2018 NFL Offseason: Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens (Last Year: 9-7)

2018 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Robert Griffin, WR Michael Crabtree, WR John Brown, WR Willie Snead.
Early Draft Picks:
TE Hayden Hurst, QB Lamar Jackson, OT Orlando Brown, TE Mark Andrews, CB Anthony Averett, LB Kenny Young, WR Jaleel Scott, WR Jordan Lasley. Ravens Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Danny Woodhead, WR Mike Wallace, WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Michael Campanaro, TE Ben Watson, TE Crockett Gillmore, OT Austin Howard, C Ryan Jensen, S Lardarius Webb.

2018 Baltimore Ravens Offense:
The Ravens had the rest of the NFL buzzing when they traded up into the final spot of the opening round to select Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. This understandably ticked off Joe Flacco, who refused to talk to the media about the pick during the weekend of the 2018 NFL Draft. However, the decision was a very logical one. Flacco signed a 6-year, $125 million contract two offseasons ago. His YPA since receiving that new deal has been a horrific 6.1. A YPA of 7.0 usually denotes an average quarterback, so a 6.1 should signify that Flacco has been very poor, and the number would accurately describe Flacco’s play recently.

It’s fair to wonder if Flacco will ever be able to bounce back to the level of play he displayed during the team’s Super Bowl run in 2012. Both age (33) and numerous injuries have sapped Flacco’s effectiveness. A poor supporting cast hasn’t helped, but that’s partly Flacco’s fault as well; his albatross of a contract has prevented the front office from acquiring the necessary amount of talent. At this rate, it’s fair to wonder if the Ravens should copy a maneuver the Texans orchestrated last offseason when they surrendered a draft pick just to trade their own overpriced quarterback, Brock Osweiler. This turned out to be a great move, and Baltimore would greatly benefit from doing this as well. Beginning anew with Jackson, a raw quarterback with great physical gifts, would be the correct course of action. Jackson isn’t ready to start yet, so going with Robert Griffin until then would make sense. The Ravens wouldn’t make the playoffs in 2018 utilizing this strategy, but that’s unlikely to happen with Flacco anyway.

The Ravens have some new receivers with upside this year, but the same thing was said in 2016 when they obtained Jeremy Maclin. Michael Crabtree is their new No. 1 target. Crabtree is a tremendous end-zone threat, scoring 25 touchdowns in the past three years, but he turns 31 in September, so it’s fair to wonder if his best days are behind him. The Ravens also signed John Brown and Willie Snead this offseason. Snead is unlikely to contribute very much, but Brown has some potential. However, Brown has endured some major medical problems of his own, and they were so bad that they prompted his former coach, Bruce Arians, to tell the media that he didn’t think Brown should continue his playing career.

Baltimore still has a shaky receiving corps, but at least tight end has been upgraded. The front office used two early selections, including the first-rounder, on a pair of tight ends. Both Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews should be able to help the offense, as Flacco hasn’t possessed a potent intermediate threat for quite some time.

The Ravens were also expected to bolster both the offensive line and rushing attack this offseason, but Flacco’s contract prevented that from happening. In fact, the blocking unit figures to be worse in the wake of the departures of center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Austin Howard. Neither lineman was great, but neither was a liability either. Their replacements – center Matt Skura and right tackle Alex Lewis – are both atrocious football players and would have difficulty making other 53-man rosters. The same goes for left guard James Hurst, who might be the worst blocker on the entire front.

There are two capable blockers in left tackle Ronnie Stanley and elite right guard Marshal Yanda, but they won’t be enough to keep Flacco’s pocket clean. They also won’t be able to open enough holes for mediocre running back Alex Collins, who was not upgraded. Kenneth Dixon is coming back from injury and suspension, but it remains to be seen if John Harbaugh will trust him.

2018 Baltimore Ravens Defense:
The Ravens would be one of the worst teams in the NFL if they had even a sub-par defense. That, however, is not the case, as Baltimore’s stop unit will allow the team to be competitive in many of its games.

The secondary has to be considered the strength of Baltimore’s defense. Jimmy Smith is a terrific cornerback, and he may not even be the best player at the position for very long because of 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey. The Alabama product impressed as a rookie and should only continue to improve. The cornerback group will be even better compared to last year because nickel Tavon Young will return from a torn ACL. Young suffered the injury during OTAs in 2017, so he should be 100 percent heading into the year.

Baltimore also has a pair of talented safeties in Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Both were exceptional last year, and while there’s some concern with Weddle’s age (33), the two should help round out one of the NFL’s best secondaries.

