NFL Power Rankings: Browns hit top 10 via free agency/trades - Elliot Harrison
Previous rank: No. 11
Can’t wait to see Lamar Jackson operating at quarterback with a full offseason as the starter under his belt -- I want this just a smidge more than I want to engage in the debate about Joe Flacco being a Hall of Famer because he won a Super Bowl, which is sure to come down the pike soon. Make no mistake, the Ravens were plenty occupied outside of trading Flacco to Denver. They picked up a reliable running back in Mark Ingram, who can grind out tough yards in the cold of December, when Baltimore should be in the heart of the AFC North race (with Cleveland). Having Earl Thomas replace Eric Weddle is quite the luxury. Re-signing TE Nick Boyle was the tight move. But, but, but ... if the Ravens don’t draft a pass rusher, other tight ends are gonna rack up 200 yards on them. This group lost two edge rushers -- Terrell Suggs, who signed with Arizona, and Za’Darius Smith, who signed with Green Bay -- to the marketplace. Smith’s exit hurts. Suggs is irreplaceable in the intangibles department. C.J. Mosley (New York Jets) is gone, too. Ouch.
Harrison ranks Cleveland 9th, Pittsburgh 18th and Cincinnati 29th.
Legion of Big Bucks: Ravens spending $58 million on secondary - Jamison Hensley
The Ravens are spending $58 million on their top six defensive backs this year. Baltimore signed Thomas ($22 million with base salary and signing bonus combined), extended the contract of nickelback Tavon Young (a total of $11 million base salary and signing bonus), exercised the option for cornerback Brandon Carr ($6 million) and brought back Jimmy Smith ($9.5 million), Tony Jefferson ($8 million) and Marlon Humphrey ($1.542 million).
In terms of salary cap, the Ravens’ secondary has combined for a league-high $56.7 million salary-cap figure, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System. That accounts for 30 percent of Baltimore’s entire cap.
Given this price tag, the Ravens are expecting this defensive backfield to be among the league’s best. Baltimore is essentially returning last season’s fifth-ranked pass defense but with what many believe is an upgrade at free safety. When healthy, Thomas has shown more range and playmaking ability than Eric Weddle.
The Ravens’ schedule explains why first-year general manager Eric DeCosta has opened up the wallet for the secondary. Baltimore is facing four of the top seven quarterbacks in passing yards (Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and Tom Brady) as well as Russell Wilson (third-highest passer rating), Deshaun Watson (coming off first Pro Bowl) and Baker Mayfield (27 touchdown passes).
The Ravens 2019 schedule includes matchups against many of the top receivers in the league - Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, A.J. Green, JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Rob Gronkowski.
Ravens first-year general manager Eric DeCosta has about $17 million worth of cap space to use in a potential pursuit of Houston or other veterans.
And Jefferson’s salesmen skills are at his disposal, too.
“Justin Houston, guy on the market who’s a great pass rusher, good against the run,” Jefferson said. “And you’re losing a guy like Terrell Suggs, who you need to replace. Well, obviously, you’re not going to fully replace him, but a guy like Justin Houston I think would help. So, yeah, I gave him my pitch.”
In 12 games last season, Houston produced a stat line of nine sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, eight tackles for loss, one interception and a dozen quarterback hits. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 14th best edge defender in 2018.
2019 NFL mock draft 3.0: Giants, Raiders take QBs - Bucky Brooks
D.K. Metcalf - WR
Despite missing on the last two receivers they drafted in Round 1 ( Breshad Perriman and Mark Clayton), the Ravens could take a flier on Metcalf, who would provide big-play potential in a run-heavy offense that creates plenty of one-on-one opportunities.
Metcalf averaged over 18 yards per reception and scored 14 touchdowns in his last 18 games at Mississippi.