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Ravens add veteran to tight end mix for start of training camp

Posted on 03 August 2020 by Luke Jones

The man replaced by Hayden Hurst at the University of South Carolina will now attempt to win Hurst’s old roster spot with the Ravens.

Baltimore signed tight end Jerell Adams to their preseason roster on Monday as the 27-year-old will compete with 2019 practice-squad member Charles Scarff and rookie free agent Eli Wolf for the No. 3 job behind Nick Boyle and Mark Andrews. The signing comes as many have speculated about the Ravens pursuing three-time Pro Bowl selection Delanie Walker, who played for offensive coordinator Greg Roman in San Francisco. Baltimore was also linked to former Washington tight end Jordan Reed before the 30-year-old agreed to a deal with San Francisco on Monday.

A 2016 sixth-round pick of the New York Giants, Adams also spent time with Houston and New Orleans and has registered 24 receptions for 214 yards and a touchdown in 30 career games. The signing hardly prevents general manager Eric DeCosta from considering more established options at the tight end position such as Walker or Charles Clay. According to SharpFootballStats.com, the 2019 Ravens used at least two tight ends on 42 percent of their plays and three tight ends just under 7.5 percent of the time, making clear the importance of finding a viable replacement for Hurst.

Baltimore tight ends combined for 125 receptions, 1,522 yards, and 14 touchdowns last season, but Hurst — who made 30 catches for 349 yards and two touchdowns — was traded to Atlanta in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick used on running back J.K. Dobbins. Hurst, a 2018 first-round pick, played the same number of offensive snaps as Andrews last season, again illustrating the need for a third option to emerge.

Adams has appeared in only one game over the last two seasons, spending most of that time on the practice squads of the Texans and Saints. His addition comes after head coach John Harbaugh revealed rookie tight end Jake Breeland would miss the 2020 season while still recovering from a serious knee injury suffered while playing at the University of Oregon last year.

Ravens “ready to go” physically

While most focus is on COVID-19 testing at the start of training camp, many have wondered how a remote offseason program conducted away from the Owings Mills facility might impact the conditioning of players who had varying degrees of access to gyms and trainers.

However, head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders deemed the Ravens “ready to go” Monday after the organization held virtual workouts and sent training equipment to players across the country this spring. Saunders said his staff had to be “very creative” organizing online workouts, but players “didn’t miss a beat” physically from a typical spring and summer.

“For us, this is just really an opportunity that’s unexpected that we have to just pick up where we left off and then keep on going and really get the guys ramped up for the season,” said Saunders about the extended acclimation period before the start of practices later this month. “We’re really excited about it. I feel like we’re in a great place and we can just build on it and go from here.”

Quiet transaction sheet

The Ravens placed center Matt Skura (left knee) on the active physically unable to perform list on Sunday, but their transaction wire has remained relatively quiet despite numerous players around the NFL testing positive for the coronavirus.

To this point, undrafted rookie safety Nigel Warrior is the only Baltimore player to be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but return specialist De’Anthony Thomas and offensive tackle Andre Smith elected to opt out of the 2020 season last week.

The Ravens waiving 2019 fifth-round defensive tackle Daylon Mack over the weekend was a reminder of how stiff the competition will be for young, unproven players to crack the 53-man roster. Appearing in only one game as a rookie, Mack was claimed off waivers by Detroit on Sunday.

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Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) reacts while holding a smartphone after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. The Ravens won 28-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Deadline passes as Ravens, Judon fail to strike long-term deal

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Luke Jones

Wednesday’s franchise tag deadline passed with the Ravens and outside linebacker Matthew Judon failing to reach an agreement on a long-term contract.

That means the 2019 Pro Bowl selection must play the upcoming season under the tag amount of $16.808 million and is scheduled to again become an unrestricted free agent next March. Both sides had been quiet about negotiations throughout the process with no indication that a deal was close.

