Despite adding only defensive reinforcements so far in free agency, Lamar Jackson has plenty of help and there is more on the way.
Lamar Jackson is in a good situation. The offense isn’t being neglected.
Eric DeCosta has been wheeling and dealing so far adding Michael Brockers and Calais Campbell to a Ravens defense that finished fourth in the NFL last season. DeCosta has also brought back Jimmy Smith, Anthony Levine, Jihad Ward, and Justin Ellis to help shore up that side of the ball.
Offensively, it has been a quiet offseason for the Ravens as they have cut reserve linemen James Hurst, traded former first round pick, Hayden Hurst, and re-signed special teamer/WR(not really) Chris Moore. The number one offense in the NFL still projects to return the lions share of its starters and with the draft coming up in a month, figures to add more pieces to the artillery around MVP Lamar Jackson.
Which is why I was flabbergasted to see a take circulating that the Ravens are not surrounding Jackson with enough play makers to be successful.
Child please! The Ravens have drafted six skill position offensive players and two offensive linemen in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft in the last two seasons including four in the first three rounds. All that in addition to the MVP of the NFL.
Marquise Brown had a stellar rookie season primarily on one leg and looks to be a future number one caliber wide receiver. Miles Boykin was drafted in the third round last season as well and while he hasn’t flashed yet, he did improve throughout the 2019 season and is a criminally underrated blocker. While Hayden Hurst has departed, the Ravens still boast a top five tight end in the NFL in Mark Andrews and incredibly undervalued one in Nick Boyle.
Last season the Ravens also added Mark Ingram who combined for just under 1300 total yards and 15 touchdowns despite missing the last game of the 2019 season and only having a combined 228 touches. The touches were down because the Ravens also boast another starting caliber running back in Gus Edwards who totaled 756 total yards on 140 touches. 2019 fourth rounder, Justice HIll, found himself in a crowded backfield but totaled 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns on limited touches.
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The running game broke an NFL record for rushing yards in a season behind a stout offensive line that included an All-Pro left tackle in Ronnie Stanley and a Pro Football Hall of Fame caliber right guard in Marshal Yanda. The Ravens also had second year center, Bradley Bozeman, move over to left guard and fill in admirably. 2018 third rounder, Orlando Brown Jr., anchors the right side and earned a Pro Bowl nod this season. The loss of Yanda leaves a hole in this group but that can and will be addressed in the draft. The Ravens also have 2018 fourth rounder Ben Powers who could assume that role as well.
Other than not adding a premiere,established wide receiver, where exactly have the Ravens failed Jackson in terms of providing him with help?
Many are saying that this feels like the Flacco years where the Ravens neglected to put talent around their franchise quarterback. Consider this: From 2012-2017, the Ravens drafted four skill position offensive players in the first three rounds: Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, Crockett Gilmore and Bernard Pierce. Yuck. They have already equaled that number in the first two years with Jackson and by the way two of those guys are looking like STUDS that can grow with Jackson over the next five to 10 years. My biggest issue with the Ravens offenses over the Flacco era was that they never tried to draft the skill positions early in drafts.
That refusal to draft offensive talent early coupled with the penchant for bringing in retread wide receivers often left the Ravens and their fanbase frustrated with the offense. And rightfully so. But it at least seems like DeCosta has made a commitment to drafting more offensive talent early even saying at one point since taking over “We need to start swinging more” in reference to the Ravens overall neglect for drafting offensive talent.
Still some folks don’t seem content with the Ravens lack of activity on the free agent/trade market. We have seen big name (and big money) wide receivers like DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs find new homes this offseason. “Why weren’t the Ravens in on that”, they cry.
The Cardinals were Bill O’Brien‘s first and only call. That guy is clueless. Trading a talent like Hopkins for that kind of return has been heralded as one of the worst trades in NFL history. Let’s take that deal out of it.
That leaves Diggs. The former Terp has been extremely productive throughout his career including last year tallying 63 catches for 1130 yards and six touchdowns. He has four affordable years left on his contract ($12 million a pop) but will likely be looking for a raise if he is productive in the next few seasons in Buffalo. Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey, and some guy named Lamar Jackson will need raises within the next few years as well. I’d rather not bring in a guy on a big contract looking for a bigger one soon.
Couple that with the price to obtain Diggs which was a 2020 first, fifth, and sixth in addition to a 2021 fourth round draft pick and the Ravens decided to pass. Add in the fact that the Ravens are a power running offense that doesn’t utilize receivers as much as your modern NFL offenses, and it makes sense that they stayed away from Diggs, who has been known to get salty when he doesn’t get the rock.
Free agency options out there included Emmanuel Sanders (hello retread wide receiver) and Robbie Anderson who isn’t anything special.
Would it have been nice to add a talent like Diggs or Hopkins? Quite obviously. But the Ravens have three picks in the first 60 of the upcoming draft in what is being described as a loaded wide receiver class. Why not use draft capital to bring in cheaper (and potentially better) options to fill the offensive arsenal?
Is it scary that the Ravens rarely have proven being able to develop highly drafted receivers? Sure it is. But Hollywood looks like a good one and as DeCosta said they really haven’t tried to develop one outside of Breshad Perriman in the past decade.
It is two years into Jackson’s NFL career. The cupboard is hardly empty on the offensive side of the ball. Try to block out the horrible memories of Flacco throwing to the Jeremy Maclin‘s, Dallas Clark‘s, Tandon Doss‘s, and Michael Crabtree‘s of the world. DeCosta has done a great job of surrounding Jackson with help so far. Another opportunity awaits in April.
Have some patience folks.