The Ravens are capable of placing a heavy amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which further boosts the terrific defensive backfield. Terrell Suggs is still a top performer at his age – 36 in October – as he’s coming off an 11-sack campaign. Baltimore has surrounded Suggs with a plethora of young edge rushers who can soak up his knowledge. Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser are all 25 or younger, so they each have plenty of promise. Judon has been the most effective thus far, registering eight sacks in 2017.

There are some young talents on the defensive line as well. Willie Henry and Chris Wormley, both 24, were very effective in Baltimore’s rotation last year, and they should continue to improve. They needed to play more than expected because of an injury to Brandon Williams, a stellar 3-4 defensive lineman. Meanwhile, 25-year-old Michael Pierce did a tremendous job of stuffing the run last year.

Rounding out the defense is a linebacking corps featuring the very talented C.J. Mosley. The former first-round pick wasn’t at his best this past season because of shoulder surgery, but should rebound in 2018. The Ravens don’t have much else at the position, as the other starter, Patrick Onwuasor, is a mediocre two-down player. Kamalei Correa, a 2016 second-round pick, has been a bust thus far.

2018 Baltimore Ravens Schedule and Intangibles:
John Harbaugh has done a terrific job of maintaining a dominant home-field advantage during his tenure as Baltimore’s head coach. The Ravens are an outstanding 61-21 as hosts since 2008.

Harbaugh used to be a special-teams coach, so it’s not surprising that the Ravens outgained the opposition on both punt and kickoff returns last year.

Justin Tucker is arguably the top kicker in the NFL. He whiffed on just four of his 76 attempts in the past two years, drilling a remarkable 15-of-17 tries from 50-plus in that span. Tucker hasn’t missed a single extra point in his career.

Sam Koch was No. 1 in net-punting average in 2014, and he almost got there in 2015, ranking second. He dropped to 18th in 2016, and he fell even further in 2017, sliding down to 21st. However, he does a great job of pinning the opposition inside the 20.

Baltimore has an easy start to its schedule, battling the Bills, Bengals, Broncos and Browns in four of its first five games. Things change after that, however, as the Ravens will have a three-game stretch where they will have to take on the Saints, Panthers and Steelers.

2018 Baltimore Ravens Rookies:
Go here for the Ravens Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2018 Baltimore Ravens Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2018 Baltimore Ravens Analysis: Despite their great defense, the Ravens are nowhere near competing for a Super Bowl, and the only reason that they have a chance in the division is because of the Steelers’ Ryan Shazier-related regression. As mentioned earlier, the Ravens must consider trading Joe Flacco, even if it requires them to surrender draft picks, as they need to begin rebuilding as quickly as possible.

Projection: 6-10 (Tied 2nd in AFC North)

2017 Projection: 7-9. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 9-7. 2016 Actual Result: 8-8.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade

Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Ravens’ roster continues to regress as a result of Joe Flacco’s albatross of a contract. It’s imperative for Ozzie Newsome to hit almost every single selection to keep Baltimore in playoff contention. The Ravens have holes at many offensive positions, so it’s a matter of taking the best offensive player available with most of their selections.

2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Ravens made an interesting decision by trading up into the very end of the opening round to take Lamar Jackson. Flacco was not pleased by this, refusing to talk to the media about it. Flacco has been very sub par since winning the Super Bowl. It’s not completely his fault – his protection has been poor, and he’s had several injuries – but there’s no questioning his decline. Newsome was correct in pursuing a quarterback of the future.

The problem with Jackson is that he needs lots of time to develop. His accuracy is inconsistent, and his mechanics are poor. It could take him two years to fully be prepared to start, and that’s fine, as Flacco can continue to get the nod in the meantime.

Besides, it’s not like Newsome didn’t give Flacco some weapons to work with. After wisely trading down twice, Baltimore selected Hayden Hurst, who will be a big upgrade at tight end. Mark Andrews, another tight end, will also boost the offense. I’m not so sure about tackle Orlando Brown; the talented Oklahoma blocker has work-ethic issues, so Baltimore fans shouldn’t expect him to match the play of his late, great father. Elsewhere, the Ravens found some third-day values in cornerback Anthony Averett, safety DeShon Elliott and center Bradley Bozeman.

Newsome had a strong final draft as general manager of the Ravens. He helped upgrade the current roster, all while finding an answer at quarterback for the future. Baltimore is certainly going to miss him.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

25. Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina B+ Grade
Good for the Ravens for trading down twice. They wanted a tight end, but it would’ve been insane to take either Hayden Hurst or Dallas Goedert at No. 16. At No. 25, it’s much more reasonable.

The Ravens are filling a big need here with Hurst, and they got good value via the trades. The one concern with Hurst is his age (25), which could mean that he’s already maxed out, but Baltimore should be getting a player who can help Joe Flacco quite a bit.

32. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville A+ Grade
It’s so weird that the Ravens passed on Lamar Jackson several picks ago, allowing him to slip to the Steelers, who were rumored to like him. That doesn’t exactly show that they have a lot of confidence in him.

And yet, the Ravens traded up for him. It’s strange, but I think it’s an excellent decision. Jackson has a lot to work on – he’s very raw; his mechanics need to be repaired; his accuracy is inconsistent; and his Wonderlic score was super low (13) – but his potential is through the roof. I believe he’ll be a very good starter in the NFL if he gets great coaching, and he should have that in Baltimore.

I love this fit. The Ravens can sit Jackson behind Joe Flacco for a couple of years before he’s ready. There’s also a chance Jackson could play sooner than that, given Flacco’s injury history. Jackson could have easily been chosen at No. 16, so he provides great value at the end of the first round, trade or not. This is an A+ pick.

83. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma C+ Grade
I feel like everyone on the NFL Network telecast loves this because of ‘Member Berries. Orlando Brown’s late, great father was an amazing blocker for the Ravens. This version of Orlando Brown isn’t nearly as good, or as motivated. Brown had one of the worst workouts of all time at the combine, as it didn’t look like he cared. Brown has physical talent, so I don’t hate this pick, but Baltimore better make sure it motivates this guy, or he won’t be in the NFL very long.

86. Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma A- Grade
It’s not a surprise at all that the Ravens doubled up on tight ends. They really wanted to improve the intermediate part of the passing attack, so bringing in Andrews to pair with Hayden Hurst makes a lot of sense. Andrews could’ve gone earlier than this, so I love this value.

118. Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama A- Grade
Man, I’m going to miss Ozzie Newsome, as his picks were very predictable. Anthony Averett could’ve been chosen in the third round – I had him to Baltimore there – so this is a nice value pick, as the Ravens get some much-needed secondary depth.

122. Kenny Young, LB, UCLA B Grade
Kenny Young makes sense in the middle of the fourth round. He had a productive career at UCLA, but didn’t test very well athletically. He might miss some tackles, but he should be able to cover well for the Ravens.

132. Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico State B- Grade
The Ravens are swinging for the fences here, as Jaleel Scott has plenty of athletic talent, but has questionable hands and happens to be very raw. I would’ve taken Jaleel Scott a bit later, but the pick makes sense.

162. Jordan Lasley, WR, California C Grade
Jordan Lasley is coming off a great year, but he has some major holes in his game. His route-running isn’t very good, and he drops too many passes. He also has character issues. This doesn’t seem like a very good pick.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

190. DeShon Elliott, S, Texas B Grade
DeShon Elliott was expected to be drafted earlier than this because he’s a big name. However, this drop isn’t too much of a surprise. Elliott’s coverage skills for the NFL seem pretty dubious. He’ll play well versus the run, but he could be a liability versus the pass. Still, the value here is decent enough to warrant a “B” grade.

212. Greg Senat, OT, Wagner B+ Grade
Greg Senat could have been chosen earlier than the sixth round for sure. He has quality strength and can move around pretty well. The Ravens needed to shore up their offensive line, and Senat should be able to provide quality depth.

215. Bradley Bozeman, C, Alabama A- Grade
One more Crimson Tide player for the road? Why not? Bradley Bozeman is a sound technician who probably should have been taken a round earlier. I like this pick for the Ravens, as they needed to add offensive line depth.

238. Zach Sieler, DE/DT, Ferris State B Grade
Zach Sieler was a late riser after thriving at his pro day. He’s very smart, and he’s a hard worker; he was a 215-pound walk-on several years ago, and he has since bulked up to 6-6, 290, giving him an ideal frame for a five-technique in the NFL.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Ravens were a fourth-and-12 away from going to the playoffs, but they couldn’t stop Andy Dalton. This ended yet another injury-packed season for the Ravens, who need to improve their training staff to make sure more players are healthier for a change.

Offseason Moves:
  • Ravens sign WR Willie Snead
  • Ravens sign QB Robert Griffin
  • Ravens sign WR Michael Crabtree
  • Ravens cut WR Jeremy Maclin
  • Ravens sign WR John Brown
  • Ravens cut OT Austin Howard
  • Ravens cut RB Danny Woodhead
  • Ravens cut S Lardarius Webb

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Wide Receivers: Mike Wallace has been inconsistent. Jeremy Maclin never clicked with Joe Flacco. Breshad Perriman has been a bust. Baltimore must find two dynamic receiving threats for Flacco. Signed Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown

    2. Right Tackle: Baltimore has to bolster its blocking as well to make sure the offense is vastly improved in 2018. Right tackle is a position of need, as the team missed Ricky Wagner this past season.

