Will 2023 NFL draft bring bombshell or blip for Ravens? 

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The Ravens-related buzz on the eve of the NFL draft stemmed from a SpongeBob SquarePants tweet posted by Lamar Jackson on Tuesday night. 

What was it Murtaugh always liked to say in the “Lethal Weapon” movies? 

Alas, what could this tweet possibly mean? 

Is a long-term contract extension in the works after more than two years of negotiating? 

Could five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins be following Odell Beckham Jr. to Baltimore? 

Was it a hint that another team might finally be after the former NFL MVP, which would easily be the biggest bombshell of all? 

Or maybe The Entire Gym just landed a new investor? 

Depending on one’s viewpoint, trying to interpret Jackson’s social media has become an amusing pastime or an exhausting grasp at straws. The 26-year-old star quarterback hasn’t said much of anything publicly since announcing on Twitter last month that he’d requested a trade on March 2, five days before the Ravens officially placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on him. 

The chatter only grew when Beckham offered a Wednesday lunchtime tweet that also could have been about anything. 

Despite how “un-Raven-like” it sounds — something becoming a pattern this offseason — smoke and rumors persist on the potential for Baltimore to acquire Hopkins from Arizona after already guaranteeing $15 million to Beckham for 2023. The draft nearly being upon us leads one to assume there will be a resolution, whether Hopkins is dealt to the Ravens or another team still vying for his services. 

It certainly adds spice to a draft lacking the usual local enthusiasm with the Ravens currently scheduled to have only five selections and just two in the first 100 picks. Baltimore hasn’t taken fewer than seven players in a draft since 2009, leading many to conclude general manager Eric DeCosta will try to trade back from the 22nd overall pick to gain more draft capital. But that requires another team wanting to come up for the right prospect at that spot, which isn’t a given in a draft some perceive to be lacking in serious first-round talent. 

What if nothing major happens and there’s simply the blip of making the pick at No. 22? 

The best combination of a good story and a pressing need would be DeCosta turning in the card for Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks or Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. on Thursday night. The Ravens haven’t drafted a Terp since Torrey Smith in 2011, and the 6-foot, 197-pound Banks is as talented as any cornerback in the draft after the consensus top two of Devon Witherspoon from Illinois and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, who are expected to be long gone by the time Baltimore is on the clock. Meanwhile, Porter is the son of the former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker — once the bitter rival of Ray Lewis and the Ravens of yesteryear — and would also project as a Week 1 starter after a strong college run in Happy Valley. 

If we’re putting aside the potential for a Hopkins trade, wide receiver remains a need when considering Beckham’s health questions and one-year contract as well as the injury history of 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman. And we’re talking about receiver-hungry Ravens fans here, who are unlikely to balk at the selection of someone like Zay Flowers of Boston College, USC’s Jordan Addison, or Quentin Johnson from TCU. 

Of course, we should never dismiss the “best player available” scenario for an organization that prides itself in trying to maximize value and has other long-term needs — or at least wants — at edge rusher, defensive tackle, running back, and guard. This is where we’d also mention the slim possibility of one of the quarterbacks — Florida’s Anthony Richardson did visit with the Ravens after all — sliding down the draft board, but that would most definitely fall into the bombshell category and not a blip. 

Yes, we’ll see how the draft plays out as another key checkpoint in determining Jackson’s status for the 2023 season is upon us. If the Ravens have any lingering thought of moving on from their franchise quarterback — and I’m not suggesting they do at this point — you’d assume they’d want to come away with his replacement this weekend. On the flip side, the proverbial mystery team could finally emerge after the draft if its quarterback plans fall through, knowing the first-round picks tied to an offer sheet would be delayed until next year and 2025. 

If only one thing is certain by now, it’s that the speculation won’t die one way or another until Jackson signs with somebody in some shape or form. 

And if we’re to try to predict what happens on that front, the best bet is the bombshell potential turning into more waiting and reading of tweets. 

Aside from the Beckham signing, that’s been the story of the Ravens’ offseason. 

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