The Baltimore Ravens for many years have been a well run franchise that usually made the right moves. Constantly at the top of the AFC North and a couple of Superbowl victories made them a franchise others would like to model off of. I think that these times are over and have been for a while now in Baltimore. Since winning Superbowl XLVII the Ravens have won 8, 10, 5, 8, 9 games in the following seasons since with no divisional titles.
The blame first and foremost falls, for this downturn in the franchise, in Joe Flacco. Flacco in his prime was an average quarterback at best, and now he is on the downswing of his career. Giving him that huge contract after the Superbowl victory was a terrible mistake, but then also extending him and giving most of that contract as a signing bonus was even worse. They transitioned him to be of a more of a game manager between 2016 and 2017, basically by having him throw the ball less. Pass play percentage dropped from 65.99% in 2016 to 56.36% in 2017. The problem is that he turns the ball over way too much to be a game manager. Every season of his career he has thrown at least double digit interceptions.
Its not just the turnovers, his yards per attempt has been decreasing over the past four years. (7.2 y/a in 2014 to 5.7 y/a in 2017). 5.7 y/a in 2017 ranked 39/40 quarterbacks who played at least a quarter of the teams total snaps. Flacco was also 15/46 on deep ball throws in 2017; those 46 attempts were only the 23rd most thrown in 2017 down from 66 in 2016; he was also 28th in quarterback rating on the deep ball.
I think this is also on the fact that the team is getting more conservative on offense; not taking as many shots down the field because of Flacco’s inabililty, the lack of talent on the outside, and the lack of time for flacco to throw the ball downfield. He ranks in the bottom half of the lead in average time to throw.
The Ravens woes stems from more than just Flacco and the offense. Injuries have been piling up for years now. They had the most players on IR in 2015 the second most in 2016 and the ninth most this past season, according to Spotrac.
Their drafts since winning the Superbowl have not been very good too, which is important for a team like the Ravens since they are an organization that is not very active in free agency and rely on building through the draft. I think there is an over generalization that Ozzie Newsome is a great drafter but lets look at Rounds 1-3 since the 2013 draft
Outside of C.J. Mosley, who has made 3 pro bowls, and Brandon Williams (Can’t include Jernigan since they traded him away), these drafts have not produced alot of talent. Marlon Humphrey had a good rookie year, and Ronnie Stanley is a good tackle, he gives up too many pressures but still can become an elite tackle. The rest is a lot of bust, and I took the first three rounds because this is obviously where the pressure to have successful picks is high. The other thing that stands out is that is a lot of defense; they have only drafted 4 offensive players in the first three rounds over the last 5 drafts, two of which are tight ends and 3/4 being busts. No wonder the offense is struggling when you are investing young players and the ones that do pan out i.e Ricky Wagner Kyle Juszczyk, they let go in free agency.
Cap Situation and Cap Capitulates:
11.8 Million in cap space now, uh, not alot but they will have a lot of cuts woohoo…
- Jeremy Maclin WR: He really disappointed this year, has an injury history, and is a 7.5 million cap hit. He’s not the deep threat he once was or is a major red zone threat. The team is going to need to completely remodel the wide receiver position. Cap Savings: 4 million
- Danny Woodhead RB: Not saying Danny Woodhead is bad, but the running backs are a strength of this team and he is the most expensive thus making him expendable since Buck Allen is a similar player. Cap Savings: 800,000
- Breshad Perriman WR: Huge Bust. Again need to remodel the position. Cap Savings: 1.6 million
- Lardarius Webb CB: Struggled this past season, deep position, like about 4th or 5th on the depth chart. Cap Savings: 1.75 million
- Za’Darius Smith Pass Rusher: Cutting him could allow Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams to get more snaps as they are younger and show more potential. Only 10 sacks in his 3 years combined. Cap Savings: 800,000
- Albert McClellan LB: Over 30 linebacker who missed all of last season to a torn acl. Cap Savings: 1.25 million
- Maxx Williams TE: Never lived up to his second round draft position. Only 15 catches last season. Cap Savings: 1 million
Cap After Cuts: 21.4 million… still not a lot
- WR: Mike Wallace is a free agent. Periman and Maclin have been cut. Really need to revamp this position.
- TE: Ben Watson is a free agent and Max Williams has been cut/ Nick Boyle is a decent backup but nothing more than that.