The 28-year-old signed his franchise tender in late May, eliminating any real possibility of him holding out during training camp. Unlike fellow tagged edge rushers Shaq Barrett and Bud Dupree who filed grievances against their respective teams after being classified as linebackers, Judon was able to work out a compromise with the Ravens to split the difference between the linebacker ($15.828 million) and defensive end ($17.788) amounts. Earlier this offseason, the 6-foot-3, 261-pound linebacker said he was “blessed” to receive the tag, a more diplomatic stance than others prevented from hitting the open market.

“I want to stay here for as long as I play, but I understand that it’s a business and that they’ve kind of got a ‘bad-good’ problem to have,” Judon said last month. “We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can’t all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers. They have stuff that they have to address, and obviously, I have needs as well.”

Despite a career season in which Judon registered a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks and ranked fourth in the NFL with 33 quarterback hits, some have pointed to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy system as reason to question whether the 2016 fifth-round pick from Grand Valley State is worthy of being paid among the league’s elite pass rushers. Still, Judon was easily Baltimore’s best performer at outside linebacker last year after the free-agent departure of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Suggs, and 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson is the only notable Ravens outside linebacker under contract beyond the upcoming season.

The climate for a long-term contract for Judon doesn’t figure to improve next offseason because of both the financial uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the pending free agency of Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who would be an obvious candidate for the franchise tag in the absence of a long-term extension. General manager Eric DeCosta must also weigh the long-term contract situations for 2019 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, and Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., all players working toward top-tier contracts at their respective positions in the near future.

As Judon alluded to in his recent comments, the Ravens simply may not be able to pay everyone.

With 28 1/2 sacks, seven forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, and 185 tackles in 62 career games, Judon became the seventh player to receive the franchise tag in team history and will become the first to play out a season on the tag since Suggs in 2008. The Ravens awarded Suggs with a long-term contract the following summer and eventually reached long-term agreements with five of those previous six players who were tagged, the exception being interior offensive lineman Wally Williams after the 1998 season.

With Judon’s guaranteed salary now locked in barring a trade, the Ravens entered Wednesday with $8.886 million in salary cap space for the 2020 campaign.

Below is a history of how the Ravens have used the franchise tag in their 25 seasons:

1998 OL Wally Williams — played on a $3.062 million tag before signing a five-year, $18.5 million deal with New Orleans the following offseason
2003-04 CB Chris McAlister — signed a seven-year, $55 million extension in October 2004
2008-09 OLB Terrell Suggs — signed a six-year, $62.5 million extension in July 2009
2011 DT Haloti Ngata — signed a five-year, $61 million extension in Sept. 2011
2012 RB Ray Rice — signed a five-year, $35 million extension in July 2012
2016 K Justin Tucker — signed a four-year, $16.8 million extension in July 2016
2020 OLB Matthew Judon — will play on a $16.808 million tag and is scheduled for free agency in 2021

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 17: “Our backs were against the wall”

Posted on 22 May 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 18 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The Ravens hadn’t won a truly critical December game in a very long time.

After missing the playoffs in each of the previous three years, Baltimore was a team in transition as rookie first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson had replaced the injured Joe Flacco during the Week 10 bye. Many assumed that makeover would continue with a new head coach as rumors had swirled about John Harbaugh and the organization likely parting ways at the end of the season.

Jackson was still another offseason of development away from blossoming into the league MVP, but his presence had revitalized a stagnant rushing attack and breathed new life into the Ravens, who had won four of five coming out of the bye week to climb back into the playoff race. The revamped ball-control offense had better complemented a defense that dominated down the stretch and finished first in the NFL in total yards allowed, second in points allowed, and third in defensive efficiency.

But a Week 16 showdown with the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers — who were coming off extra rest after an impressive Thursday road win over AFC-leading Kansas City the week before — was the kind of test the Ravens simply hadn’t passed in recent years. Memories of the Christmas loss in Pittsburgh two years earlier and the fourth-and-12 choke against Cincinnati in the 2017 finale were too strong for most to believe Baltimore would beat one of the NFL’s elite, especially on the road.

