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Ravens News 4/1: Expanding playoffs and more

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Divisional Round - Tennessee Titans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Mark Andrews Reacts to Hayden Hurst Trade, Expanding Role - Ryan Mink

“We’re going to be just fine,” Andrews said. “Nick and I are going to do our jobs and obviously we’re going to find someone else to help us out.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever change. I always have a big chip on my shoulder,” Andrews said. “I’ve always been someone who wants to take the next step and be great – each and every year getting better. I think I had a good year last year but it’s all about improving on that. I don’t feel any extra pressure with Hayden being gone.”

The Ravens are adding beef to their defense so nobody can run all over them again - Adam Stites

Baltimore should be much better against the run in 2020

The Ravens haven’t made many changes in the spring. And why should they? The roster is already among the best in the league.

Baltimore’s moves in free agency have included retaining outside linebacker Matthew Judon with the franchise tag and signing stout run defender Derek Wolfe to a cheap one-year deal.

But where the Ravens really set themselves up for success is with two trades:

1. They acquired Calais Campbell from the Jaguars for the low cost of a fifth-round draft pick. Jacksonville is in the midst of a full-fledged teardown of its roster and was happy to part with Campbell’s $15 million salary cap hit. That gave the Ravens a Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner who was a Pro Bowler in each of the last three seasons.

While Baltimore lost defensive tackle Michael Pierce in free agency when he signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Vikings, they found a more than capable replacement in Campbell. It’s a short-term solution with Campbell set to turn 34 before the beginning of the 2020 season. Thanks in part to the second trade, though, the Ravens have draft capital to address the need for the future.

2. Days after trading for Campbell, the Ravens sent backup tight end Hayden Hurst to the Falconsfor a second-round pick. In two seasons with the team, the former first-round selection had only three touchdown receptions and was outshined by Mark Andrews.

That trade — along with a third-round compensatory pick for losing linebacker C.J. Mosley in 2019— has the Ravens set to pick five times in the first three rounds. That’s more than enough opportunity to find run-stuffing defensive linemen and linebackers.

Perhaps the Ravens could even package those picks to move up and take one of the best defensive tackles in the class. Auburn’s Derrick Brown and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw are both projected to be picked in the first half of the first round.

2020 NFL Draft: Examining Chase Young, K’Lavon Chaisson and rest of the edge-rusher class by type - Chris Trapasso

High-level athletes with who must improve arsenal of pass-rush moves

Josh Uche, Michigan

Johnathan Greenard, Florida

Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

Jabari Zuniga, Florida

Jonathan Garvin, Miami

Trevon Hill, Miami

Greenard has first-round highs. They just need to happen more often. At 6-3 and a rocked-up 263 pounds with the ability to tightly wrap the corner, the Florida product looks the part. With more active hands, he could be one of the best value picks on Day 2. Okwara is similar in that his play can be stupidly dominant. He’s strong with long arms and looks decently flexible. In my notes I wrote his pass-rushing moves as “adequate.”

Unspectacular athletes with good hands and awesome length/size

A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

Terrell Lewis, Alabama

Darrell Taylor, Tennessee

Lewis looks like a cornerback on the field. Then you realize he’s 6-5 and 262 pounds with nearly 34-inch arms. His Gumby-like frame allows him to win suddenly to the inside off his initial rush and there are moments of stellar athleticism. But he isn’t going to be speeding by NFL offensive tackles in a blur and must use his length, power, and counters to become a successful edge rusher in the pros.

Taylor dealt with injuries his senior season at Tennessee, yet as a junior, his bend/dip combination was easily the best of this bunch. At 6-4 and 267 pounds, he’s built like a concrete wall to set the edge and understands how to win the leverage battle when grappling with tackles on the outside.

2020 NFL Mock Draft: Giants land Chase Young, Dolphins trade up for Tua Tagovailoa - Steve Palazzolo


Even with the Ravens franchising Matt Judon, Okwara is a fantastic fit for their defense. They have the most versatile defense in the league, and Okwara is an edge rusher with coverage-dropping athleticism. The Ravens can continue their “positionless football” approach on defense with Okwara, who had an excellent 90.4 pass-rush grade a year ago to go with the movement skills to play off-ball linebacker if needed. The Ravens will use that skillset to keep opposing offenses off balance.

Owners approve expanding postseason to 14 teams - Kevin Patra

The expanded format, which was agreed to in the new CBA, added one team per conference, creating six total wild card slots. Per league data, since 1990, when the playoffs expanded from 10 to 12 teams, 44 of the 60 teams that would have claimed the seventh seeds had winning records, including 10 different 10-win teams. Only the 1990 Dallas Cowboys would have made the playoffs with a losing record over that span in a 14-team format.

Adding an additional playoff team in each conference means only the No.1 seeds in the AFC and NFC will earn a postseason bye, a massive advantage to the top club each year. While it’s been suggested that adding playoff teams could dilute the regular season, with the No. 1 spot earning an even bigger advantage than previous seasons, it could make the final weeks for vital for clubs battling for postseason position.

The move to 14 playoff teams means 43.7 percent of all NFL teams would qualify for the postseason, compared to 33.3 percent in MLB (33.3), 51.6 in NHL and 53.3 in NBA.