Where Do They Go From Here; Baltimore Ravens.

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

So to kick off the new series, we take a look at the Baltimore Ravens.

How Did Last Season Go?

Baltimore had a pretty good year last year both on and off the field in my opinion. They won 10 games, they won a divisional title and welcomed in the Lamar Jackson era relatively smoothly.

Of course, the Ravens will be forever grateful to Joe Flacco and what he did for the franchise but it was absolutely time to have a changing of the guard and I feel like Baltimore did a good job of integrating Lamar Jackson into what they were trying to do and remaining pretty successful on the field whilst doing so.

I feel that this off season we will see a big shift and it will truly become Lamar’s offense, especially now that Flacco is going to be elsewhere. It’s Lamar’s time now.

Anway, back to this past season… and pre-Lamar, it wasn’t exactly going to well and the season is nicely split in two by the bye week. Flacco was injured in the week 9 loss to the Steelers as the Ravens fell to 4-5 and were ambling towards mediocrity again. Enter the 32nd overall pick…

Three straight wins later and the Ravens had been transformed into the best rushing attack in the NFL behind what I have referred to as the zero QB strategy. Baltimore don’t even have a marque running back but with teams petrified of Jackson’s electric rushing ability, and with Jackson rushing more than he was throwing, they were able to run all over whoever stood in their path in the second half of the season; only the Chiefs were able to overcome Lamar’s rushing Ravens in the regular season, as they took the divisional title for the first time since 2012.

This set up a wildcard game, at home to the L.A. Chargers, a team they had beaten just 2 weeks before… This time, unfortunately for the Ravens, Gus Bradley’s planned to fight speed with speed and with 6 or 7 defensive backs taking the field the majority of the game, his plan worked out and the Chargers progressed.

However, as good a season as it was and as good a start it has been for Jackson, the Ravens staff need to ensure this playoff loss doesn’t give the blueprint to defeat their QB and as I said earlier, fully install and evolve the team with Jackson at its heart.

Housekeeping

Cap space: $46m

Draft picks (8): Round 1, 22nd overall, Round 3, 85th & 102nd overall, Round 4, 113th & 123rd overall, Round 5, 160th overall & Round 6, 191st & 193rd overall.

Outgoings

So we know one thing for sure, Michael Crabtree has been cut and Alex Collins is gone… and he’s got bigger fish to fry than worrying about his football career right now. On Crabtree, I thought he was actually reasonable in his one year but the team obviously want to go in a different direction, probably looking to get younger at the position.

Elsewhere the Ravens have a little bit of in house business to attend to, to begin with. First and foremost, franchise legend, Terrell Suggs, pass rusher is out of contract and an unrestricted free agent. I feel they simply have to keep him around unless he decides to hang them up, which he has said that he won’t. Baltimore and John Harbaugh are going to look after him and to be fair to him, 7 sacks in 2018 in his mid 30’s isn’t a bad return at all.

Next up, C.J. Mosley; Baltimore has a dilemma on their hands with this one. Mosley is a player they like, a player who they drafted but entering his prime years Mosley is going to want to get P.A.I.D. As the Chargers playoff game showed, linebackers aren’t always necessary as teams get smaller and quicker. The franchise tag isn’t really an option either as it would mean giving Mosley $15m in order to kick that can down the road. For context, Bobby Wagner (in my opinion the best inside linebacker in the game) is paid $10m on average per year. So essentially, the Ravens would pay $15m to rent their own player for a year. No bueno. Flacco’s contract being off the books now does give Baltimore some wiggle room, especially since it’s a bad linebacker class this year in the draft, however my head says he’ll be on his way.

After those two biggies there pieces such as Za’Darius Smith, Brent Urban and RGIII who need tying down. I can see all of these guys staying but they may need to give Smith a little bit of a raise.

Lastly, the Ravens need to protect Patrick Onwuasor as he may have teams sniffing around them as a restricted free agent.