The plot felt all too familiar as the Ravens dominated the first half statistically, but they led only 6-3 at halftime after going 0-for-3 inside the red zone. Jackson’s beautiful 68-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Mark Andrews and a Justin Tucker 56-yard field goal gave the Ravens a 16-10 lead in the third quarter, but the offense then stalled with three straight three-and-outs, continuing to put great pressure on a Baltimore defense that had bullied eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers and one of the league’s best offenses all night.

In the post-Super Bowl XLVII era, Ravens defenses had remained strong statistically, but a reputation for faltering at critical moments was impossible to overlook. Even two weeks earlier, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs had pulled off a miraculous fourth-down conversion to force overtime and deny Baltimore an upset bid at Arrowhead Stadium.

That’s why Ravens fans couldn’t help but feel uneasy when Sam Koch’s punt from his own end zone was returned 24 yards by Desmond King to the Baltimore 39 with three minutes remaining. Not only could Rivers and the Chargers take the lead with a touchdown, but they had a short field to do it.

Someone would have to make a play for the Ravens to keep strong playoff hopes alive.

A holding penalty pushed Los Angeles back before Rivers completed a first-and-20 throw over the middle to eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates, who fought for more yardage as cornerback Brandon Carr wrapped him up. Linebacker Patrick Onwuasor arrived a moment later to punch out the football, and slot cornerback Tavon Young scooped it up and sprinted 62 yards for a touchdown.

Game over.

The defense had closed a terrific performance, and the Ravens had secured their biggest December victory in years. And with Pittsburgh losing at New Orleans the following day, Baltimore needed only a Week 17 win to secure its first AFC North championship since 2012.

The Chargers would exact their revenge in a wild-card round rematch at M&T Bank Stadium two weeks later, but the Ravens had finally broken through after not being quite good enough for too long. The Week 16 win brought Jackson’s first 200-yard passing performance as a pro, the defense’s ability to finish, and validation for the previous night’s announcement that Harbaugh would return in 2019 with a new contract extension to continue to lead a new era for the Ravens.

“Once again, our backs were against the wall,” Harbaugh said to his players in the locker room after the 22-10 victory. “Nobody thought we’d come out here and win. Except who? Us.”

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson keeps the ball for a touchdown on a fourth-down play against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 20: “Hell yeah, coach, let’s go for it!”

Posted on 15 May 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 21 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

By Week 7 of the 2019 season, many were still trying to figure out just how real the Ravens and Lamar Jackson’s MVP candidacy were.

Baltimore certainly looked the part of a playoff-caliber team, but its four wins had come against teams with a combined 4-19-1 record through the first six weeks of the season. And while Jackson had amazed the football world by throwing seven touchdown passes in the first two games — topping his total from his entire rookie season — the 22-year-old quarterback had thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions over the last four contests, quieting some of the early MVP hype from September.

A daunting cross-country trip to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson, the early MVP favorite, and the 5-1 Seahawks would be a great litmus test going into the bye week. A win would combat doubts about the Ravens being legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and Jackson shining in a showdown with one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks would command more respect from his skeptics.

Defensive touchdowns scored by cornerbacks Marcus Peters — acquired from the Los Angeles Rams only days earlier — and Marlon Humphrey and 116 yards rushing from Jackson were the difference in Baltimore’s 30-16 win, but what transpired late in the third quarter would have a far greater reach than any highlight-reel play or the victory itself.

The moment defined the 2019 season and could define the Ravens in the years to come.

With the game tied 13-13, the Ravens had moved the ball inside the red zone before seemingly self-destructing with two uncharacteristic drops from tight end Mark Andrews and a delay-of-game penalty leading to a third-and-15 from the Seattle 21. A terrific 13-yard run by Jackson set up fourth-and-2 from the 8-yard line, but head coach John Harbaugh wanted to at least come away with the go-ahead field goal in the rainy conditions at CenturyLink Field.