    3. Center: The second position up front that has to be addressed. Ryan Jensen was just OK there this past season, but he’s heading for free agency.

    4. Running Back: Alex Collins was the best of all the running backs last year, but he’s just a middling option at best. The Ravens have to find a viable running threat going forward. There will be plenty of options in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

    5. Tight End: Here’s another offensive skill position of weakness. Ben Watson did a decent job at tight end this past season, but he just turned 37.

    6. Inside Linebacker: Baltimore doesn’t need much defensively, but one area of weakness is at the linebacker spot next to the talented C.J. Mosley.

    7. Quarterback: The Ravens have to find a promising, young quarterback to groom behind Flacco. Signed Robert Griffin

    8. Cornerback Depth: Tavon Young is coming back from injury next year, but Brandon Carr is likely gone. Baltimore could use a better backup here if Carr leaves.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2018 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders. Age: 30.
      Signed with Ravens (3 years)

      Michael Crabtree is better than Jordy Nelson at this stage of their careers, so it’s unclear why Oakland cut him to make room for Nelson. Crabtree is younger and still create separation. He’s also a potent target in the end zone, scoring 25 touchdowns in the past three seasons.

    2. John Brown, WR, Cardinals. Age: 28.
      Signed with Ravens (1 year, $5 million)

      John Brown had an explosive first two seasons in the NFL, eclipsing the 1,000-yard barrier in 2015. Unfortunately, his previous two years have been devastated by injury, and he has long-term health concerns. He’d be a great bargain if he could get over those, but his career might be over soon.

    3. Robert Griffin, QB, Browns. Age: 28.
      Signed with Ravens

      Robert Griffin obviously has great natural ability, as he was a former No. 2 overall draft pick, but he’s an injury-prone quarterback who doesn’t put any work into studying film. However, he still has time to turn things around and mature as a professional athlete.

    4. Willie Snead (RFA), WR, Saints. Age: 25.
      Signed with Ravens

      Willie Snead posted 984 and 895 yards in 2015 and 2016, respectively, but had just eight catches for 92 yards this past season because of injuries and a suspension. Perhaps he’ll rebound with a healthy 2018 campaign.

    Baltimore Ravens Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Brent Urban, DE/DT, Ravens. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Ravens (1 year)

      Brent Urban was doing a solid job in run support for a couple of games this past season, but was knocked out in Week 3 with a Lisfranc fracture. It’s a shame because he had improved quite a bit since being a fourth-round pick in 2014.

    2. Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens. Age: 27.
      Signed with Eagles (1 year)

      Mike Wallace has been incredibly inconsistent throughout his career. Sometimes, he’s a dynamic deep threat. Other times, he’s a mistake-prone receiver who kills his team with drops.

    3. Ryan Jensen, C, Ravens. Age: 27.
      Signed with Buccaneers (4 years)

      Ryan Jensen did a decent job as Baltimore’s starting center in 2017, but he could stand to be upgraded.

    4. Ben Watson, TE, Ravens. Age: 37.
      Signed with Saints (1 year)

      Ben Watson missed all of 2016, but bounced back this past season, catching 61 passes for 522 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, he just turned 37, so he’ll continue to regress.

    5. Austin Howard, OT, Ravens. Age: 31.
      Signed with Colts

      It’s unclear why the Ravens gave James Hurst a ton of money when they had a better tackle in Austin Howard, whom they’ve decided to let go. Howard is a steady, slightly below-average starting right tackle, but he can get the job done. Age, however, is beginning to become a factor, as he’s now 31.

    6. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Ravens. Age: 30.
      Jeremy Maclin’s decline has been very surprising. He caught 87 passes for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015, despite being paired with Alex Smith. Since then, he hasn’t been able to top 536 yards in a season. Maclin has now failed in both Kansas City and Baltimore, and he’s running out of time. However, Maclin isn’t quite 30 yet (he gets to that age in May), so he’s not old enough that it’s guaranteed that he’s completely finished. That said, it’s looking like that’s probably the case.

    7. Lardarius Webb, S, Ravens. Age: 32.
    8. Michael Campanaro, WR, Ravens. Age: 27. — Signed with Titans
    9. Crockett Gillmore, TE, Ravens. Age: 26.
    10. James Hurst, OT, Ravens. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Ravens (4 years, $17.5 million)
    11. Danny Woodhead, RB, Ravens. Age: 33. — Announced retirement
    12. Luke Bowanko, C/G, Ravens. Age: 27. — Signed with Patriots
    13. Ryan Mallett, QB, Ravens. Age: 30.
    14. Terrance West, RB, Ravens. Age: 27.
    15. Steven Johnson, ILB, Ravens. Age: 30.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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