricted free agent such as Brent Urban inks a qualifying contract with another team.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE CENTER GARRETT BRADBURY (#14 OVERALL)
Listen. I like Bradbury! I understand why there is such a wide range of appeal and fanfare for him as a player. But to me, he’s the third best interior offensive lineman in this year’s group behind Erik McCoy (Texas A&M), who is more scheme diverse, and Chris Lindstrom (Boston College), who played guard and damn near went test for test with Bradbury at the NFL Combine...with a stronger anchor.
IOWA STATE WIDE RECEIVER HAKEEM BUTLER (#19 OVERALL)
I don’t recall seeing someone run a more blatant red light in my entire life. We’re all chatting about where we have Hakeem Butler in our individual grades. So I’m thinking in my head somewhere between 25-40 would be a logical destination, given the range of grades. Butler is my 6th rated wide receiver and will likely sit in the 40s on my personal big board, so it isn’t to say I dislike him as a player, quite the contrary.
Even post-combine, the 2019 draft class lacks any semblance of consensus rankings at many positions including receiver, offensive line, cornerback and safety.
22. N’Keal Harry
Wide Receiver, Arizona State, junior
1088 YDS/14.9 YPR/9 TDS/73 REC/19 20+
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6’2’’, 228
MAIN SELLING POINT: Size and fearlessness
He simply won’t be beat at the catch point, even if he lacks twitchy speed.
SHADES OF: Juju Smith-Schuster, Alshon Jeffery
Harry is a highly productive wideout with the frame to box out defenders and take punishment over the middle. The former Sun Devil can line up all over the field, operating out of the slot or on the wing. He plays strong on contested passes, positioning himself for the catch before going up high to pluck the ball out of the air in traffic. He lacks elite quickness, and often takes a few wasted steps before getting off the line, but Harry can separate enough at the top of his routes, winning against close coverage with subtle push-offs and his knack for shielding corners away from the ball with his body. He’s aggressive as a runner after the catch, and Arizona State used him on screen passes frequently. He did mix in some head-scratching drops. In the run game, he’s tenacious and competitive as a downfield blocker.
WHY HE COULD RISE
A player who posted incredible production, Harry has prototypical size, is highly competitive, and has the tool set to be an early contributor in the red zone.
WHY HE COULD FALL
Some teams may view him more as a no. 2 possession receiver than a go-to no. 1. He may struggle to separate against bigger, physical pro corners.
Daniel Jeremiah recently ranked N’Keal Harry as the 42nd best prospect.