When it comes to contract extensions in Baltimore these days, Lamar Jackson is the headliner. The Ravens are in fact expected to discuss and pursue an extension for Jackson in the coming months, as general manager Eric DeCosta confirmed to the media recently.
However, in the same press conference, DeCosta also suggested that the Ravens could seek extensions for fellow 2018 draft mates Orlando Brown Jr. and/or Mark Andrews.
Brown Jr. and Andrews have been linked together for quite some time. They were teammates at Oklahoma, were drafted just three picks away from each in the third round, and have quickly become key offensive cogs alongside Jackson for the Ravens. Now, both players will be up for contract extensions in the near future.
It’s important to note, of course, that rumors have begun to swirl recently surrounding Brown’s future with the Ravens. Following Brown’s tweet on Friday and Jason La Canfora’s reporting for CBS Sports, there’s rampant speculation that Brown and the Ravens could be nearing a split.
However, for the time being these are just rumors, not fact. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s operate under the assumption that both Brown Jr. and Andrews would like to remain with the team. If this winds up being the case, then general manager Eric DeCosta could be faced with a dicey situation.
In an ideal world, the Ravens sign both players to extensions. The salary cap situation is up in the air at the moment but this proposition is certainly within the cards. At the same time, it’s possible the Ravens could end up having to choose between the two — and even if they do sign both, one deal will be inked before the other.
Jackson is priority No. 1, but who should be next in line?
The case for Orlando Brown Jr. —
After earning a Pro Bowl selection in his sophomore season last year, Brown Jr. followed it up with another Pro Bowl nod in 2020 while thriving in unforeseen circumstances.
Brown Jr. was tasked with the difficult challenge of shifting from right tackle to left tackle on the fly after Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending injury in Week 8. Replacing one of the league’s best at the position is no easy task, especially considering Brown had minimal NFL experience playing left tackle in his career until this season.
However, his play did not suffer any drop off. He continued to perform at a high level and was the Ravens best, most consistent offensive lineman. Brown Jr.’s name was rarely called on a game-to-game basis, which is of course good because it means he wasn’t getting beat consistently or making mistakes.
At 24 years old, Brown Jr. now has two Pro Bowl seasons under his belt and has demonstrated the ability to play either tackle position. John Harbaugh and DeCosta have both spoken at length about how improving the offensive line is one of the team’s biggest priorities this offseason. If the Ravens view the offensive line as a weakness, why would they risk losing one of their only stalwart lineman over the past two seasons?
His presence is even more important given Stanley’s injury. Stanley is projected to return to action this summer but there’s no telling exactly when he’ll be 100% healthy and up to speed. After all, he did both fracture and dislocate his ankle.
Having Brown Jr. in the fold ensures that when Stanley is playing, the Ravens have two bookend tackles at all times. This is crucial to protecting your franchise quarterback and is a similar formula that other winning teams have used in the past, like the Chiefs as a recent example.
Brown Jr. has proven to be an exceptional pass-blocker but still has room for improvement in run blocking, which is far from a standout area of his game. This hasn’t been a detriment to the team’s rushing success, though.
The case for Mark Andrews —
On a team devoid of offensive playmakers, Mark Andrews has been the Ravens most reliable and consistent pass-catcher over the past two seasons. He took a slight step back in 2020 after making the Pro Bowl last year but missed two games after contracting COVID.
Even so, Andrews tied Marquise Brown for the team-lead in receptions with 58 and finished a close second in receiving yards. The first half of the season was a bit up-and-down for Andrews and he particularly struggled against the Chiefs in Week 3, where he dropped a handful of passes — including a would-be touchdown in the end zone.
From Week 10-16, though, Andrews was remarkably consistent and productive. He caught five or more passes for 60+ receiving yards in five straight games. In the latter four games of this stretch, Andrews caught at least one pass for 25+ yards.
Between 2019 and 2020, Andrews has been Lamar Jackson’s go-to target when on the field. He’s seen 186 total targets and has scored 17 touchdowns. Last season, his 10 touchdown receptions ranked in the Top 3 of the NFL.
It’s difficult to imagine the Ravens offense without Andrews in it, at least as currently constructed. The tight end position is more important in Baltimore than perhaps any other offense in the NFL. After trading away Hayden Hurst last offseason and seeing Nick Boyle suffer a season-ending hip injury this season, Andrews’ presence was all the more important to the Ravens success in 2020.
Like Brown, Andrews is not a flawless player by any stretch. He’s made improvements as a blocker but is far from a bruiser, still, and has dropped double-digit passes over the past two seasons combined. At times, his hands seem to abandon him in crucial games, which is concerning but not necessarily an unfixable pattern.
If you could sign either player to a contract extension today, who would you choose?
This poll is closed
Orlando Brown Jr.