His quarterback wasn’t happy coming to the sideline after the Ravens had already twice settled for field goals inside the red zone in the first half.

“He came off, and I could just see it in his face,” Harbaugh said. “I asked him, ‘Do you want to go for it?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I want to go for it; let’s get it.’ I was told that Marshal [Yanda] said, ‘If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it.’ I felt the same way. If he wants to go for it, I want to go for it too.

“I went down and called timeout, and it was just a great play.”

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman called “quarterback power,” a play that included six offensive linemen, three tight ends, and a fullback on a designed inside run by Jackson, a tactic the Ravens tried to avoid as much as possible to keep their quarterback out of harm’s way. Patrick Ricard motioned to the play side and left guard Bozeman pulled to the right as Jackson plowed his way to the end zone for the touchdown and a lead the Ravens wouldn’t relinquish over the final 16:20 of the game.

The execution was impressive and the touchdown run important, but the conviction and confidence exuded by Jackson in the moment had prompted a Super Bowl-winning head coach in his 12th year and the perennial Pro Bowl right guard in his 13th season to follow his lead. Jackson’s performance that day moved him into the top tier of an MVP race he would win by unanimous vote and Baltimore made its statement as a legitimate contender on the way to a franchise-best 14-2 season, but the story was bigger than that, extending beyond the remainder of the 2019 season.

The Ravens were officially Jackson’s team now.

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Ravens officially add Oregon tight end Breeland to list of UDFA signings

Posted on 06 May 2020 by Luke Jones

General manager Eric DeCosta didn’t select a tight end in last month’s draft, but that doesn’t mean the Ravens haven’t pondered replacing former first-round pick Hayden Hurst.

In the process of signing four more rookie free agents on Wednesday, Baltimore officially added one of its most intriguing undrafted options in Oregon tight end Jake Breeland. The 6-foot-5, 252-pound senior made 26 catches for 405 yards and led all Pac-12 tight ends with six touchdown receptions in just six games before sustaining a season-ending injury last year.

“We thought he was a strong prospect,” DeCosta said in a conference call with Ravens season-ticket holders. “We thought he was one of the best tight ends in the draft this year prior to his ACL injury that he suffered in October. We’re very, very excited to get him. I think that was a great job recruiting throughout to get him.”

Regarded as a better receiver than blocker over 30 career games with the Ducks, Breeland finished with 74 receptions for 1,225 yards and 13 touchdowns in his collegiate career with 24 of those catches going for 20 or more yards.

After trading Hurst to Atlanta in March, the Ravens will need a third tight end to complement 2019 Pro Bowl selection Mark Andrews and standout blocker Nick Boyle. In the midst of praising Breeland, DeCosta also mentioned fellow undrafted rookie Eli Wolf, who caught 13 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown at Georgia last season after transferring from Tennessee.

“He’s probably not as household of a name as Jake, but he’s another guy that we felt was a draftable prospect,” DeCosta said. “We’ve got two guys that we think have a realistic chance to possibly make our team. As you all know, tight end is a very important position on our offense, so we feel very, very good about that.”

The Ravens also announced the undrafted signings of James Madison outside linebacker John Daka, Wake Forest punter Dom Maggio, and Iowa linebacker Kristian Welch. Eighteen rookie free agents are now officially under contract.

Baltimore also signed three more draft picks to four-year contracts on Wednesday: third-round defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, fourth-round guard Ben Bredeson, and sixth-round wide receiver James Proche.

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Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) beats out San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) to make a touchdown catch in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Andrews aiming to “take the next step” after Ravens trade Hurst

Posted on 01 April 2020 by Luke Jones

Ravens tight end Mark Andrews admitted he was surprised and disappointed when teammate and close friend Hayden Hurst was traded to Atlanta last month.

Along with veteran Nick Boyle, the 2018 draft picks formed the best tight end group in the NFL last season as the trio combined for 125 receptions, 1,522 yards, and 14 touchdowns. However, Hurst — selected seven spots before reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round two years ago — sought a larger role and was third in the pecking order with Andrews shining as a 2019 Pro Bowl selection and Boyle being the top blocker in Baltimore’s run-first attack.

