With the Ravens and the rest of the NFL having until 4 p.m. Tuesday to use the franchise tag on a pending free agent, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. The franchise tag deadline will bring context — a little bit anyway — to Baltimore’s salary cap and road map to open free agency. After pondering which tag to use for weeks, I just can’t see Eric DeCosta relinquishing so much leverage and control by using the non-exclusive tag on Lamar Jackson.
2. Everyone longs for a Jackson resolution, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens should rush one solely because of the 2023 season. If you can still strike the right long-term deal, short-term cap challenges are worth it. If you ultimately trade Jackson, the complexion of the upcoming season changes dramatically anyway.
3. Though teams won’t need to be under the cap until March 15, DeCosta knows he’ll need to make some notable adjustments even to use the $32.4 million non-exclusive tag. If that means releasing a couple veterans, doing so this week affords players the opportunity to jump the free-agent market.
4. DeCosta could have chosen his words better in assessing the wide receiver picture by noting coaching shortcomings, but the incumbent receivers — who indeed weren’t good enough last year — aren’t youthful amateurs either. I’m not about to say a general manager should lie just to protect everyone’s feelings.
5. Rashod Bateman has shown promise and shouldn’t be blamed for his injuries, but he’s been unavailable for 17 of Baltimore’s 35 total games since he was selected with the 27th pick in the 2021 draft. Clapping back at DeCosta doesn’t change that lack of availability being a fair concern.
6. As noted last week, the failure at wide receiver has been a top-to-bottom organizational issue for a long time with much blame to go around. Regardless of how the Ravens go about doing it, they desperately need to start getting this important position right. No more excuses for anyone.
7. Considering how negative the NFLPA report was, it’s fair to wonder if Baltimore would have been better off going outside the organization to start fresh with the strength and conditioning program rather than promoting from within to replace Steve Saunders. Scott Elliott and other incumbents will be under the microscope.
8. The departure of Rob Leonard means Odafe Oweh will have his third outside linebackers coach in as many seasons. Whoever takes that job will need to get more out of Oweh and maximize the potential of a healthy David Ojabo.
9. To little surprise, John Harbaugh said the long-term fit for Kyle Hamilton — who underwent wrist surgery earlier this offseason — is at safety and not the nickel spot. However, you’d expect Mike Macdonald to continue taking advantage of Hamilton’s versatility like the Ravens have with Marlon Humphrey for years now.
10. Harbaugh noted how the cornerback draft class is “loaded” while DeCosta sees some “Chris McAlister-type guys” as options in the early rounds. Joey Porter Jr. could be long gone by the 22nd pick, but how fun would it be to take the son of the former Pittsburgh Steelers rival?
11. Acknowledging the tight salary cap and only five scheduled draft picks in April’s draft, the Ravens can’t even lean on compensatory picks as they’ll be without one for the first time since 2010. Of course, that’s when you point to last year’s sizable Day 3 class needing to step up.
12. After being widely regarded as Teflon for years, the Ravens’ culture is under fire in the wake of the Saunders fallout and Bateman’s rant. That makes an already difficult Jackson contract saga even more unsettling. Business or not, parting ways with a 26-year-old star quarterback would be uncharted territory.