In-season NFL trades have become more common over the last few seasons. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta himself swung a trade for Marcus Peters last October. The All-Pro corner went on to become a major contributor during Baltimore’s 14-2 season before earning a lucrative long-term contract.
Sitting at 5-1 entering their bye week, the Ravens are in the thick of a competitive AFC race. Nonetheless, their roster is not without flaws. Being aggressive before the November 3rd trade deadline could equip Baltimore to exploit the other contenders’ respective weaknesses.
Five areas DeCosta might address:
5. Pass Rusher
Many have clamored for a dominant pass rusher since Terrell Suggs’ prime ended. Unfortunately, only a handful of truly elite pass rushers exist in the league and their price tags reflect their scarcity.
Under coordinator Martindale’s exotic blitz scheme, the Ravens currently rank first with 63 quarterback hits and second with 22 sacks. They may not field a pass rusher who consistently whips offensive tackles, but they do not necessarily need one because their lockdown cornerbacks often allow Martindale to send extra blitzers without paying the price on the backend.
With Matthew Judon, a healthy Pernell McPhee, an emerging Tyus Bowser, Calais Campbell, Patrick Queen and several capable role players, the Ravens pass rushing personnel has been improved considerably from 2019. Sure, a top tier edge rusher would be nice, but with many mobile quarterbacks and offenses schemes designed to neutralize edge rushers, a pass rusher’s potential impact is probably overstated.
4. Tight End
The front office may be regretting their decision to trade away Hayden Hurst. While Hurst was not a centerpiece of the offense, he was a valuable insurance policy with big play ability.
Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle still rate as one of the best tight end pairings in the league. The duo, along with fullback Patrick Ricard, has secured eight of the team’s ten touchdown receptions. Still, a bonafide receiving threat such as Hurst would help draw attention away from Andrews and give coordinator Roman the ability to incorporate more wrinkles that confuse defenses.
Lamar Jackson’s passing proficiency between the hashes is well documented. A move tight end would reinforce his options within his comfort zone. The drawback to adding another tight end is that more versatile 12 personnel pairings would not necessarily solve the problem of defenders flooding the intermediate middle of the field.
3. Defensive Back
The defensive back depth chart has endured considerable losses since the start of training camp. Earl Thomas was released, Tavon Young and Iman Marshall went down with season ending injuries, and Anthony Averett recently suffered an injury that is expected to sideline him through November.
Baltimore’s nickel quintet of Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott remains the strength of the team. However, depth has dwindled, especially for the dime package that is deployed much more frequently than base personnel.
Acquiring a slot cornerback or deep safety who offers insurance against another injury while also supplanting journeyman Marcus Gilchrist in dime would be a shrewd investment.
2. Right Guard
As expected, Marshal Yanda’s absence has been felt. Without the leader of the line, none of the blockers have played their best football so far this season. Week 6 saw an embarrassing amount of penalties called on the offensive line.
The Ravens rushing offense still ranks among the best in the league, but has been propped up by a few breakaway runs from Jackson. Down over down, the run game has not continued the historic levels of efficiency they reached in 2018 and 2019. Rookie tackle conversion Tyre Phillips has not performed well at right guard, particularly as a run blocker.
The dominant rushing offense that enabled Jackson to find his MVP passing form and in turn, put the defense in advantageous positions last season has fallen back to the pack. Improving the right guard situation, either by trade or inserting in-house candidate Ben Powers, would be a step in the direction of recreating that winning formula.
1. Boundary Receiver
The need for a third receiving threat was identified after the front office opted for a best player available draft. After studying Lamar and Roman’s offense, defensive coordinators have decided to bracket Andrews, leaving Marquise Brown as the lone difference making receiver.
The coaching staff asked Jackson to improve his deep passing in the offseason to counter the inevitable stacked boxes, yet the team did not put him in position to succeed by upgrading his receiving corps. The Ravens have invested more into the wide receiver position recently than they did under Ozzie Newsome and Devin Duvernay is poised for an impactful second half of the season. They still do not have enough playmakers in a league where the majority of teams have multiple first and second round picks, along with high priced veterans, crowding their receiver rooms.
There is a clear opportunity at the deadline. The supply of talented receivers greatly exceeds the other positions on this list. Trading prized draft capital for a dangerous wideout would unlock the offense by creating space for the other elements to operate. And perhaps arm the Ravens with the ammunition they need to reach the Super Bowl.