With the start of the new league year just three weeks away, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Tuesday opened a two-week window for teams applying the franchise tag. The Ravens don’t have a logical candidate this offseason, but circumstances will be much different if they still haven’t struck a long-term agreement with Lamar Jackson a year from now. The projected 2022 quarterback tag is $28.6 million.
2. With the Jackson extension talk, Pittsburgh beginning life without Ben Roethlisberger, and Cleveland pondering what to do with Baker Mayfield, you couldn’t ask for a more interesting AFC North quarterback picture. If that weren’t enough, the other guy in the division just took his team to the Super Bowl.
3. To add context to the inclusion of Rashod Bateman on my list of young players Baltimore needs more from in 2022, I really like his potential and simply lament how much valuable time with Jackson he missed. His ability to make contested catches will be key to his success.
4. Considering their respective injury histories and the poor overall 2021 for the pass defense, I’m curious to see what kind of market develops for Anthony Averett and DeShon Elliott. At the right price, of course, either would be good depth to re-sign.
5. Along those lines, the status of Tavon Young is a tough call with a scheduled $5.845 million salary. After taking a pay cut in 2020, the soon-to-be 28-year-old may not be amenable to another reduction, but extending the oft-injured slot corner to lower that 2022 number would also be risky.
6. Acknowledging urgency to address the offensive and defensive fronts, cornerback remains a bigger priority than many care to admit when examining the contract status and injury history of everyone not named Marlon Humphrey. The Ravens drafting a Derek Stingley or Trent McDuffie in the first round wouldn’t surprise me.
7. As if cryptic “emoji” eyeballs on Twitter weren’t enough, Pro Football Focus floated the idea of Baltimore reacquiring Za’Darius Smith from Green Bay. If Eric DeCosta could shrink that 2022 cap number with an extension, it sounds great, but the 29-year-old may seek a bigger bite at the free-agent apple.
8. No team has consistently given Jackson as much difficulty as Pittsburgh, which is why the Steelers hiring Brian Flores couldn’t have been something the Ravens enjoyed seeing from a football standpoint. The Miami defense obviously gave Jackson and this offense fits last November.
9. One player I didn’t include in Monday’s piece was Malik Harrison, who spent the second half of last season practicing at outside linebacker. As the 2020 third-round pick enters his pivotal third season, I’d like to see how he looks after a full spring and summer working at Sam linebacker.
10. The first football-free Sunday is always strange, but I came home from finally catching the latest Spider-Man movie to find a replay of Super Bowl XLVII. Joe Flacco’s 15-yard completion to Anquan Boldin on third-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter remains one of the more underrated plays in Ravens history.
11. As OverTheCap.com illustrates with this chart, teams can always find ways to create salary cap space, but the issue is striking the proper balance between the present and the long term. Kicking the can down the road in perpetuity eventually catches up, but the Rams offer support for being aggressive.
12. Any Ravens fan active on Twitter over the years has probably seen former New York Giants great Justin Tuck reference his handle being mistaken for the All-Pro kicker, but this was hilarious. I hope he signed those Justin Tucker cards anyway and just mailed them back.