That contributed to general manager Eric DeCosta trading the 26-year-old Hurst and a fourth-round selection to Atlanta for a second-round pick and a fifth-round choice in this month’s draft.

“I’m excited for him to get more of an opportunity with Atlanta,” said Andrews, whose 10 touchdown receptions led all tight ends and tied for second in the NFL last season. “I know that he’s going to thrive there. He’s a great player. I love him to death, but it’s exciting for him as well. But, firstly, I’m sad. I know Nick is sad.

“The three-headed monster kind of got broken up a little bit, but again, we’re going to be just fine. Nick and I, we’ll do our jobs. Obviously, we’re going to find someone else to help us out.”

The Ravens still have fullback Patrick Ricard to use as a situational blocking tight end and will continue to evaluate 2019 practice-squad member Charles Scarff and any other options they add this offseason, but Hurst wasn’t your typical third-string option either. He played the same number of offensive snaps as Andrews last season as the Ravens used at least two tight ends on 42 percent of their plays and three tight ends just under 7.5 percent of the time, according to SharpFootballStats.com. And while Andrews has missed only one game over his first two seasons, he played through an ankle injury last year that limited his effectiveness at times, a notable point when weakening depth at a critical position.

Is Andrews capable of hitting another level of production? The numbers suggest yes as the 24-year-old was graded second among all tight ends by Pro Football Focus in the process of leading the Ravens in catches, receiving yards, touchdowns, and average yards per catch (minimum 15 receptions) last season. And he did it without the typical playing time of an elite tight end.

Of the six tight ends to finish with at least 750 receiving yards last season, Andrews finished a very distant last in snaps (457) and played 267 fewer than Austin Hooper, who was fifth in that group. That reflects the remarkable efficiency of the Baltimore passing game and indicates there could be some more meat on the bone as the Ravens offense evolves in 2020.

With Boyle already leading Baltimore tight ends with 769 regular-season snaps last season, the 6-foot-4, 256-pound Andrews is the one you’d expect to assume a larger share of snaps, receiving more opportunities in the passing game in the process. That may not result in the former third-round pick from Oklahoma reaching the same level of Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz in targets as we’re still talking about a unique offense anchored by the run, but Andrews eclipsing 80 catches and 1,000 yards next season would hardly seem out of the question.

Of course, the Ravens are expected to target another impact wide receiver in the draft and offensive coordinator Greg Roman may not lean quite as heavily on the tight end position with the talented Hurst no longer in the picture, but Andrews was on the receiving end of just under a quarter of Baltimore’s targets last year. His chemistry with Jackson was evident in their rookie season and only figures to continue to grow in their third year together.

“I’ve always been someone to want to take the next step and be great each and every year and get better each and every year,” Andrews said. “I think I had a good year last year. It’s all about improving on that. I don’t feel extra pressure because Hayden is gone. Obviously, Hayden helped that group out a ton, but I feel like with the pieces that we have and everything that we’re going to do moving forward, the coaches put me in great situations.”

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Ravens players adjusting to uncertainty with rest of sports world

Posted on 31 March 2020 by Luke Jones

April is a big month in the NFL offseason.

The draft and the schedule release dominate the headlines, but it’s also that time when players return to team facilities for the start of the offseason training program. For Ravens players coming off a franchise-best 14-2 season that ended in playoff heartbreak in mid-January, it was supposed to mark a reunion and the proverbial turning of the page with all sights toward the 2020 season.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic has already suspended the NBA and NHL seasons and postponed the start of baseball season with no end in sight, pondering the opening of an NFL season months from now brings more questions than answers. How could it not when stay-at-home orders, the closing of nonessential businesses, social distancing, and great concern for loved ones consume our everyday lives? The idea of more than 70,000 people packing a stadium for a game feels impossible — even dangerous — right now as we’re ordered to isolate from even family members and our closest friends.

