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Ravens News 4/17: Next Level and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens Odell Beckham Jr. Press Conference Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

How the Ravens and Odell Beckham Jr. came together: ‘Today is a great day’ - Jeff Zrebiec

Earlier this offseason, the Ravens weren’t prepared to make the financial commitment it was going to take to land Beckham, and the player was in no hurry to make a decision. Desperate for a quality veteran receiver, the Ravens explored trade and free-agent possibilities. At one point, there appeared to be a deal to be made for Courtland Sutton, but the Denver Broncos decided they didn’t want to trade him.

As days went by, veteran receiver options grew thin and the drama involving disgruntled quarterback Lamar Jackson heightened, it became pretty clear to the Ravens that their most viable option was Beckham. The Ravens believed the three-time Pro Bowler was healthy again, and they knew he was motivated. Beckham’s talent has never been in question. It certainly didn’t hurt that Beckham and Jackson were also friends.

“We’re getting someone who’s ready to explode again, and he’s in the right environment, with the right quarterback, with the right team and in the right city,” general manager Eric DeCosta said Thursday at a news conference announcing Beckham as the newest Raven. “He’s the perfect player at the perfect time.”

Three takeaways from Ravens WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s introductory news conference - Childs Walker

The Ravens and Beckham are confident his knee will be good to go when the regular season starts in five months.

Beckham described the “bittersweet” experience of catching a touchdown pass in Super Bowl 56 only to reinjure his ACL before he could complete the victorious mission with his teammates. He lived through “dark days” in the aftermath of his surgery, his second on the knee he initially injured while playing for the Cleveland Browns in 2020.

Health is the second greatest question, after Jackson’s status, hovering over the Ravens’ Beckham experiment. He has played a full season just once since 2016.

DeCosta dispatched pass game specialist Keith Williams to watch Beckham work out in Arizona last month. “We saw everything we needed to see,” he said. “Knowing that it’s only going to get better.”

Beckham said he recently turned a corner toward feeling fully healthy and agreed with DeCosta that an additional five months of preparation will be invaluable. “I’m not worried about coming back from this,” he said. “I came back from it before.”

That was a key point for DeCosta. He watched Beckham look like “the best player on the field in the Super Bowl” about 16 months after he hurt his knee the first time. Beckham said his ACL was never fully healthy as he put together that triumphant run for the Rams. His implication seemed clear: If he could help deliver a championship on a bum ligament, what might he do this year, after 19 months spent strengthening his knee?

DeCosta, for one, expressed no reservations: “This was the guy we felt could take us to the next level.”

Cornerback Remains the Spot to Fill - Ryan Mink

The Ravens want to go into the draft with as few glaring needs as possible. Wide receiver has been addressed, at least for 2023. Cornerback remains the spot. The Ravens drafted a pair of fourth-round corners last year, so they don’t need depth so much as a starter.

Baltimore could still sign a veteran (Rock Ya-Sin reportedly came for a visit about a month ago), which would ease the need for taking a cornerback with its first pick. The Ravens may have to create more cap space to do so, but I expect they’re still in that market.

We all know the Ravens’ track record of drafting first-round wide receivers. Cornerback is quite the opposite with Duane Starks, Chris McAlister, Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey. It wouldn’t be surprising if Joey Porter Jr., Deonte Banks, Emmanuel Forbes or DJ Turner were next on the list.

AFC Roster Reset: Biggest signings/losses, burning question for each team ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft - Nick Shook

Baltimore Ravens

Biggest additions/signings: WR Odell Beckham, WR Nelson Agholor, RB Justice Hill

Biggest losses: G Ben Powers, DE Calais Campbell, TE Josh Oliver

2023 draft picks: 5

BURNING QUESTION: What’s next with Lamar Jackson?

Reading the tea leaves, we might have an inkling that the franchise-tagged Jackson will remain in Baltimore, but we don’t have a guarantee. The addition of Odell Beckham — at the surprisingly high price of $15 million (with the chance to increase up to $18 million) on a one-year deal — might help the Ravens sell Jackson on withdrawing his trade request, but even if Jackson stays, there will likely continue to be tension between team and quarterback. Baltimore will have to move forward and ensure the added pieces produce in new coordinator Todd Monken’s offense. The Ravens have selected eight or more players in each of the past five drafts; if they don’t add to their current collection of picks, this year’s class will be the franchise’s smallest since the four-player group of 1999. Which means Baltimore will have to extract the most from its existing roster and hope the first few picks acclimate quickly. Most importantly, they’ll have to hope Jackson stays healthy — unless Jackson ends up playing elsewhere, in which case executing a succession plan at QB becomes paramount.

Will Ravens Trade Top Linebacker Prior to NFL Draft? - Mike D’Abate

In what appears to be an attempt to increase their current equity, the Ravens may view linebacker Patrick Queen as “prime trade fodder,” according to a recent report from the Washington Post.

Queen has been one of Baltimore’s most dynamic defenders since joining the team as a first-round pick (No. 28 overall) in 2020. In only his first season, he logged 106 total tackles (nine for loss), three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a 53-yard touchdown in a Week 5 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. For his efforts, he was awarded a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team.

While Queen’s resume would make him an untouchable asset on most NFL teams, Baltimore is spread a bit thin when it comes to tangible commodities. Following their five-year, $100M contract commitment to linebacker Roquan Smith (for whom they acquired via trade in October from the Chicago Bears,) the Ravens would undoubtedly prefer to maintain some financial flexibility. The deal, which includes $45M guaranteed, made Smith the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the NFL. As such, it may deter them from once again spending top-level money at the position.