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Ravens News 3/26: Next Level Pieces and more

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Lewis on Lamar Jackson: Ravens Need to ‘Put Pieces Around Him’ to Win Super Bowl - Todd Karpovich

“You have to surround him with the things that he needs,” Lewis told ESPN’s First Take. “Anytime you get into playoffs, you’re dealing with a Patrick Mahomes and all of those guys who are throwing the ball to legit wide receivers, right. We have to add to Hollywood Brown. We have to add to the tight end. We have to put a guy at the ‘X’ position [split end], at the ‘Z’ position [flanker].”

“When you think about how do you help Lamar, you have to put pieces around Lamar to help Lamar. I get it, we’re the No. 1 rush team in football the last two years,” Lewis said. “That’s great to be able to do that. To go to the next level, you’re going to have to have a big ‘X’ or ‘Z’ on the outside that takes the pressure off Lamar. Can he do it? Absolutely, but you’re going to have to surround him with the right pieces.”

From JuJu to T.Y.: Are free agent receivers bypassing the Ravens’ offense? - Jamison Hensley

It’s possible that the Ravens’ offers weren’t rich enough to get Smith-Schuster and Hilton to leave the comforts of the teams that drafted them. It’s also possible that neither Smith-Schuster nor Hilton want to play in an offense that threw the ball just 406 times, the fewest in the NFL in eight years.

The Ravens are in a tough situation because they want to help Jackson develop as a passer but they also don’t want to tinker too much with a winning formula.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said he’s “not apologizing” for the team’s run-oriented philosophy and he’s not going to beg a wide receiver to come to Baltimore.

The Ravens have repeatedly patched up their wide receiver group over the years by signing a 30-something wide receiver, from Derrick Mason to Anquan Boldin to Steve Smith Sr. But Baltimore hasn’t added a significant free-agent wide receiver in the two offseasons with Jackson as its starter.

Twelve Ravens thoughts following early waves of free agency - Luke Jones

Some disgruntled fans have noted how the Ravens approach wide receivercompared to addressing the run defense last offseason by tagging Matthew Judon, acquiring Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe early in free agency, and drafting Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison early. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, but much offseason remains.

Though outside linebacker should be a priority in the draft, a veteran addition would make you feel much better about the position group. With Melvin Ingram, Carlos Dunlap, Jadeveon Clowney, and Justin Houston among those still available, there’s a value signing out there to be made.

I’ve remained skeptical about a team offering enough to justify the Ravens trading Orlando Brown Jr. ahead of a season with Super Bowl aspirations. Regardless of Brown’s status for 2021, adding a young offensive tackle with upside remains a must. Perhaps Brown’s market heats up closer to the draft.

2021 NFL Free Agency: Best contract values and best overall team approaches to spending - Brad Spielberger

Baltimore Ravens: Dominating the compensatory pick game yet again

The compensatory pick system was introduced in the 1993 collective bargaining agreement along with the salary cap and unrestricted free agency itself, thus leading to the first crop of compensatory picks being awarded in the 1994 draft. Since that season, no franchise has earned more compensatory picks than the Baltimore Ravens with 53 (the Dallas Cowboys are the next highest with 47).

This offseason yet again illustrates exactly how the Ravens take advantage of the system. First, before free agency began, Baltimore was looking for an upgrade along the interior of its offensive line. Because former New York Giants G Kevin Zeitler was cut as opposed to being an unrestricted free agent, he does not factor into the compensatory formula.

Next, they had three edge rushers who were unrestricted free agents: Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Tyus Bowser. As you can see above, Bowser was one of our favorite signings this offseason in terms of surplus value provided over the contract. In addition, letting Judon and Ngakoue depart puts the Ravens in line to earn fourth-round compensatory picks in 2022 for both players.

2021 NFL Draft: Buyer beware on Kadarius Toney, Gregory Rousseau and these other top prospects - Chris Trapasso

Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Why: Route-running inefficiencies; dances too much after the catch

Toney is a blast to watch — he’s elastic with the football in his hands and when he pieces everything together, he’s a highlight generator. And for as much as the NFL has become a “space” league on offense, Toney doesn’t provide first-round caliber refinement as a receiver right now.

At Florida, he was utilized almost strictly in a gadget role, and he’s much quicker than he is fast, which limits his big-play potential as a pro. Also, his creativity as a runner is a blessing and a curse. For every juke and spin through a tackle, Toney will simply try to do too much instead of making one cut and maximizing the yardage in front of him. That dancing mentality creates negative plays that had no business of being negative plays.

If a team picks him in Round 1, it’ll likely be doing so largely because of the insane, bouncy YAC displays he showcased at Florida, especially in 2020. But for as good as he seems to be on the surface with the ball in his hands, Toney’s not nearly as efficient as he should/could be in that department. And I don’t know if that can ever be fully coached out of him.