“Nobody knows what’s going to go on, what’s going to come from this,” safety Chuck Clark said on a conference call with Baltimore media. “I would love to be able to play in a stadium again where fans are in there. That’s what we all live for — whether it’s basketball, baseball, football or hockey — playing in front of a crowd. And then even for the fans, for their enjoyment and having fun.”

But it’s one day at a time. Players have already adjusted their training routines over these last few weeks, but the scheduled April 20 opening of the Ravens’ offseason workout program clearly won’t be taking place at their Owings Mills facility. Team president Dick Cass has already expressed great doubt about organized team activities and spring minicamps being held, meaning the earliest return to the team facility for players may not be until training camp in July.

Tight end Mark Andrews said he hasn’t yet received details from Ravens coaches or staff members about how a spring program limited to at-home participation and remote communication will work.

“I don’t think anybody really knows what’s going to happen,” said Andrews, who described his current training setup at his Arizona home as a “prison workout” with free weights in his backyard. “There’s a ton of uncertainty right now with timelines and when people are going to report and when things are going to start up, so we’re not sure at the moment.

“But at the end of the day, we’re all going to be on the same playing field.”

Unlike teams with new head coaches and significant changes to their staffs, however, the Ravens benefit from stability as John Harbaugh enters his 13th season as head coach. Greg Roman and Wink Martindale will remain as coordinators despite interviewing for head coach positions in January, a development with even greater significance now for a team with championship aspirations.

With team meetings expected to be cyber sessions this spring, that familiarity will be important.

“Obviously, there are a ton of guys on the team that already know the system, the schemes and whatnot,” Andrews said. “It definitely helps, but we’re all professionals and even the guys that have new coaches and things like that, those guys are going to get that playbook down as fast as they can. That’s our job.”

Of course, thoughts of football are accompanied by the more serious problems and concerns we’re all facing to varying degrees. Being a Type-1 diabetic, Andrews initially wondered if he was at greater risk to the virus.

“The word right now is that there’s not too much more of a danger for me than anybody else,” said Andrews, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. “Just like everybody else, I’m staying smart, I’m staying inside, I’m social distancing myself from other people. That’s all you can do.”

Like the rest of the sports world, Ravens players are trying to adapt and follow altered workout routines while waiting for that “all clear” message we all want sooner than later.

But unlike other sports and events, the NFL has time on its side with the scheduled start of the regular season still more than five months away, reason for cautious optimism. Still, it’s impossible to know what to expect as the pandemic has already disrupted the league’s pre-draft process, challenged the free-agent signing period, pushed the schedule release back to May, and very likely wiped out all on-site workouts this spring.

No one wants to dwell on the possibility of a lost season, but there’s much we’d rather not think about these days.

“It crosses your mind, but at the end of the day, at some point this will all clear up and it will get better,” Clark said. “When it’s over, you’re a professional athlete, and that’s what you’re asked to do. You have to be in tip-top shape to be ready to play.”

At some point.

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Ravens sending tight end Hurst to Atlanta for second-round pick

Posted on 16 March 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens weren’t done making trades prior to Wednesday’s start to the new league year as former first-round tight end Hayden Hurst will be sent to Atlanta for a second-round pick.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, general manager Eric DeCosta will trade Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Falcons in exchange for a second-round selection and a fifth-round choice in next month’s draft. The Ravens will reportedly receive the 55th overall pick, the second of Atlanta’s two picks in the second round.

The news of the pending deal comes months after the first rumors and speculation began about Hurst’s future as the 2018 first-round pick from South California was outplayed over the last two seasons by Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, a third-round selection in that same draft. Hurst has hinted at wanting a bigger role in the Ravens offense after catching nearly 77 percent of his targets — tops among Baltimore’s non-running backs — and finishing third on the team with 349 receiving yards. Atlanta will now be hoping for big-time production from Hurst while two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper was nearing a lucrative free-agent deal with Cleveland on Monday.

