Complacency in Free Agency Is Not Necessarily a Sign of Weakness - Nora Princiotti
Maybe Missing the Forest for the Trees: The Baltimore Ravens
A lot of what the Ravens have done, as usual, is smart and savvy. They let their top two edge rushers, Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, walk as free agents to New England and Las Vegas, respectively. The deals each player got from those teams make it likely the Ravens will receive at least two fourth-round compensatory draft selections.
The Ravens also signed guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year, $22.5 million deal that won’t count against them in the compensatory formula, since Zeitler was cut by the Giants. That’s also a great contract in a year when interior linemen got paid.
The thing is, the offseason is largely about figuring out where the roster holes are and plugging them. It’s been fairly obvious since last season (arguably longer than that) that the Ravens need to upgrade their receiving group. So far, they’ve signed Sammy Watkins for one year, $6 million.
Watkins could make the impact they need, and there’s always the draft, but Baltimore and Jackson need better production in the passing game. The Ravens can remain the solid, run-first offense that they are without continuing to rank no. 1 in rushing but no. 32 in passing, as they did last season. It’s one thing to not make any blunders in free agency, but if Watkins isn’t a difference-maker for the offense, Baltimore may wind up feeling they played things too conservatively.
With the Ravens’ juggernaut run game and the development of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, their ambitions can be more modest. Roman and quarterback Lamar Jackson will just need Watkins to be a reliable outside-the-numbers target.
His overall role will be more expansive; Watkins’ alignment varied in Kansas City, and he’ll likewise start his routes from the slot, out wide and in motion in Baltimore. As coach John Harbaugh explained before the 2020 NFL draft, Ravens receivers are position-fluid. Brown, for instance, had almost as many receiving yards starting in the slot (371) as he did starting outside (398) last season, according to SIS.
What the Ravens need is a receiver who can take the pressure off Brown when lined up opposite the speedster. Boykin has earned his playing time with his physical blocking style and respectable downfield speed, but his receiving production has been lacking. As a rookie, he had nine catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns when lined up out wide, according to SIS. Last year, he had just eight catches for 134 yards and a score.
Worse yet, that was the second most on the team. Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins was third with 32 yards. Bryant and rookie Devin Duvernay, more of a slot receiver, tied for third with 31 yards.
The team should be well-rounded enough next season that it doesn’t need Watkins to be great. But if he’s good enough to help elevate Jackson to his all-star form, he’ll have been the right player at the right price.
The $114 million question: Who’s the next Ravens’ pass-rusher? Clowney? Houston? Ingram? - Jamison Hensley
Over the past decade, the Ravens have watched five pass-rushers under the age of 30 receive at least $16 million in guaranteed money from other teams. Paul Kruger ($20 million, Browns), Pernell McPhee ($16 million, Bears), Za’Darius Smith ($20 million, Packers), Matthew Judon ($32 million, Patriots) and Yannick Ngakoue ($26 million, Raiders) have all cashed in by thriving in Baltimore’s aggressive defense. That’s a total of $114 million in guaranteed money.
Baltimore should have an easier time luring a free-agent pass-rusher than a wide receiver because this franchise is known for defense and producing outside linebackers. The top remaining pass-rushers — Melvin Ingram III, Justin Houston and Jadeveon Clowney — are expected to sign for a relatively bargain price of $8 million to $9 million per season.
In the draft, the Ravens will have options at pass-rusher with the No. 27 overall pick. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said Oklahoma’s Ronnie Perkins (underrated impact player who lacks size), Washington’s Joe Tryon (explosive rusher who opted out last season) and Penn State’s Jayson Oweh (elite athlete who didn’t have a sack last season) are all candidates for the late first round.
Three-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft: 49ers take surprising QB at No. 3; Dolphins, Eagles add offensive playmakers - Ryan Wilson
Round 1 - Pick 27
Gregory Rousseau EDGE
MIAMI (FL) • SOPH • 6’7” / 265 LBS
PROSPECT RANK 36th
The team lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, and Rousseau could end up as the best pass rusher in this class. He opted out last season after a 15.5-sack campaign in ‘19, but as a converted WR he’s still growing into the position.
58. Ravens: Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State
105.* Ravens: Patrick Jones, EDGE, Pittsburgh
Top 50: 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings 3.0 - Daniel Jeremiah
Virginia Tech · OT · Junior
Darrisaw was a solid, reliable starter at left tackle during his career with the Hokies. He has ideal size, length and balance. In the passing game, he has average foot quickness in his set but can bend his knees and plays with a firm base. He has a sharp two-hand punch and generally keeps defenders away from his chest. He plays with excellent awareness. He uses his upper-body strength to torque and turn defenders in the run game. He takes good angles to the second level, where he’s able to position and wall off linebackers. He will have some trouble adjusting in space because of his average change-of-direction skills. I view Darrisaw as a player who’ll be starting at right tackle very early in his NFL career.
41. Liam Eichenberg
Notre Dame · OT · Senior (RS)
Eichenberg, the former starting left tackle for the Fighting Irish, has ideal height and awareness. He lacks quickness and ideal knee bend in pass protection, but does a good job of staying square and shooting his hands. He usually stays connected when he lands his punch. However, there are times he gets a little aggressive with his punch, which impacts his balance. He flashes the ability to latch and drive defenders over his nose in the run game. He takes good angles when working up to the second level. Overall, Eichenberg needs to clean up some balance issues, but I view him as a capable starter at right tackle.