10th percentile outcome: 7-10
How they get there: Baltimore’s offense doesn’t evolve, and opposing defenses are better prepared to force the Ravens to win through the air. The carelessness with the ball that Lamar Jackson showcased early on last season, when he ranked third in the league in turnover-worthy play rate through his first eight games, extends over the course of the entire 2021 season.
The loss of Yannick Ngakoue (74.5 pass-rush grade in 2020) and Matthew Judon (67.0) are felt on defense, as well. The Ravens struggle to generate consistent pressure, even with the league’s highest blitz rate.
90th percentile outcome: 12-5
How they get there: The best receiving corps of Jackson’s career following the offseason additions of Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace helps him get back toward his 2019 output as a passer (82.5 passing grade). The offensive line additions of Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva and Ben Clevelandand the return of a healthy Ronnie Stanley more than make up for the Orlando Brown Jr. trade, improving a unit that finished the 2020 season ranked 23rd in overall grade.
Meanwhile, one of the best secondaries in the NFL maintains Baltimore’s spot as an upper-tier defense.
Who are the best breakout candidates for all 32 NFL teams? - Jeff Zrebiec
The Ravens didn’t put a lot on rookie running back J.K. Dobbins’ shoulders early last season. He didn’t get double-digit carries until Week 8. That won’t happen this year. The Ravens love Gus Edwards and offensive coordinator Greg Roman maintains that he’ll stick with running back by committee, but Dobbins figures to be one of the focal points of an offense that runs the ball better than anybody in football. The Ravens hit another level offensively last season after Dobbins was thrust into a prominent role. Despite sporadic use, Dobbins still finished with 925 total yards and nine touchdowns and he averaged more than 6 yards per touch. The Ravens believe he’s capable of more and would like to get him more involved in the passing game.
Will Age Catch Up With the Ravens Defensive Line? - Todd Karpovich
The Ravens have a veteran-laden defensive line that is among the best in the NFL.
However, three of their key players — Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe — are over 30 years old.
Campbell admits the 17-game schedule will be a challenge.
“I’m sure it’s going to have a lot of unintended consequences, from the standpoint of just … Usually, you say to yourself you have to win 10 games,” Campbell said. “Ten games is kind of the floor to get into a position to get to the playoffs. I guess this year, you have to say at least – minimum – 11 [games]. And even then, there are years when [teams] won 10 games and didn’t get in, but that was kind of like the number you wanted to get to.
“So, the pace you go at during the season and just how every game matters, I feel like there are going to be a lot of changes when it comes to having that extra game there. Every game is important, always, but hopefully it gives us the opportunity – if we needed – to be able to win that extra ballgame to get in, if we need to, if it’s a deciding factor.”
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Jackson is only looking up to Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen in the MVP odds heading into next season and is tied with Tom Brady. While he didn’t have quite the same success in 2020 as his record-breaking campaign in 2019, Jackson is still considered to be one of the top quarterbacks that this conference has to offer. That said, his continued development as a passer will be worth watching as we enter this coming season. If he can become more prolific in that regard — similar to his 2019 season where he led the league in passing touchdowns — that will raise the ceiling for Baltimore’s Super Bowl chances exponentially.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson could negotiate a megadeal without an agent. It won’t be easy for anyone. - Jonas Shaffer
It’s not uncommon for players to represent themselves; inside linebacker Bobby Wagner and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins signed record-breaking deals without the help of an agent. But considering the magnitude of Jackson’s potential deal, former NFL front-office executives said contract talks could get “clunky,” difficult and even tense, with landmines on both sides. The Ravens must appraise Jackson’s worth to the franchise, and Jackson must decide whether it’s a fair price.
“You want to make sure that they’re treated fairly, and they get a deal that’s appropriate,” Tannenbaum said of negotiations with players who represent themselves. “That’s what’s hard. It has to be a deal that works for both sides. Optics are always part of a deal. We know that, but more so when you don’t have an agent.”
“It was tough because you have to tell someone their self-worth,” said Brandt, now a Sports Illustrated columnist and executive director of Villanova’s Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law. “And you have to tell them maybe they’re not at the level they think they are. And it becomes a lot of raw emotions where an agent can be a buffer. I really appreciated the value of agents when that happened.”
“There’s not a perfect player in the league,” Tannenbaum said. “And if you say one thing, it could just be taken the wrong way. So it’s critical that whatever you say has to be very calibrated. But, look, Baltimore has a smart, talented, very experienced front office. And I’m sure they’re going to be able to find a landing spot.”