How Free Agent Moves Could Affect Ravens’ Draft Plans - Clifton Brown
Signing Kevin Zeitler likely decreased the odds of an offensive lineman coming to Baltimore in Round 1.
Acquiring Zeitler early in free agency solidified the right guard spot. The position was unsettled last season in the first year after Marshal Yanda’s retirement, with Tyre Phillips, Patrick Mekari, D.J. Fluker and Ben Powers all starting at various points. Zeitler has started 134 games at right guard during his nine-year career, so that need has been addressed.
There are still questions to answer along the offensive line. We still don’t know if Brown, a Pro Bowl tackle, will be traded before the season due to his desire to play left tackle. We still don’t know if Bozeman will move from left guard to center.
However, adding Zeitler gives the Ravens more leeway to bypass an offensive lineman early. They could still find a potential starting guard or center on Day 2, while addressing another position like wide receiver or pass rusher in Round 1. Drafting an offensive lineman Day 1 would become even less of a priority if Brown remains with the Ravens for another season. An offensive line that includes Pro Bowl tackles Brown and Ronnie Stanley, plus Zeitler and Bozeman could be one of the best in the NFL. Zeitler has been an excellent pass protector during his career, and if the offensive line provides Jackson with more time to throw, the Ravens believe it will result in more big plays in the passing game.
PFF’s free-agency deal grade: Very Good
The veteran guard has played 1,751 pass-blocking snaps against AFC North competition since being drafted by the Bengals in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He has earned pass-blocking grades above 70.0 in 35 of his 44 games against teams from the AFC North and has allowed just two sacks, nine hits and 34 hurries.
Over the PFF era (2006-present), a total of 68 offensive guards have played at least 300 snaps against AFC North defenses. Zeitler’s average of 159.2 snaps played per sack or hit allowed ranks first among that group.
NFL Team-by-Team Free-Agency Grades 2021 (So Far) - Mike Tanier
Key Additions: G Kevin Zeitler
Key Departures: EDGE Matt Judon, RB Mark Ingram, EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, C Matt Skura
Like their division rivals just west on I-70, the Ravens let veterans like Judon and Ingram walk all the time as part of their long-established organizational philosophy. But the Steelers did a better job of retaining some of their in-house talent than the Ravens did.
Zeitler should help put some thump back in the Lamar Jackson option attack, but the Ravens just lost most of their pass rush. And while landing Kenny Golladay or Curtis Samuel was always more like fanfic than a real plan, the Ravens could at least have dabbled in the receiver market a bit.
Georgia · Edge · Sophomore (RS)
Replacing Matt Judon with an explosive pass riser possessing A-plus athleticism tops Eric DeCosta’s to-do list.
2021 NFL Mock Draft 6.1 - Kyle Crabbs
The Ravens were kicking the tires on pass-catchers in free agency but ultimately stood firm with their nucleus as is. Getting more options for Lamar Jackson is needed, but Baltimore is already a leg up in fortifying the offense thanks to the signing of Kevin Zeitler. There’s depth to the wide receiver class, but if Baltimore wants a high post safety to take the mantle from Earl Thomas, they’ll need to strike here.
An NFL Spending Boom Is Coming, Just Not Right Now - Kevin Clark
The cap could have been $210 million this year, based on previous growth projections. Unfortunately for the players, it was far less than that. It’ll surge past that number easily within a few years. The TV deals are, over the course of 11 years, worth more than $113 billion. The current cap crisis will not last long.
The money is not flowing to players immediately. The financial shortfalls caused by COVID-19 will be spread over three years, which the players agreed to instead of a 35 percent pay cut last season, meaning the cap will probably rise slightly over the next two years and then explode. Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com said his “guess is our first real big spike year hits in 2024 with the cap probably in the range of $260 million. It should reach $300 million by 2027.”
NBC Sports’ Peter King speculated this week that there could be a way next season for teams to have a “bank” to borrow from in future seasons, because “by 2023 lots of teams that pushed bigger 2021 deals than they could afford will need room desperately.” The ramifications of such a move are still murky.
The only consensus is that spending will explode in the middle part of this decade and that players whom teams build around will be fine for now and very rich later.