In a vacuum, the Ravens are receiving perfectly fine value for a tight end halfway through his rookie contract and entering his age-27 season, but Hurst arguably provided more value than his numbers indicated after playing just over 500 snaps last season and serving as an insurance policy for Andrews. With Hurst graded as the NFL’s 14th-best tight end by Pro Football Focus last season, the Ravens will now need to add another option behind Andrews and top blocker Nick Boyle in an offense anchored by its tight ends. After catching just 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown while dealing with a foot injury as a rookie, Hurst snagged 30 passes and two touchdowns while playing in every game last season.

It’s also worth noting the Ravens haven’t had much success with second-round picks in recent years, but DeCosta could use the choice as ammunition for other moves. It’s easy to get caught up thinking about the best outcome with an unknown draft pick, of course, but the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Hurst still served an important role, even if not living up to his draft billing. The 25th overall pick in 2018, Hurst now becomes one of the rare first-round picks in team history not to finish his rookie deal in Baltimore.

Following the pending acquisition of Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell and the Hurst trade, the Ravens are now slotted to have nine picks in next month’s draft: a first, two second-rounders, two third-round selections, two fourths, a fifth, and a seventh-round choice.

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Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) beats out San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) to make a touchdown catch in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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How did Ravens tight ends stack up to rest of NFL in 2019?

Posted on 21 February 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens recorded the best regular season in franchise history, but where did their individual players stack up across the NFL in 2019?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl — Baltimore had a record-tying 13 selections — or determining postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few watch every player on every team closely enough to form any real authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you watch the Tampa Bay offensive line this season? What about the Atlanta Falcons linebackers or the Detroit Lions cornerbacks?

That’s why I respect the efforts of Pro Football Focus while acknowledging their grading is far from the gospel of evaluation. I don’t envy the exhaustive effort to evaluate players across the league when most of us watch one team or maybe one division on any kind of a regular basis.

We’ll look at each positional group on the roster in the coming days, but below is a look at where Ravens tight ends ranked across the NFL this past season followed by the positional outlook going into 2020:

Safeties
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Defensive linemen

Mark Andrews
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 503
PFF ranking: second among tight ends
Skinny: The Pro Bowl selection became of the NFL’s best at his position in his second year, setting a single-season team record for touchdown catches by a tight end (10) and finishing just three receiving yards shy of Todd Heap’s franchise mark for a tight end (855). When you lead your team in catches, receiving yards, and touchdown grabs and are Lamar Jackson’s favorite target, you’re in a great spot.

Nick Boyle
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 795
PFF ranking: 11th among tight ends
Skinny: The Ravens paid a steep price to re-sign Boyle in contrast to how more conventional offenses might have valued him, but he responded with career highs in catches (31), receiving yards (321), and touchdowns (two) while remaining one of the league’s best blocking tight ends. The 27-year-old isn’t flashy, but he serves as a linchpin for an offense that set an NFL record with 3,296 rushing yards.

Hayden Hurst
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 503
PFF ranking: 14th among tight ends
Skinny: Coming off an injury-plagued rookie campaign and overshadowed by Andrews, the 2018 first-round pick calmed some of the talk about him being a bust by catching just under 77 percent of his targets — the best among Baltimore’s non-running backs — and finishing third on the team in receiving yards (349). Hurst caught the Ravens’ lone touchdown in the playoff loss to Tennessee.

2020 positional outlook

When considering quality, depth, age, cost efficiency, and contract status, tight end is probably the Ravens’ best position group as this unique trio remains under contract for the next two seasons and makes a significant impact in both the passing and running games. Much offseason discussion has been focused on beefing up the wide receiver position, but one could argue there’s more production to extract from the tight ends since Andrews dropped a team-high seven passes, the efficient Hurst was targeted only 39 times, and even the blocking-minded Boyle took a step forward as a receiver. Despite battling through a nagging ankle injury down the stretch, Andrews missed only one game while Boyle and Hurst played in all 16. Considering how important this position group is to their offensive success, the Ravens will want to see that kind of health duplicated next season.