All of this probably means John Brown will be running go routes elsewhere (paging Tampa Bay) and will be replaced in the draft…

Incomings

Speaking of which… I really feel like Baltimore has to put some weapons around Lamar Jackson because in case anyone hasn’t noticed, Willie Snead ain’t the answer and there’s not much behind him on the depth chart now Crabtree is gone, which could mean selecting some wide receivers early on because I don’t know if anyone has noticed but the free agents this year are NOT. GOOD. Fortunately for teams such as these Baltimore Ravens, one area that the 2019 NFL Draft is awash with talent is the wide receiver position.

Sitting at 22 could be a nice sweet spot to grab one of the drafts’ best pass catchers too. Kelvin Harmon, N’Keal Harry, maybe even Hollywood Brown depending on what they’re after. I would definitely not be against Baltimore double dipping at the position either by grabbing someone else in the later rounds; Antoine Wesley (Texas Tech), Andy Isabella (Massachusetts) and Dillon Mitchell (Oregon) are mid round receivers I like, who are again, all shapes and sizes.

After receiver it could really just be about replacing those they lose in free agency and adding depth. So linebackers and edge rushers could be on the cards and the route I’d go would be to grab a linebacker in free agency and then load up on young edge guys.

Zach Allen (Boston College), OShane Ximines (Old Dominion) and Chase Winovich (Michigan) are all going to be there when Baltimore is on the clock in the 3rd. The also have the luxury of flexibility in being able to trade their extra 3rd or extra 6th to move up and not have to wait for their guy to come to them. This is a team without too many glaring needs so they can afford to do so.

Outlook For Next Year

As I mentioned in the article I did looking ahead to Cleveland’s coming year, I really feel like the Steelers are on a bit of a downward trajectory so Baltimore has a great chance to retain their North title and really own the division for a little while. I am actually really excited by the prospect of Lamar and Baker Mayfield duking it out in the North for the next decade or so.

Baltimore almost always drafted well under Ozzie Newsome and he’s a big reason why the Ravens have always at least competed for a playoff spot and the burden is now on Eric DeCosta to carry this on. With not too many holes to plug and a decent roster already in place the Ravens should be set for another good year. However, as I said previously, it’s all about evolution and putting things in place for Lamar Jackson in order for him to be successful and staying ahead of the curve in terms of how defenses plan to defend him.

Prediction

As a divisional title winner it’s never easy the next year as you end up playing the other winners in your conference, so that means going to Arrowhead Stadium and welcoming the Houston Texans as well as facing the Patriots in Baltimore as the North is paired with the East in the AFC. Cross country trips to Los Angeles to play the Rams and to Seattle are also tough asks.

I think this really boils down to how much of a step forward Lamar takes in the next few months and how creative the Ravens get on offense.

As positive as I feel about the Ravens, I feel their schedule is super tough so I can actually see them regressing to 8-8 this coming year. I’m also factoring in the fact that teams now have a decent amount of tape on Lamar and he will have to beat good teams with his arm. I like Jackson but he’s admitted himself that he has flaws, so now he’s got to do something about them.

Fantasy Football

Ravens fantasy football is going to be a minefield next year, I feel. There are so many red flags for me; Jackson who could be in for a sophomore slump but also could be the #1 dual threat in the game.

Running back by committee in a big way, answers to full10yards@gmail.com for who is going to be the number 1 running back in Baltimore next year.

Next up, wide receivers well, it’s going to be rookies or untested players and Michael Crabtree, so again, good luck picking between them and then with tight ends you’ll have Hayden Hurst taking snaps and targets off of the far superior (yet much later drafted, shoutout Ozzie Newsome, for that one) Mark Andrews.

The surest bet, in true Ravens style could be the D/ST. Baltimore are traditionally a defense first team and they’ll be looking to dominate time of possession again next year which means less time for the opposition to score.

To sum it up, if you like a receiver the Ravens pick up who could also be effective on plays like jet-sweeps and reverses (N’Keal Harry) then I’d strongly recommend drafting him earlish as I think that’s a great fit. Otherwise I may be staying away from Ravens guy’s altogether.

Jackson could be a nice pick up as a QB2 later in redraft leagues just in case he takes a leap and he would also be a good shout in dynasty start ups too as he’s young and dual threat guys are the way to go for me.

Happy hunting.

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