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Ravens News 2/24: Awkward Limbo and more

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AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Todd Monken’s Six Pillars to a Good Offense - Clifton Brown

Be Explosive

The Ravens hope their passing attack takes a major leap in producing big plays. In 2022, they had just 20 completions of 25+ yards and ranked 30th in the NFL. Only the Rams and Giants, with 16 plays apiece, had fewer 25+ yard completions.

The Ravens’ big-play passing capability took a major hit after their top two receivers, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, suffered season-ending injuries. Monken will obviously hope they stay healthy, but he also hopes to create more space and opportunities for playmakers to thrive.

Meanwhile, Monken will inherit one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL. Baltimore led the NFL in running plays of 10+ yards in 2022 with 88. Monken isn’t looking to tear down what the Ravens have built with their run game.

“I first started watching, and I’m like, ‘Wow, they do really good stuff in the run game. Like, holy cow, that is very creative,’’’ Monken said.

Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore Ravens and an awkward year in limbo - Fowler & Hensley

According to a source with knowledge of Jackson’s contract negotiations, all of his counteroffers to the Ravens last year were for fully guaranteed contracts that exceeded that of Watson, who signed his deal with the Browns after being traded from the Houston Texans and before serving an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the league, on massage therapists.

“Just because the Browns were desperate doesn’t mean that the Ravens are,” one high-ranking NFL executive said. “They are a stable franchise. They aren’t about to jump at something just because Cleveland did it.”

If there is no compromise, the possibility of the Ravens trading Jackson, who in 2019 joined Tom Brady as the only unanimous MVPs in NFL history, has never been more likely. That’s assuming another team would be willing to make the necessary commitment, which likely would mean multiple first-round picks to the Ravens and a fully guaranteed deal for Jackson.

“A couple of months ago, I would have said no way [that a trade will happen],” a team source said in the days after the playoff loss. “Now it feels like anything is possible.”

Despite his recent injuries, Jackson’s incomparable skills would make him the marquee quarterback this offseason should Baltimore make him available, according to multiple league execs.

“He goes to the front of the line,” an AFC executive said. “There’s nobody like him. Maybe there’s been some discord there between the player and the team, but overall he’s still a great player and he’s not a bad guy. The durability is a mild concern.”

Big Quarterback Contracts Are Not the Problem. Salary Cap Management Is - Andrew Brandt

CBA makes cap management simple

In the 30-year history of the NFL salary cap, it has never been easier to manage for several reasons:

The gift of rookie contracts

A primary reason for this is that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) mandates that all drafted players must sign four-year contracts, and they cannot be renegotiated until the player has played at least three seasons in the NFL. This provision alone gives teams a tremendous head start on managing the cap.

NFL team rosters have varying numbers of players on rookie contracts, but my best estimate is between 50% and 65% of NFL rosters are players under their first NFL contract. Let’s say there are 30 such players on a team’s roster, and we’ll say that, conservatively, each player has a cap charge of $1 million. That is a cumulative cap charge of $30 million for more than half the team.

With the NFL team cap set at $224 million for 2023, that estimate would put every NFL team at $195 million in cap space to pay their 20–25 players not on rookie contracts. Paying a quarterback market value should not be a problem.

Six NFL teams in jeopardy of crippling setbacks during 2023 offseason - Nate Davis

Baltimore Ravens

Though restored to the playoffs in 2022, they hardly seemed like legitimate contenders given the primary narratives surrounding this team were QB Lamar Jackson’s latest (turned out) season-ending injury and his ongoing contractual impasse.

Per OverTheCap, Baltimore has nearly $25 million in salary cap space – yet that wouldn’t even cover the cost of a franchise tag (approximately $32 million) for Jackson, whose rookie contract is expiring, and most certainly not the roughly $45 million exclusive tag. And if talks with Jackson, who represents himself, remain stalled, it’s possible the Ravens would be inclined to trade him ... which wouldn’t be likely to improve their position no matter how many first-round picks came back to them in return. Also, no second-round pick after last year’s trade for LB Roquan Smith. And it remains to be seen how the offense evolves, particularly as it pertains to Jackson’s uncertainty, under new coordinator Todd Monken.

2023 NFL free agency rankings: The 100 best free agents, from Lamar Jackson to Saquon Barkley and more - Pete Prisco

1. Lamar Jackson


The Ravens would be foolish to let him get away. They will put the franchise tag on him and then see if they can get a deal done.

44. Ben Powers


He is coming off his best season as the team’s left guard. He’s good in pass protection, but can sometimes have trouble in the run game. He’s just 26, so his best football should be in front of him.

85. Marcus Peters


He turned 30, so he is coming to the end of his career and he had some rough moments early last season coming off a torn ACL in 2020. At his best, he can still lock down top receivers.

91. Justin Houston


Age is an issue since he’s 34, but he can still help as a pass rusher on a rotational basis. He had 9.5 sacks last year for the Ravens.

NFL 2023 Beat Writer Mock Draft: QBs go fast in flurry of trades; Aaron Rodgers dealt - Jeff Zrebiec

23. Baltimore Ravens: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

This isn’t necessarily settling because Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a good player who is projected as a first-round pick. However, how this mock played out wouldn’t qualify as ideal for the Ravens. Their two major needs are wide receiver and cornerback. The top three cornerbacks are gone and two wide receivers who have been connected to them also are off the board. Smith-Njigba isn’t a bad consolation prize. There are questions about his speed and his injury-marred 2022 season, but the former Buckeye has shown that he knows how to get open in the middle of the field and make contested catches. He’s the kind of receiver that quarterback Lamar Jackson, who loves throwing the ball between the numbers, should get the most out of.