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Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown scores against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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How did Ravens wide receivers stack up to rest of NFL in 2019?

Posted on 18 February 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens recorded the best regular season in franchise history, but where did their individual players stack up across the NFL in 2019?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl — Baltimore had a record-tying 13 selections — or determining postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few watch every player on every team closely enough to form any real authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you watch the Tampa Bay offensive line this season? What about the Atlanta Falcons linebackers or the Detroit Lions cornerbacks?

That’s why I respect the efforts of Pro Football Focus while acknowledging their grading is far from the gospel of evaluation. I don’t envy the exhaustive effort to evaluate players across the league when most of us watch one team or maybe one division on any kind of a regular basis.

We’ll look at each positional group on the roster in the coming days, but below is a look at where Ravens wide receivers ranked across the NFL this past season followed by the positional outlook going into 2020:

Safeties
Running backs
Cornerbacks

Marquise Brown
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 646
PFF ranking: 42nd among wide receivers
Skinny: Though not close to 100 percent from a Lisfranc injury suffered at the end of his final season at Oklahoma, the first-round pick tied the team record for touchdown catches by a rookie (seven) and provided a deep threat for MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. According to PFF, Brown’s 134.4 passer rating when targeted led all wide receivers with at least 50 targets in the regular season.

Willie Snead
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 760
PFF ranking: 101st among wide receivers
Skinny: Despite catching a career-high five touchdowns, Snead saw his receptions and receiving yards drop to roughly half of where they were last season. A slot receiver isn’t going to be a major factor in a passing game that leans so heavily on tight ends over the middle, but Snead isn’t afraid to block and fill a complementary role, a reason why Baltimore extended his contract through 2020 in late October.

Seth Roberts
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 576
PFF ranking: 83rd among wide receivers
Skinny: The lasting image of the pending free agent could be the drop of a potential touchdown when Baltimore trailed 14-0 in the playoff loss to Tennessee, but it had mostly been an inconsequential season for Roberts until that miscue. A capable blocker and targeted just 35 times in the regular season, Roberts had the second-highest receiving grade among Baltimore wide receivers, per PFF.

Miles Boykin
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 493
PFF ranking: 99th among wide receivers
Skinny: The rookie third-round pick was the talk of training camp, but he was unable to carry that momentum into the regular season as he caught only 13 passes and just four over the final nine regular-season games. Boykin needs to improve his route-running ability in the offseason, but his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame still provides optimism for the future.

Chris Moore
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 167
PFF ranking: 101st among wide receivers
Skinny: Moore all but disappeared in the offense in his fourth season and registered a career-low three catches for 21 yards in a contract year. The 2016 fourth-round pick is a good special-teams player, which is his ticket for continuing his NFL career in Baltimore or somewhere else.

Jaleel Scott
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 17
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: A strong preseason landed Scott on the 53-man roster, but he was active for just three games and made his only catch against Pittsburgh in Week 17. The Ravens like his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame, but this figures to be a make-or-break summer for the 2018 fourth-round pick.

De’Anthony Thomas
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 3
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The return specialist carried the ball one time and wasn’t targeted as a receiver.

2020 positional outlook

When pondering a record-setting offense that featured three tight ends in its top five for receptions, trying to assess the wide receiver position is more complicated than simply looking at the numbers. It’s no secret that another impactful wide receiver would be ideal, but you run the risk of trying to fix something that isn’t broken by drastically messing with the identity of the offense, which centers around the run game and the deployment of tight ends Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst, and Nick Boyle. The playoff loss to the Titans confirmed the need for the Ravens offense to be able to play better off schedule, something a receiver with the ability to make plays on the outside would help. Despite his slight stature, a fully healthy Brown looks like a great bet to take another step forward in his second season. Boykin’s development and Snead’s presence remain important, but a veteran acquisition or another early draft pick is in order if the Ravens want Jackson and this explosive offense to continue to progress and evolve.

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