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Should the Ravens pursue a trade for Deebo Samuel?

The All-Pro receiver has requested a trade from the 49ers

11th Annual NFL Honors - Arrivals Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

According to a litany of sources, first reported by Jeff Darlington, San Francisco 49ers 2021 All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel has requested a trade.

What compelled Samuel to request a trade is still unknown. However, yet another über talented wide receiver has become available via trade, after we’ve already seen Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill traded then extended to mega-contracts in this nonstop, drama filled offseason.

Samuel, who is entering the last year of his rookie contract, has also reportedly expressed discontent with his “usage” in San Francisco’s offense. While purely speculation, it’s easy to trace that to his role as a running back. Samuel toted the rock 59 times for 365 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021, then another 27 time in the playoffs.

The possible availability of the fourth-year All-Pro sparks an interesting question relating to the Ravens. What can Baltimore do with the 14th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to turn their offense into a nuclear juggernaut in a stacked AFC? Most mock drafts, conversations, etc. see Baltimore addressing areas of need in next week’s draft. . . cornerback, edge rusher, an offensive lineman. . . but what if they were to trade the 14th pick for a player like Samuel? Or perhaps another receiver from the class of 2019 like A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin or D.K. Metcalf who have all garnered speculation around their upcoming contract situations and trade interest from other teams.

At the same time, Baltimore has their own piece from that puzzle, draft-mate Marquise Brown, who has produced admirably, although not quite to the level of what Samuel did during the 2021-22 campaign.

The following questions emerge:

  1. Can the Ravens afford someone like Samuel, who will command north of $20 million per year in an extension?

Short answer? Yes, they can. Long answer? If Baltimore values a receiver like Samuel as a foundational piece of their franchise over the next three to five years, they can create enough cap room to support the addition in the immediate, while they still have room to decide their plan over the next few years. Hill and Adams have first year cap hits of $6.4M and $8.1M, respectively. If Samuel or another receiver nets a similar deal, the Ravens could restructure the contracts of players like Marlon Humphrey, Ronnie Stanley, Mark Andrews, Kevin Zeitler as needed to create well over $10M in additional 2022 cap space, according to Over the Cap.

2. What would the opportunity cost be?

There is no short answer for this question. Without an extension for Lamar Jackson already inked, it’s difficult to forecast and plan the Ravens future positions in the market over the next few years. As of now, Mark Andrews, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Williams and Ronnie Stanley are the only true long term pieces. Stanley, who the Ravens desperately need to return to form from injury, has wiggle room to move on from as a post June-1st designation release in 2023 if needed. That move would create $5.7M in cap savings while incurring $15M in dead money.

Acquiring Samuel would likely preclude the Ravens from being able to find any big name player, such as an edge rusher, this year. They’ve been typically active at the trade deadline and like to bargain hunt once teams sputter out before the deadline. Samuel would lock in the certainty that no further moves are made. The old adage “one in the hand is worth two in the bush” seems applicable, as it’s difficult to project who may become available closer to, or during the season.

At the same time, Marquise Brown will be under control for at least two more seasons after playing out his fifth year option. The Ravens could then use the franchise tag on him if they see fit. Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta stated that Brown would be a “bargain” on the fifth-year option, stating that they see him as more valuable than the $13M price tag for the 2023-24 season. If acquiring another big ticket receiver, that situation becomes more cloudy.

The other obvious factor is that the Ravens hold the 14th and 45th pick in the 2022 draft, as well as first and second round picks next year, as things stand. One of, or both of those picks would be needed to acquire Samuel. In addition, there are, for at least the fourth straight year, a litany of highly regarded wide receiver prospects. As the sport has shifted its rules to favor the pass game over the last decade, the supply of wide receiver talent has seemingly become saturated. While teams certainly miss on receivers in the draft, the Ravens may have their pick of the litter. Vegas only thinks one receiver has a shot (+750, a long shot) of being a top-five pick, while Garrett Wilson and Drake London’s over/under are set at 10.5.

Baltimore has already allocated first round picks to their receiver room in two of the last three drafts, netting Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman. They’ve also used selections on Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace and James Proche in that time. Drafting one, which does take into account the risk that they don’t come anywhere close to being a player like Samuel, is ultimately much cheaper. It could provide flexibility to add another big ticket player elsewhere, while still enhancing Baltimore’s passing offense.

The immediate thought may arise, given Baltimore’s sunk cost into finding wide receivers, “they can’t use another top pick on a receiver.” However, with the extreme level of injuries the Ravens saw in 2021, if Bateman or Brown were to miss time, the Ravens pass offense would likely take a major step back. Drafting a receiver in the first round, or spending major capital and cap space to find one, isn’t ridiculous. Another thought may also arise, “Baltimore likes to run the football. With Greg Roman, they won’t. . .” Again, that point resonates, but if the Ravens were to trade for a receiver like Samuel, or to draft one like Williams with the 14th pick, that player, in all likelihood, will outlast Roman in Baltimore.

There’s no such thing as too many weapons, especially in the pass game, and adding a serious threat like Samuel or another top draft pick has the potential, combined with Lamar Jackson, to seriously limit the way defensive coordinators can defend Baltimore’s offense. While there are still some questions regarding Stanley’s health and the Ravens center position, this is a deep class when it comes to tackle and center options that could help on day two or three of the draft. While Baltimore does need to find answers there, add cornerbacks and edge defenders, adding another playmaker is a fun discussion that deserves to be exercised.