- OG and C: Ryan Jensen is a free agent. Marshall Yanda can hopefully return from injury and play at the highest level, a future replacement should be looked at getting and an upgrade at the opposite guard is needed.
- LB: Their run defense got slightly worse in 2017 from 2016. ( 2016 opponent rushing yard/attempt 3.7; 2017 4.1). Plus they gave up the 5th most touch downs to TE in 2017.
- QB: Joe Flacco is not the QB of the future, and Ryan Mallet is a below average backup.
- CB Depth: Ladarius Webb got cut. Jimmy Smith might not be ready to start the season. Marlon Humphrey although not that serious did get arrested this off season so a mid to late round pick could be used on a CB
Not many free agents on the Ravens. They will lose two starting lineman, Jensen at C and Hurst at LG. Jensen they would like to resign but will be too expensive. Hurst is not a very good player especially at run blocking which is this lines weak point, and given the fact that running backs is the position of strength, they should upgrade him. Skura played in relief of Yanda this season and struggled.
Urban is a nice rotational player and can be brought back cheap. Collins is the starter for the future at running back and is a ERFA so he will be back. Baptiste provides depth and Onwuasor is a solid LB. Both are also ERFA.
Outside FA Signed:
- Marqise Lee WR: The Ravens struggled on third down in 2017 (34% conversions, 27th in NFL). Lee tied for ninth in the NFL in third down receptions resulting in a first down. He could be a nice piece to add to a new and improved WR group. WRs in the NFL are being overpaid and Lee will be no exception. He needs to reduce the number of drops though. Look for a back loaded 24 million dollar deal over 4 years, with a 8 million dollar signing bonus and about 10 million dollars guaranteed. If the base salaries are 1, 3, 4, 6 million each year respectively and a 1 million dollar roster bonus in years 3 and 4 it is essentially a 2 year 12 million dollar deal. 2018 Cap Hit: 3 million.
- Jordan Mathews WR: Really exploded onto the scene with the Eagles but after getting traded to the Bills he had a disastrous year. He’s still 25 so its not over yet for him. He is a prime candidate take a one year deal hopefully at around 4 million dollars.
- Trey Burton TE: He is my steal of free agency. I think he is extremely talented and could easily be an elite TE. The Eagles are not going to be able to resign him so lets have the Ravens pounce (do Ravens pounce?) on him. Again back load a deal 30 million over 5 years with a 500,000 incentive each year for 800 receiving yards and a 500,000 incentive each year for making the pro bowl. Since he has done neither they won’t be counted against the cap, but the incentives give it the potential to be 35 million. At 25 years old this is a good deal. 10 million dollar signing bonus and 20 million guaranteed base salaries 2, 2, 4, 5, 7 million. 2018 Cap Hit: 4 million.
- Jahri Evans G: At 35 he is still a good guard but not the same player as he was. Can compete for a starting job and be a stopgap. He could sign for a one year 2.5 million dollar deal. He is mulling retirement but I would try to sign him if he decides to play again.
As stated the team takes a lot of defensive players but with the needs on the offense that might change this year. My strategy is to stand pat and draft young offensive players to fill out the remodel.
I can’t help myself; I reached into my inner Ozzie Newsome and drafted best player available and defense. I feel like Smith is a perfect fit for Baltimore. He can be a SAM and cover tight ends, can rush the passer and is effective in the run game. He might not be their where the Ravens pick as teams like the 49ers, Raiders, Dolphins and Redskins could all draft him, but a GM can dream right. Someone always slips a little, Smith could if Trumaine Edwards keeps getting a lot of hype. Ateman is a big receiver who can be a redzone threat for the team and Tre’quan Smith is a riser who can be used as a deep threat. Ragnow would be a late 1 early 2nd round pick if he didn’t suffer an ankle injury. Good value in the third round. Can immediately start in 2017. Teller provides depth and could be groomed into a starter, Thomas has raw talent who should have stayed in school, but the Ravens are a well coached team that could develop him. Ralph Webb is a body that replaces Danny Woodhead.
This is a team now that I feel can compete even with Joe Flacco, they can open up the playbook because of the revamped. Roquan Smith is going to be a new anchor for that defense. C.J. Mosely probably will want to test free agency and may not be resigned, so we are planning ahead and reloading that defense which is the strength of the team. Offensive line is improved with young talent and veterans who can be used until the younger guys are ready. Quarterback can be addressed next draft by drafting a young guy in the first three rounds as Joe Flacco will be on the team for the next two years.
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