We’ve reached that point in the NFL off season where things are finally slowing down. The NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, the analysts have handed out grades and the newest members of the league have had a few days together in their respective new uniforms. There will be some OTA’s and perhaps some intriguing, post June 1st cap causalities but for the most part, we’re all waiting for the start of training camps later this summer.
In the interim, there are a couple of things that were on my mind, so I figured why not put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) and unload a little bit of it.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
- The Julio Jones to the Ravens rumors keep making the rounds on the interwebs. A report out of Atlanta said that there are several trade offers on the table, including one such offer of a 1st round pick. If I were the Ravens front office, I would harken back to my middle school days of the DARE program and just say no. Jones is 32 years old and has 3 years left on his contract. That contract guarantees him $15.3 million next year, with a cap number of $23.05 million in ’21, to go with a cap number of $19.2 million in both ’22 and ’23. For a team that has loaded on wide receivers through the draft over the last 3 years and added veteran Sammy Watkins on 1 year deal, I would not be remotely interested in bringing Julio Jones; particularly with his contract and what we would have to give up to get him. Instead, let Tee Martin and Keith Williams work their magic and coach up this young stable of receivers. Plus, I don’t want anyone to come in here and possibly take snaps away from Rashod Bateman. It certainly looks like the sky’s the limit for the 27th overall pick.
- It’s make or break time for 2019 3rd round pick Jaylon Ferguson. After racking up 45 sacks and 67.5 tackles for loss during his collegiate days at Louisiana Tech, his pro stats pale by comparison. Through 801 snaps in his 2 seasons in Baltimore, he’s managed a paltry 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. With Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward moving on this off-season, combined with the Ravens retaining veteran DE Pernell McPhee and OLB Tyus Bowser, as well as trying to work in rookies Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes, Ferguson has an opportunity to carve out a role in this defense. He doesn’t have to necessarily rack up big sack numbers but he could certainly be a solid edge setter against the run and at least create enough disruption in the passing game to allow the other edge defenders to make some noise. He seems to have the physical tools but so far, things just haven’t worked out. Perhaps 2021 is a different story.
- Speaking of make or break time, I think the other 2019 3rd round pick, Notre Dame product Miles Boykin, is in the same boat as Ferguson. Although his blocking ability and toughness in the run centric Ravens offense have been outstanding, the receiving numbers haven’t been there. In his 2 years in Baltimore, Boykin has hauled in a scant 32 catches on 55 targets for 464 yards and 7 TDs. The raw numbers can be explained away a bit by the Ravens offensive philosophy and a lot of targets going to tight ends. However, there have been several occasions over the last 2 years where quarterback Lamar Jackson and Boykin are clearly not on the same page. Whether it’s not knowing the playbook or missing a site adjustment, those are the kind of mistakes you can’t have from a wide receiver; especially in an offense where the throws are limited and you need to make the most of every opportunity. With the addition of Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace, as well as the potential of Devin Duvernay and/or James Proche getting more looks, Boykin is going to need to have a big summer to solidify his spot on the gameday 46 man roster.
- Even though the Ravens spent a 1st round pick on Penn State edge rusher Odafe Oweh and brought in Notre Dame DE Daelin Hayes in the 5th round, I still feel like we’re a little thin on the edge. Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale recently said that he feels sack numbers are “overrated” and “superficial”. To a certain extent, I agree with him. If your defense can generate pressure and register quarterback hits, those things have a cumulative effect that can eventually lead to mistakes. It would be nice to not have to use the “organized chaos” defense all the time, sending blitzers from all angles, playing tons of cover 0, etc. It would be a welcome change for the Ravens defense be able to apply consistent pressure with 4 guys. We saw the Tampa Bay Bucs frustrate all world quarterback Patrick Mahomes and stymie the high powered Kansas City offense in Super Bowl 55 with a 4 man front that applied consistent pressure but featured very little blitzing. Throughout that contest, the Bucs had Mahomes on the run; sacking him 3 times and hitting him 9 other times. Mahomes athleticism kept those numbers from being higher. I’m always hesitant to use the phrase “the blueprint for beating team x” because not all teams have the ability to do what other teams did to a particular opponent and/or the game situation of one matchup can be totally different from another. As we know, the Chiefs offensive line was in tatters for the Super Bowl and that directly correlated to the Orlando Brown Jr trade. With all that said, adding a veteran edge rusher (Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram are still on the market) could give the Ravens the potential to lean more on their front 4 to get home at times, as opposed to the renegade blitzing that Wink and company are known for.
The first full squad workouts are about 2 months away. There will be some OTA’s and slight roster tweaking to serve as an appetizer. In the meantime, we anxiously await the dawn of the 2021 season.
Jamie has been a Baltimore sports fan since he can remember. He grew up in Gwynn Oak and currently resides in Hampstead with his wife and 2 kids. He graduated from UMBC with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He’s currently employed at Verizon Communications in Hunt Valley.