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Ravens News 5/18: Optimal QB Salary and more

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Minnesota Vikings v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Grading all 32 NFL offseasons - Sam Monson

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Offseason Grade: A

Free Agency Grade: Average

Draft Grade: A+

Baltimore’s free agency period was quiet enough, with solid additions in the form of defensive tackle Michael Pierce, safety Marcus Williams and offensive lineman Morgan Moses, but the big moves the team made were in the draft.

Marquise Brown had grown dissatisfied with life in Baltimore and wanted out, so the Ravens were able to trade him to Arizona for a first-round draft pick. Brown eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards for the first time last season and has averaged just 1.75 yards per route run for his NFL career. He has been a big-play threat for the team but hasn’t been the kind of true difference-maker the Ravens expected when they drafted him. To get an equivalent pick back for him after three years of his career is great business.

In the draft, the Ravens took outstanding players. Tyler Linderbaum is the best center prospect PFF has seen enter the draft since 2014, and he could immediately become one of the best three centers in the game. Kyle Hamilton was being talked about as a player good enough to go No. 2 or No. 3 overall before some pedestrian 40 times killed his draft stock, but he has the kind of elite tape that overcomes the relative value of the safety position.

David Ojabo was a first-round talent before he blew out his Achilles during his pro day, and he represents a smart gamble by the Ravens in the second round. Additionally, Travis Jones is a phenomenal fit inside Baltimore’s defensive scheme. The Ravens had arguably the best draft this year.

Must-watch NFL games: Bills-Chiefs, Patriots-Raiders and many with Tom Brady - Jeff Zrebiec

Baltimore Ravens: at Buccaneers, Week 8

During Tom Brady’s long and storied run in New England, the Ravens were one of the quarterback’s top rivals. From his chess matches with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to his trash talk with Terrell Suggs, Brady and the Ravens defense proved worthy adversaries. Brady faced the Ravens 12 times and the Patriots won eight of those games. However, two of the Ravens’ four victories against Brady occurred in the playoffs. Brady will be facing the Ravens for the first time as a Buccaneer and it could be the final time a franchise long defined by its defense will oppose an all-time great. That, in itself, should make the Thursday prime-time game must-see TV.

Here’s the ideal salary range for Super Bowl-winning QBs, and why Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson may benefit - Cody Benjamin

The vast majority of Super Bowl-winning starters since 1994, however, own cap hits that take up between 10.6% and 12.3% of their respective team’s entire salary cap, per Thompson.

So what is the perfect formula? It’s not avoiding highly paid QBs so much as avoiding an imbalanced distribution of resources. The scales will always tip more heavily in the QB’s favor, as opposed to wide receivers or linemen or literally any other position. The key, history suggests, is tipping it just enough. And perhaps knowing when to pull the plug on a signal-caller, even if it means entering a season of uncertainty.

The best bet — easier said than done — is organically drafting and developing a starter who can be buoyed by elite support at premium positions. And, perhaps more important, making the right call, at the right time, as to whether he warrants a second or third contract ... or whether starting over, even to the dismay of win-starved fans, is wiser.

As for what this means for 2022, specifically? Thompson’s formula leaves just two starting QBs in the “optimal” range: Russell Wilson, now with the Broncos; and Lamar Jackson, who’s entering a contract year with the Ravens.

Why Ravens believe Tyler Linderbaum will help Lamar Jackson thrive, despite loss of top receiver - Jamison Hensley

“When [Jackson] can extend the play, it’s just electric; that’s kind of his brilliance, and that’s when the field opens up for him in a lot of different ways,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Lamar is going to appreciate [Linderbaum’s] ability to sustain a block and extend the play.”

Jackson’s ability to move is a major challenge for defenses. In Jackson’s three full seasons as a starting quarterback, his average time before throwing a pass is 2.95 seconds. That ranks behind only the Philadelphia EaglesJalen Hurts among quarterbacks with at least 20 games.

One of Linderbaum’s strengths is maintaining blocks because of his grip strength, which allows him to latch onto the biggest of defenders. His sound pass protection also comes from understanding leverage from his wrestling background — he finished third in state as a senior in high school. Linderbaum allowed two sacks in 1,201 pass-blocking snaps in college, according to Pro Football Focus.

While it was a surprise to see Baltimore trade Brown, it was equally shocking to see the team take a center with the No. 25 overall pick. This is the only position on offense or defense that the Ravens had never addressed with the first 29 first-round picks in team history.

The Ravens Have To Do Something — Something! — At Wide Receiver - Glenn Clark

There are four wide receivers on the Ravens’ roster that have NFL experience. Those four (Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace) have combined for 1,227 career yards.

When the Ravens traded away Hollywood Brown, I admitted that I understood the move and thought they did about as well as possible given the circumstances. But we couldn’t pretend like it didn’t create a massive problem with the construction of their roster. As talented as we might think the Ravens’ young receivers are, there is no definitive proof that they can be high-level players in the NFL.

And yes, a Ravens offense with a better offensive line and healthy running backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards specifically) would have a chance to be a bit more like the 2019 unit, which might require a bit less from receivers throughout the course of the year.

But we know better than this! We know that the Ravens may well find themselves trailing in games and needing to throw the ball more. We know that other injuries could hurt their ability to play the dominant brand of bully-ball that provided them such success in ’19. We know that they appeared reluctant to have Lamar Jackson run as much last year and it’s hard to fathom them dramatically changing that this year.

We know damn well that the Ravens are going to need their wide receivers to come through for them at some point if they’re going to try to win a Super Bowl!