With general manager Eric DeCosta conducting his season-ending press conference on Monday, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Describing the anticipated lower 2021 salary cap as a “strange phenomenon,” DeCosta estimates Baltimore having $15 million to $20 million in space, a fraction of what was expected before the pandemic. Not much, but it is still more than most teams and lines up well with OverTheCap.com, a fantastic resource.
2. Completing a Lamar Jackson extension this offseason would be in line with timetables for Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson getting deals, but the star quarterback counts for only $3.013 million on this year’s cap. In other words, the Ravens should be patient finding a structure that works for both sides.
3. I’ve heard Ravens decision-makers downplay the need for a top-shelf wide receiver for the better part of a decade on the beat. While there’s validity in points made about improving other areas, this is the rare subject on which the organization doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt.
4. Each final four team ranked in the top eight in yards per pass attempt and the top five in passing efficiency. Green Bay was the only one in the top 11 in yards per carry and top nine in run efficiency. Baltimore finished 18th and 17th in those passing categories.
5. I hear sentiments about not wanting to sacrifice the run game in the name of passing, but I’m unsure what that would mean beyond replacing Greg Roman, an unwise suggestion. Changing your identity or throwing 45 times per game isn’t necessary to address the critical need for more passing efficiency.
6. How DeCosta approaches outside linebacker will be fascinating. Debate centers around keeping Matthew Judon or Yannick Ngakoue, but analytics valuing coverage over pressure makes me wonder if the best approach is re-signing Tyus Bowser, keeping Pernell McPhee for another year, drafting an edge defender, and relying on Wink Martindale’s scheme.
7. Asked about improving the passing game, DeCosta mentioned pass protection before any other factor. Ronnie Stanley’s return will help immensely, but the memory of center Patrick Mekari and right guard Ben Powers struggling against Buffalo will linger. An upgrade on the interior is in order.
8. In a perfect world, the Ravens would extend Orlando Brown Jr., but his ability to play left tackle at a high level could prove to be the tipping point that ultimately prices him out of Baltimore. As DeCosta acknowledged when asked about Brown and Mark Andrews, “You can’t sign everybody.”
9. Hearing DeCosta use the term “tight end-centric” to describe the offense still makes me wonder why more wasn’t done to replace Hayden Hurst. The Ravens made it work down the stretch after Nick Boyle’s injury, but adding another quality option at tight end should be a priority.
10. Morgan Cox was the second-longest tenured Raven behind Sam Koch and has made four Pro Bowls, but the veteran long snapper’s defining moment came during his rookie season when he tore his ACL in the first half of a Week 16 win at Cleveland and finished the game. Impressive toughness.
11. The Earl Thomas grievance is “ongoing,” which adds another wrinkle to an uncertain salary cap. Every general manager makes some mistakes, but DeCosta stated a need to sometimes be more patient and “not rush up and swing at the first pitch.” Such free-agent misses have been rare for the Ravens.
12. It’s no secret the 2021 draft process will be much different with the pandemic, but the Senior Bowl is still taking place in Mobile this week. The Ravens have put so much evaluation stock in that event in recent years, so you’d imagine that will be even more critical now.