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Ravens News 2/8: Forcing Turnovers and more

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Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ravens Will Spend Offseason Looking for Ways to Beat the Bengals - Clifton Brown

The Bengals’ excellence at the skill positions allows them to create mismatches that lead to big plays. In their 41-17 loss to Cincinnati in Week 5, the Ravens couldn’t contain Chase, who caught eight passes for 201 yards, including an 82-yard house call. With Pro Bowl corner Marcus Peters out for the season, Chase was defended primarily by All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who was honest enough to admit that he was outplayed by Cincinnati’s dynamic rookie receiver. “I lost that matchup,” Humphrey said.

Having Peters and Humphrey back healthy next season will give the Ravens a better chance to defend Cincinnati’s playmakers. But the Ravens need to improve their ability to force turnovers under new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald. Only the Jets and Jaguars forced fewer turnovers than the Ravens, who had just 15 takeaways in 2021.

The Ravens, who finished 25th in overall defense and last against the pass, need to improve their pass rush and pass defense to return to the playoffs.

“Our inability this year to create turnovers was probably an issue for us, and I would love to see us make the play this year coming up – intercept more passes, cause more fumbles, be more disruptive,” DeCosta said. “If the opportunity presents itself and we see a dynamic corner or a dynamic safety, of course, that would be something that would be attractive to us. When you play these teams – when you play the Steelers, when you play the Browns, when you play the Bengals – twice a year and you see their skill players, it becomes imperative that we always have a strong back end, with good players and depth.”

Grading the Ravens’ 2021 offseason moves: The hits, misses and the mixed reviews - Jeff Zrebiec

Signing tight end Mark Andrews to a four-year, $56 million extension.

A week before the start of the regular season, the Ravens struck a deal with Andrews, their top pending unrestricted free agent. Five months later, they have to be overjoyed that they did, because they almost certainly saved money by not waiting any longer. Andrews ranks fourth among tight ends in average money per year ($14 million) and second behind San Francisco’s George Kittle in total guaranteed money ($37.6 million). That still feels like a bargain after a season during which Andrews set franchise records with 107 catches for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns. Andrews was the team’s best player by a wide margin this season, and it has to be comforting to Ravens officials that he’s signed through 2025.

Trading Brown, a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 sixth-rounder to the Chiefs for 2021 first-, third- and fourth-round picks and a 2022 fifth-rounder.

Did the Ravens miss Brown, particularly when Stanley’s season ended in Week 1? They sure did. He could have made a significant difference for an offensive line that struggled for parts of the season. But does that mean that they were wrong for playing the long game? No. Brown didn’t want to be there, and the Ravens certainly didn’t have the flexibility or the interest in paying him top offensive tackle money. They’d have lost him anyway this offseason and gotten no better than a future compensatory selection in return. To turn Brown into Oweh and projected 2022 starting left guard Ben Cleveland, and to still have more draft capital from the deal to use this year, can’t be dismissed.

Pros, Cons For Ravens, Lamar Jackson Getting An Extension Done Sooner Rather Than Later - Bo Smolka

The team’s reasons for waiting:

Is DeCosta ready to commit $200 million or more to Jackson coming off his least productive year as a pro? Despite his public pronouncements, do DeCosta and owner Steve Bisciotti believe that Jackson remains “an ascending player,” Bisciotti’s term used in the past when offering big-ticket extensions?

DeCosta said that paying Jackson $23 million on the fifth-year option isn’t unreasonable, and he noted that a larger overall salary cap for 2022 will cushion some of that blow.

“We can certainly take on that amount,” DeCosta said. “Based on who Lamar is and what he has to offer, that’s not a huge ticket for a quarterback of that ability and that personality and what he brings to the table for the team.”

The Ravens also know they have the option of using the franchise tag on Jackson in 2023 and even in 2024 if they choose. Granted, that won’t be cheap: The franchise tag for a quarterback — arrived by taking the average of the top five contracts at the position — would cost about $28.5 million this year, according to overthecap.com, and will only go up from there.

The Ravens could expect to pay $30 million to tag Jackson in 2023, and a second tag could cost $40 million. One hundred percent of that would count against that year’s cap, leaving the Ravens little financial flexibility for other needs.

Still, using Allen’s extension as a guide, the Ravens can expect to fork over well more than $70 million in guaranteed money in any long-term deal.

Ravens Potential Free-Agent Target: Safety Tyrann Mathieu - Todd Karpovich

Mathieu, who turns 30 in May, will be entering his 10th year in the league and is a solid ball hawk, something the Ravens sorely need. Over his career, he has managed 26 interceptions with three touchdowns. He is also durable, starting 120 of 129 career games.

Mathieu also managed a pick-six against the Ravens last season.

Mathieu played collegiately at LSU and Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen, a fellow Tiger, has already started recruiting him.

Eight of the biggest sleepers in the 2022 NFL Draft class - Anthony Treash

DI NEIL FARRELL JR., LSU TIGERS

Farrell was the single-best run-stuffing interior defensive lineman in the Power Five this past season, as he earned an 89.9 run-defense grade while also posting a respectable 78.8 pass-rush grade. Farrell’s dominance in both facets continued throughout Senior Bowl practices: He won almost every one-on-one pass-rush opportunity for the week and finished with a 75.8 PFF grade during the practices. Farrell is a lot to handle for any offensive lineman due to his motor and power on contact.

CB MARIO GOODRICH, CLEMSON TIGERS

Goodrich was quietly one of the best cornerbacks in the country last season. He was the most valuable cornerback in the ACC in 2021, as he allowed no touchdowns while intercepting two passes and breaking up seven others. The 6-foot, 186-pound cornerback is a physical, instinctive and fluid player whose game should translate nicely to the NFL.