The Baltimore Ravens have spent the offseason up to this point accumulating more talent for their already loaded roster and setting the table for what will be some tight competition in training camp. With only a handful of starting and rotational roles on either side of the ball up for grabs—and even fewer roster spots not already spoken for—General Manager Eric DeCosta and Co. will face some difficult decisions at cutdown time.
Instead of just saying goodbye to a quality player and getting nothing in return or subjecting them to waivers with the hope of trying to bring them back on the practice squad, they could look to deal some of their players on the bubble for future draft capital.
The Ravens love stockpiling draft picks and hate having to let go of players without getting something back. Here are four Ravens players still playing on their rookie contracts that could get dealt before the start of the 2021 regular season.
OG Ben Powers
The Ravens already possessed great depth on the interior of their offensive line before they drafted the hulking Ben Cleveland in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Powers was a fourth-round selection in 2019 and won’t just yield the starting left guard spot to the rookie just because he’s considered the front runner from the outside looking in.
Powers has played many meaningful snaps for the Ravens over his first two years in the league with the vast majority of his starting experience coming last season where he made nine starts at right guard including postseason play. He helped a banged-up and reshuffled Ravens offensive line punch their ticket to the playoffs with a strong finish to the regular season where they averaged over 227 rushing yards per game with him in the starting lineup.
Since he’s competing for starting job, he’ll likely see a lot of action rotating with the first and second-team units in both practice and the preseason. The exhibition contests will give both the Ravens and opposing teams an extended look at Powers in live situations against a defense that is not his own. Even if the third-year pro and Cleveland are neck and in the running, the Ravens could be enticed to roll with the more heralded rookie and turn their surplus at a position of both strength and depth into a mid to late-round draft pick.
WR Miles Boykin
The roster status of the 2019 third-round pick was considered a lock heading into this year’s draft but after DeCosta double-dipped at his position for the third straight year with the selections of Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace many don’t believe it to be secure.
Boykin’s been a durable, dependable, and integral part of creating explosive plays in the run game with his downfield blocking. However, he hasn’t been very productive or consistent as a pass-catcher. He boasts just 32 receptions, 464 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns, despite playing in all of a possible 35 career games and making 26 starts over his first two seasons.
Even if he were to show out in the preseason and outperform second-year pro James Proche, who is also considered on the roster bubble, there is a greater chance that he’d be able to fetch more than a conditional late-round pick since he is the more known and proven commodity of the two. Proche was only targeted three times as a rookie last year and caught just one of those passes for 14 yards.
CB Anthony Averett
The 2018 fourth-round pick is entering the final year of his rookie contract and I believe he could be just as likely to receive an extension as he is to get traded. He played well when called upon during his first three seasons with seven career starts under his belt. He provides quality depth at outside corner with the ability to contribute in the slot as well.
The Ravens are firm believers in that a team can never have enough quality corners especially when their lack of depth at the position has burned them in the past. However, they drafted a pair of versatile defensive backs in Brandon Stephens and Shaun Wade and still don’t know what they have in 2019 fourth-rounder Iman Marshall since he’s spent most of his first two seasons on injured reserve.
Marshall likely wouldn’t even garner a conditional late-round pick on the trading block given the lack of time he’s spent on the field. Averett might decide to test free agency next offseason instead of resigning with the Ravens to be a backup or play in a heavier rotation if Jimmy Smith isn’t brought back on another one-year deal. Instead of hoping they can recoup a late-round compensatory pick in 2023 if he signs elsewhere next March, they could deal him to corner-needy team this August for a guaranteed and more immediate return.
The loser of the backup QB competition
The battle to serve as Lamar Jackson’s primary backup this fall will be one of the fiercest and fun to watch this summer. With veteran Robert Griffin III no longer in the picture, that leaves 2019 sixth-rounder, Trace McSorley, and 2020 undrafted free agent, Tyler Huntley, as the top two candidates.
McSorley was a preseason star as a rookie and showed some impressive flashes in spot duty last season before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury. However, Huntley displayed some dynamic playmaking ability of his own in cleanup duty down the stretch in the regular season when Jackson was pulled in the fourth quarter of blowouts and did an admirable job in the playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills under arduous weather conditions.
Since the Ravens will need to find ways to keep their quality and more essential talent at other spots on the roster, I don’t foresee them carrying three quarterbacks for a fourth straight season unless one of them lands on injured reserve with a season-ending “injury” just before the final round of cuts.
I also don’t think the Ravens will be able to stash either signal-caller on the practice squad because I don’t believe that they will clear waivers if cut. Quality backup quarterbacks can be just as difficult to find as franchise ones since the supply never meets the demand.
Both players will get plenty of snaps in the preseason while Jackson stands on the sidelines and out of harm’s way as he prepares to lead the Ravens into greater prosperity in 2021. If they both perform well in those exhibition contests, the team will not only have a tough call to make on who to keep but they will also likely have an opportunity to deal the loser of the competition to a team in exchange for Day 3 pick. Perhaps they could net as high as a fifth-rounder if DeCosta’s previous history of swindling opposing head executives is any indication.