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Ravens News 2/13: Creative Blueprint and more

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12th Annual NFL Honors - Portraits Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Ravens need to get ‘creative’ to add an established receiver for Lamar Jackson - Jamison Hensley

The Ravens won’t have much salary-cap room to sign a top-notch target or trade for one if they have to put the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson next month. All of the Ravens’ $26 million cap space will get taken up by Jackson’s $45 million franchise tag, which means Baltimore will have to cut players and rework contracts to fit him under the cap.

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta did not sugarcoat the situation when asked whether Baltimore could afford acquiring a No. 1 wide receiver this offseason.

“Honestly, when you have a big-ticket item at quarterback, it makes it more challenging – not impossible,” DeCosta said at last month’s end-of-season news conference. “We’ll have to get creative, and there are things we can do.

“There are a lot of different ways to go about constructing the team and finding players and affording players and various things like that. But we’ve got to be really creative.”

That creativity could include parting ways with some popular players. The Ravens can create $19 million in cap room by releasing defensive end Calais Campbell ($7 million cap savings), running back Gus Edwards ($4.3 million), wide receiver Devin Duvernay ($4.3 million) and safety Chuck Clark ($3.4 million). Baltimore can free up more cap space by restructuring some other contracts and getting others to take pay cuts.

The Ravens will have to make these types of moves if they want to improve the NFL’s least productive wide receiver group. Baltimore’s wide receivers totaled the fewest receiving yards last season (1,517) and went 13 weeks without catching a touchdown pass.

Ravens DL Calais Campbell says he’ll return for 16th NFL season - Jonas Shaffer

During an appearance Sunday on the NFL Network, Campbell confirmed his intentions to play another year. “I’m coming back, baby,” he said.

Campbell also said Sunday on the NFL Network that quarterback Lamar Jackson, a pending free agent who’s expected to be designated with the franchise tag in coming weeks, “needs to stay in Baltimore.” But the Ravens would face a salary cap crunch if Jackson signs the exclusive tag, worth a projected $45 million, forcing difficult financial decisions elsewhere with players like Campbell.

If Campbell does return to Baltimore, the Ravens would again have one of the NFL’s best defensive lines, led by Campbell, Madubuike and Michael Pierce, who missed most of the past season with a torn biceps, and bolstered by Broderick Washington and Travis Jones. The Ravens finished the 2022 season with the NFL’s No. 7 rush defense, according to Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics.

Lamar Jackson contract: Von Miller, Mark Andrews believe Ravens QB is worth more than Aaron Rodgers - Shanna McCarrison

Jackson’s future is a major topic heading into the 2023 season, with many weighing in on how they see the situation going. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews and former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller are the latest to give their perspectives.

The two back Jackson’s abilities and say he deserves to get paid. Miller went so far to put him higher than a future Hall of Famer.

“[Jackson] does more than Aaron Rodgers ... [Jackson] does everything and Aaron Rodgers is getting $50 million,” Miller said.

Andrews echoed these thoughts and gave some insight on what he has seen as Jackson’s teammate.

“Oh my God, he does everything,” Andrews said of his quarterback. “You’re speaking facts man. Everything you said is true man, he deserves it, he deserves more, man. He’s a fierce competitor. Every time he steps on that field he’s the one, man. He’s the guy, there’s no one like him.”

Ravens Thoughts About Super Bowl LVII - Ryan Mink

The Chiefs and Eagles had different roster blueprints. The Chiefs have an MVP quarterback on a massive contract, which led to trading star receiver Tyreek Hill. Patrick Mahomes was good enough to overcome. The Eagles went “all-in” to surround third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts with playmakers and stack the defense.

The Ravens are not an “all-in” team. Eric DeCosta said the Ravens won’t mortgage the future for a title shot. The goal is to be competitive every year.

One person who knows how to maximize an offense built like this is Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who is reportedly still a “prime” candidate for the Ravens’ OC job if he doesn’t become the Colts’ head coach. If the Chiefs offense thrives in the Super Bowl, his stock rises.

The Eagles led the NFL with 70 sacks. The Chiefs were second with 55. Last year’s Super Bowl was won with a “sack” by the Rams’ Aaron Donald. In Super Bowl LV, the Buccaneers’ pass rush tormented Mahomes in a dominant victory. The Ravens’ pass rush is still a need.

2024 Super Bowl Odds: Chiefs Favored in Next Year’s Field - Alex Kolodziej

Chiefs +600

Bills +850

Eagles +900

Bengals +900

49ers +900

Cowboys +1500

Ravens +1600

Chargers +2000

Packers +2500

Jaguars +2500

Lions +2500

Jets +2500

Rams +3000

Dolphins +3000

Browns +3500