The Baltimore Ravens fell short of expectations in 2019, but there are tons of reasons to believe they’ll follow the Kansas City Chiefs path in 2020.
If you’re like me — though I doubt very much there are two of us this strikingly handsome — then it was tough watching the confetti fall in Miami Sunday night as the Kansas City Chiefs earned the title “World Champion” with their Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Call it being petty. Call it having a hissy fit. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter how it’s labeled. This was a season lost for many Ravens fans, and watching another team, any other team, enjoy the fruits of a championship 2019 season just left a bad taste. Or, maybe it was the gas station jalapeno poppers. Something most certainly left a bad taste.
The question now, fellow Flockers, is how do the Ravens take that next step and end the 2020 season holding the Lombardi Trophy and making the members of some other fan base miserable from their own couches? Actually, when compared to other franchises, the Ravens aren’t too far away, and they honestly had the ability to win the thing this year if the proverbial wheels didn’t fall off in the playoffs. But they do need to get better in a few spots to give them a better shot, and I have a few ideas that could help.
This is an exercise we will do a few times throughout the offseason, as situations change in the NFL due to retirements, trades, falling prospects on draft days, off-season injuries and surgeries, etc. For this installment, we’ll do a 50/50 proposition and assume that all-world guard Marshal Yanda is going to hold off retirement for one more season, and the team and Matthew Judon are unable to reach an agreement, or Judon is franchise-tagged and traded. The hope is they both return, but let’s start with this scenario as it is the one I see as most likely at this time.
If I’m the Ravens, my first move is to try to replace what the team lost in Judon with a cheaper alternative, since money would probably be the cause of the separation, right? How about a trade for Ryan Kerrigan of the Washington Redskins — a close-to-premier edge-rusher who is entering the final year of his contract as his current team appears poised to draft pass-rusher extraordinaire Chase Young in the draft? This gives the team a weapon to chase quarterbacks from the outside and a good influence on young gun Jaylon Ferguson.
Step two? Let’s add to that pass rush on the inside, as well. Derek Wolfe will be entering free agency this year, and besides being considered a premier run-stuffer, Wolfe also posted seven sacks last season for Denver. Playing next to Brandon Williams should help alleviate some of the blockers on Wolfe with the Ravens, and it’s another respected veteran to add to a relatively young locker room. Those two should help the Ravens pass-rush take a step forward next season, and hopefully we see an improved Ferguson, as well. It also should help some with the run defense.
Speaking of which, what’s step three? Adding Kenneth Murray in the draft. The Oklahoma linebacker is not the traditional “Mike” backer who sheds blocks, takes on fullbacks and wraps up running backs. But he is the guy who can stay on the field all three downs, comes to the ball with bad intentions on every play and is an excellent blitzer — a skill that is quite handy in a Don “Wink” Martindale defense. Murray could be that Swiss Army Knife who solidifies both the run and pass defense.
One last wish for this Ravens fan? Another weapon on offense. The Ravens had an elite offense this past season and became the first team ever to average 200 yards of offense on both the ground and in the air. Let’s make it more ridiculous with a receiver who sits there in the second round. The position is stacked this season and there are good players certain to fall to the Ravens pick. Justin Jefferson? Brandon Aiyuk? KJ Hamler? Could a Jalen Reagor drop that far? Sure. Ask DK Metcalf. Or Michael Thomas. Someone good will be there. Let’s take him.
The Ravens aren’t far away from making the Flock call in sick for another parade. It will just take a few more tweaks and another jump up from MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson to get there.