Threading the Needle Between Win Now and the Future - John Eisenberg
Trying to win now is an obvious mandate for them. After being stuck in a cycle of mediocrity between 2013 and 2017, the Ravens have made three straight playoff appearances and been among the final eight in the last two Super Bowl tournaments. They’re close enough to their goal to believe a few changes might make the difference.
And their sense of urgency is even greater, or should be, because their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, is due for a new contract at some point in the next couple years. His price point remains a question, but with a 30-7 regular season record as a starter and a league MVP award to his credit, he’ll surely command the largest contract in franchise history.
When your star quarterback is on the contract he signed as a rookie, as Jackson still is, it’s easier to do more with the rest of the roster. But addressing other issues becomes trickier once the quarterback is eating up more of the salary cap with a new deal.
Mark Ingram walked so Dobbins could run. 2021 will mark a changing of the guard at RB in Baltimore, as Dobbins, the Ravens’ 2020 second-round pick, replaces the released veteran Ingram. Neither Ingram nor Dobbins was the leading rusher in the league’s top rushing offense last season — that would be quarterback Lamar Jackson — and it was actually Gus Edwards who led all Ravens RBs in carries. But Dobbins outpaced Edwards in yards per carry (6.0 to 5.0) when he got the chance, finishing with a far superior 1.67 RYOE/attempt (third in the NFL), and Edwards, a restricted free agent, is, as of this moment, not under contract to return as a Raven. Still, Dobbins started just one game in 2020 and didn’t prove he could sustain a starter’s workload until late in the campaign. Given that his current backup is Hill, who logged just 17 touches in his second season in Baltimore, the RB room is crying out for a cheap veteran (Edwards or otherwise) to siphon off some carries.
Baltimore Ravens free-agency overview: Upgrading around Lamar Jackson - Jamison Hensley
Game plan: This is a need that hasn’t gotten as much attention as wide receiver and offensive line. The Ravens will look to bring in a pass-catching tight end in either free agency or the draft. Baltimore never really replaced Hayden Hurst after he was traded to the Falcons last year, and Andrews is in the final year of his rookie contract.
Game plan: Upgrading the offensive line is considered the offseason priority. Free-agent interior linemen such as guard Joe Thuney or center Corey Linsley make sense as well as a potential cap cut like guard Kevin Zeitler. Brown could get traded but it’s far from a given because the Ravens likely won’t deal him for anything less than a first-round pick.
Ravens Potential Free-Agent Target: Lions WR Marvin Jones Jr. - Todd Karpovich
Pros: Jones is a solid wide receiver that could provide quarterback Lamar Jackson with a solid, sure-handed target. Last season, he led Detroit with 76 receptions for 978 yards and nine touchdowns. After struggling to find wins with the Lions, Jones could welcome the opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl in Baltimore.
Cons: Jones turns 31 on March 12, so he would be one of the Ravens older players on offense. He has also dealt with some injuries over his career and was limited to nine games in 2018 because of a knee injury. Several teams will look to sign Jones as a free agent, so Baltimore will have some competition to sign him.
Outlook: Jones would be a good fit in Baltimore. He has the toughness and talent to make an impact and develop a rapport in the tight-knit locker room. Jones would also be less expensive than some of the other free-agent wide receivers on the free-agent market and could sign for about $9 million to $10 million per year.
Jenkins was a mainstay on the Pokes’ offensive line over the past three years, and he performed exceptionally well each season. He excelled in the run game, where he notched the second-best run-blocking grade among FBS right tackles in those three seasons combined. He intimidated edge defenders with his strength, resulting in a multitude of positively graded blocks as he rarely ceded ground. He was the only Power Five tackle to rank top five in both positively and negatively graded run block rate in 2020.
The rarity in which we saw Jenkins go one-on-one on true pass sets in Oklahoma State’s offense is a minor concern, though. Just 128 of his 946 snaps in the past three years were true pass sets. That said, Jenkins posted an elite 90.0 pass-blocking grade on those snaps, which would have been the best at the position had he played enough to qualify.
Another concern is his shorter arm length, which could kick him inside at the next level. In an offense like Baltimore’s, though, those concerns aren’t as prominent. He’ll hold up just fine in pass protection and would be a huge asset for the Ravens’ potent run game with his brute strength.