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Ravens News 9/8: Guaranteed Money and more

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NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens, Mark Andrews reach agreement on 4-year, $56 million contract extension - PFF

The deal is good for $14 million per year, which ranks third among tight ends behind the San Francisco 49ersGeorge Kittle and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce. However, the guarantees are very strong for Andrews, as he gets $37.6 million total guaranteed, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, which slots in just behind Kittle at $40 million guaranteed but over one fewer year. The total guarantee accounting for 67% of the deal ($37.5M/$56M) is above Kittle at 53.33% ($40M/$75M). Kelce’s four-year deal for $57.25 million had just $27 million in total guarantees, which further illustrates the strength of Andrews’ terms.

This structure is in line with other recent big extensions for marquee Ravens players — left tackle Ronnie Stanley is a notable example. Stanley’s $19.75 million per year average ranks fourth among tackles, but his $70.866 million total guarantee and $64.116 million fully guaranteed at signing figures are both over $10 million more than the next highest tackle.

Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey also received $75 million in total guarantees, which is the most among cornerbacks.

Andrews is held in high esteem across the NFL, checking in at No. 6 on PFF’s tight end rankings heading into the 2021 season and at No. 4 on an offseason ranking by NFL executives conducted by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Since 2018, Andrews’ 2.29 yards per route run ranks third among all tight ends, and he’s one of just four tight ends above 2.0 yards per route run over the span. Andrews ranks sixth in explosive receptions (15+ yards) since 2018 (48), and his 20 touchdowns — which ranks fourth — makes him one of just four tight ends with more than 15 touchdowns over the past three regular seasons.

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta has tough financial decisions to make. Extending Mark Andrews was not one of them - Jeff Zrebiec

In the coming months, the Ravens brain trust will have plenty of more salary cap juggling to do and financial decisions to make. The team’s free-agent class in six months is primed to include starting center Bradley Bozeman, starting safety DeShon Elliott, Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard and valuable reserve cornerback Anthony Averett. Accomplished veterans Sammy Watkins, Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Justin Houston, Pernell McPhee and Jimmy Smith are all entering the season on one-year deals or playing out the final season of their multi-year contracts, too.

Then, there’s Jackson. He’s under contract through 2022 after the Ravens picked up his fifth-year option, but DeCosta has said several times that the organization would like to sign the former league MVP to a contract extension sooner rather than later. Both the Ravens and Jackson have been mum about the status of the negotiations, so it isn’t clear where things stand. Jackson’s contract, though, would be the next logical domino to fall.

Until then, the Ravens did the next best thing for Jackson. Investing in the quarterback requires more than just presenting him with a large check. It means making sure his close friend and most trusted target would be staying around for a while.

2021 NFL triplets rankings: Packers, Bills climb; Falcons plummet - Nick Shook

13. Baltimore Ravens

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson — Rank: 8

Running back: Gus Edwards — Rank: 24

Pass catcher: Mark Andrews — Rank: 29

The Ravens rely on Jackson’s dual-threat ability, but the loss of J.K. Dobbins to a season-ending knee injury dropped Baltimore in the overall rankings. It will be up to Edwards to play a leading role in replacing him. The team spent the offseason attempting to address the passing game via both scheme and personnel, signing Sammy Watkins and drafting Rashod Bateman (who’s unfortunately on injured reserve after undergoing surgery last month). Still, Andrews remains the top pass catcher. He ranks in the top five among tight ends in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns since 2019. As we all know, the Ravens must improve through the air if they want to get closer to the Super Bowl. That starts with finding better balance offensively.

NFL 2021 team previews: Bold predictions, breakout candidates, biggest questions - Jamison Hensley

4. Baltimore Ravens

Breakout candidate: Gus Edwards, RB

The Ravens’ prime breakout candidate was RB J.K. Dobbins before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason finale. Now, Edwards steps up to get his first chance to become an NFL featured back at the start of a season. He has been among the most consistent runners in the league, averaging over five yards per carry in each of his first three seasons. With the increased role, Edwards has a chance to produce 1,100 yards and close to double-digit touchdowns in the NFL’s most dominant rushing attack.

Bold prediction: Ravens will finish No. 1 in defense.

There’s plenty of buzz about how good the defenses in Pittsburgh and Cleveland will be this season, but the Ravens look primed to have the best defense in the NFL. In three seasons with Don “Wink” Martindale as defensive coordinator, Baltimore has allowed the fewest yards (307.8) and points (18.2) in the league. The biggest question mark surrounding this defense had been the pass rush. But the Ravens signed Justin Houston (97.5 career sacks) and used a first-round pick on Odafe Oweh, who could be the fastest edge rusher in franchise history. This defense has the potential to be scary.

Ravens are slight road favorites in season opener vs. Las Vegas Raiders - Jonas Shaffer

The Ravens opened as 5 ½-point favorites, but the line for the “Monday Night Football” matchup has since fallen to 4 ½. The Ravens and Las Vegas will be the last teams to play in Week 1. “I’d rather be one of the first two teams to play,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh joked Monday.

The Ravens have won their past two season openers, over the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, by a combined 97-16 and are 5-0 in Week 1 since 2016. The Raiders, who hired coach Jon Gruden in 2018 and moved to Las Vegas ahead of last season, have also won five straight openers.

The Ravens lead the all-time series with the Raiders 9-3, including an AFC championship game win in their Super Bowl XXXV season.