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Ravens News 3/10: Unlikely Divorce and more

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Atlanta Falcons v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

As Ravens bet on a limited market for Lamar Jackson, one question looms: Who wants the star quarterback? - Walker & Gardner

Current and former players cried foul, with the term collusion taking center stage in a hurry. “Why are all of these teams so publicly ‘out’ on Lamar Jackson, an MVP winner in his prime at the most important position in the entire NFL?” recently retired defensive superstar J.J. Watt asked on Twitter. “What am I missing here?”

The flood of reports listing disinterested Jackson suitors might look outdated when the market opens next week, said ESPN commentator Mike Tannenbaum, a former top football executive for the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.

“I think it’s way too soon,” Tannenbaum said. “He’s a great player. He’s 26 years old and a former league MVP. I think some of those teams that said something yesterday, it might have been to protect their own quarterbacks. I wouldn’t put too much stock into it.”

He could still envision teams such as the Panthers or Falcons bidding on Jackson but said the Ravens “probably feel really good about their offer.”

Billy Devaney, general manager of the St. Louis Rams from 2008 to 2011, said the Ravens took a “pretty safe risk,” given the unlikelihood of any team approaching the Browns’ deal with Watson.

“I can’t imagine another team being as ridiculous as Cleveland, but there’s always that threat that some owner may just wake up and do something as silly as the Browns did last year,” he said. “That’s the risk. I can’t imagine that happening.”

Why a front-loaded offer could spoil the Ravens’ hopes of keeping QB Lamar Jackson - Jonas Shaffer

Instead, the most likely culprit for an offseason divorce could be an offer sheet built like Garoppolo’s deal. If a team that covets Jackson can stomach losing two first-round picks and offering a potentially historic sum of guaranteed money, its best course of action might be to attack the Ravens where they’re weakest: in 2023 cap space.

After placing the $32.4 million nonexclusive tag on Jackson — the exclusive tag would’ve cost a projected $45 million — the Ravens are about $9 million over the cap. They’ll need to get under the cap by 4 p.m. Wednesday. After that, DeCosta will need to clear even more space for unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents, draft picks, practice squad moves and a rainy-day fund. It won’t be an easy balancing act.

Jackson, though, remains the team’s most important and most volatile piece. By using the nonexclusive tag Tuesday, the Ravens made clear their willingness to let the market be his mediator. DeCosta’s bet is that Jackson won’t find an offer better than the Ravens’.

Ravens to trade veteran safety Chuck Clark to New York Jets next week - Luke Jones

The Virginia Tech product registered a career-high 101 tackles and added four pass breakups in 17 starts this past season. Pro Football Focus graded Clark 46th out of 88 qualified safeties in 2022 and graded him 41st or better in each of the previous three seasons.

His pending departure paves the way for Hamilton to step into an every-down role after the Notre Dame product settled in as Baltimore’s nickel back over the second half of his rookie season. Though head coach John Harbaugh confirmed earlier this month that the Ravens still viewed Hamilton as a safety in the big picture, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is still likely to want to take advantage of his versatility by moving him around in different sub packages, something Baltimore had done with Clark for years. However, the Ravens also haven’t shied away from using three-safety packages in recent years, and Geno Stone — who started seven games in place of the injured Williams last season — is set to become a restricted free agent next week.

2023 NFL free agency: Odell Beckham Jr. among 10 boom-or-bust players on the market - Maurice Jones-Drew

Odell Beckham

WR · Age: 30

Boom: OBJ makes a full recovery from his second ACL injury and provides a dynamic element to an offense in need — much like he did for the Los Angeles Rams in their Super Bowl run, registering 48 catches for 593 yards and seven TDs in 12 games, including the playoffs. Even in his 30s, Beckham still possesses the skill set and talent to win against a majority of defenders, helping an offense get over the hump in 2023.

Bust: A boom-or-bust free agent last year, Beckham’s had two ACL surgeries since 2020 and hasn’t played a snap since Super Bowl LVI. Despite visiting several teams late in 2022, OBJ wasn’t ready to play in the regular season, ultimately preventing him from signing. In the bust scenario, he’s unable to return to being the explosive receiver he was early in his career and during the Rams’ title run.

Allen Lazard

WR · Age: 27

Boom: With Aaron Rodgers’ endorsement as the PackersNo. 1 receiver in 2022, Lazard recorded career highs in catches (60) and receiving yards (788) to go along with six TD grabs. With postseason experience, the sixth-year wideout has the big-play ability to help take an offense to the next level if paired up with a consistent passer.

Bust: Lazard could be in line to get good money in a weak wide receiver market. However, how will he bode with a quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers, whom Lazard has played with his entire NFL career? Lazard could prove to be just another guy. In fact, that feels like the likely scenario to me.

NFL free agency matchmaker for each AFC team: Ravens get top WR on market, Steelers get franchise LT - Jeff Kerr

Baltimore Ravens

Jakobi Meyers

NE • WR • #16

Baltimore has to address the wide receiver position, whether it decides to bring back Lamar Jackson or not. Unfortunately, this wide receiver class isn’t strong — with Meyers clearly being the best player on the open market.

Rashod Bateman is the No. 1 in Baltimore, but Meyers would be an excellent complement in the slot. While the touchdown numbers haven’t been great in his career, Meyers does have 1,670 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over his last two seasons.

A great route runner and lethal in the slot, Meyers can put up huge numbers if Jackson returns.