2021 NFL free agency: Three good analytic fits and three head-scratchers - Cynthia Frelund
Kevin Zeitler OG
Contract details: Three years, $22 million.
With Zeitler helping to block for them over the past two seasons, Giants ball carriers recorded 48 rushes of 10-plus yards inside the tackles, good for second-most in the NFL in that span (per NGS). I point out the run game here because of the importance to the Ravens’ scheme. In pass protection, Zeitler has ranked in the top 10 percent of guards at preventing pressures, per my computer vision, over the past three seasons. One interesting note is that last season, Zeitler’s response time — meaning, the time from snap to holding his stance against a defender — increased by about 0.4 seconds from his seasons prior. That is the wrong direction, as it can mean Zeitler has less favorable leverage. The good news here, though, is that the Ravens’ scheme and play-calling minimizes the impact of this trend and will likely allow Zeitler to be extremely efficient. This deal — which ranks 16th among guards on a per-year basis, according to Over The Cap — represents a favorable cost to the Ravens, one that is well below his production projection in this scheme.
What the JuJu Smith-Schuster Reports Tell Us - Ryan Mink
While it’s clear the Ravens are willing to spend money to add a big-time wide receiver, it still has to be the right player at the right price. They aren’t going to pivot and throw that same offer at any wide receiver sitting on the market. At this point, there aren’t many wide receivers remaining who would present an obvious and immediate upgrade to what the Ravens already have on the roster.
The big names remaining are T.Y. Hilton, Sammy Watkins and Antonio Brown, but Baltimore obviously preferred Smith-Schuster. The Ravens could also like another wideout who doesn’t come with as robust of a resume, or they may like one of those other options more if the price becomes right.
One thing to remember is the wise words of Ozzie Newsome, who always reiterated that there are many different ways to acquire a player. If the choices aren’t great now, the Ravens could make a trade. There’s always the possibility that a wide receiver will fall into the Ravens’ lap via a cut at some point later this offseason. Just because Baltimore hasn’t added a veteran yet doesn’t mean they won’t.
57. WR JOSH REYNOLDS
The Rams turned to Josh Reynolds when one of their primary receivers was out due to injury, and thanks to playoff runs, he has been on the field for at least 750 snaps in two of the past three seasons. His grades have been remarkably consistent — in the 60s — but rarely has he looked like a true difference-maker as opposed to simply a bit-part depth player.
Contract Analysis: Reynolds has a large body of work for teams to break down on film as a result of playing in Sean McVay’s 11-personnel-dominant scheme, but nothing about his play jumps off the tape. Teams do value a safe, reliable player who they know what they’ll get from every week. With just four drops on 165 targets over the past three seasons, Reynolds is a safe bet as a depth wideout.
Prediction: Reynolds signs for two years, $8.5 million ($4.25M APY), $5 million total guaranteed.
61. WR DAMIERE BYRD
Byrd does one thing really well — he brings his 4.27 speed to work the vertical route tree. He obviously has the speed to get behind the defense, but that also opens up curls and hitches on the outside. Even with the speed, Byrd has averaged just 12.0 yards per catch in his career, and he must cut back on last year’s five drops on only 52 catchable passes.
Contract Analysis: With opportunities somewhat scarce in the New England Patriots‘ run-first offense, Byrd still managed a few big outings when the Patriots did choose to air it out. He’s a willing blocker, even though he didn’t exactly excel as one, and Bill Belichick trusted him enough to keep trotting him out there, something he’s not always going to do if he feels a guy is a weak link.
Prediction: Byrd signs for two years, $4.5 million ($2.25M APY), $2.5 million total guaranteed.
Ravens’ draft record soon to be tested - Mike Preston
The lack of a big-name surprise by the Ravens early in free agency is not a surprise. When you’re in a position to win a championship, you go out and make a splash if that’s the one player who finishes the quest to win a championship. The Ravens aren’t one player away. They still need a center. Left offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley is expected to return by the time training camp starts, but no one can say if that injured ankle will be 100%. And then there is Orlando (I Am a Left Tackle) Brown Jr, who might be traded by the start of the season.
The Ravens have just as many concerns on defense even though the re-signing of Wolfe was needed because it gave them strength and continuity.
It’s still early in the offseason and parts can be added or subtracted. Regardless, the Ravens can take the next step toward possibly advancing in the playoffs if the younger players perform well.
It would be a great indicator if that draft record is truly legitimate, or overrated.
LSU · WR · Junior
While Marshall might not be my personal selection here, there is no getting around how his size and speed could impact the Ravens’ passing game.