The Ravens should seriously consider buying heavily as the deadline draws closer
The NFL trade deadline is drawing closer, which is set for November 1 at 4:00 pm EST. With the Baltimore Ravens coming off of a clutch 19-17 victory over the divisional rival Cincinnati Bengals, they currently find themselves in sole possession of first place in the AFC North at 3-2.
Ravens’ General Manager Eric DeCosta has made a splash at the trade deadline several times over the last few years. In 2019, DeCosta traded linebacker Kenny Young and a fifth-round pick to acquire cornerback Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams. DeCosta then extended Peters. The following year, DeCosta traded for veteran edge defender Yannick Ngakoue. It was also reported that DeCosta attempted to trade for Dolphins star cornerback Xavien Howard ahead of the deadline in 2021, but nothing came to fruition.
As the Ravens continue to return players from injury such as J.K. Dobbins, Ronnie Stanley, Marcus Peters, Gus Edwards, Tyus Bowser and company, they still could bolster a few areas. They could always use more cornerbacks, their receivers are inexperienced/lackluster outside of Devin Duvernay and Rashod Bateman and there’s no team in the NFL that couldn’t benefit from acquiring a reliable pass-rusher.
Let’s take a look at some of the most realistic options that would help the Ravens accomplish their goal of winning the AFC.
1) Robbie Anderson, WR Carolina Panthers
Anderson is likely a cheaper, less spectacular option than teammate D.J. Moore, but would fill a nice role in Baltimore as a vertical threat who can take snaps as an outside receiver. The former New York Jet has posted over 700 yards receiving four times in his career, including an 1,100 yard performance in 2020. While his numbers aren’t eye popping, he’s still a lanky speed merchant who can take the top off for an offense while providing the capacity to function as a consistent third or fourth option.
According to Over the Cap, Anderson will only be owed $1 million by the team who acquires him.
2) D.J. Moore, WR —Carolina Panthers
Moore is a more complete receiver than his previously mentioned teammate, Anderson. He’s posted three consecutive campaigns of over 1,100 yards. He can function in the slot, on the boundary, as a deep threat, as well as in the manufactured touch game. Moore’s skillset is somewhat similar to Duvernay, but has more nuance in and out of breaks at the stem of his routes. He’s explosive and dangerous after the catch with the build of a running-back.
From Yahoo’s Matt Harmon on Moore’s 2021 performance:
“Moore came into the NFL as an underdeveloped technician who had a long way to go as a route runner. His rookie season saw him check in with a 52.7% success rate vs. man coverage score.
The last two years he’s jumped up to clear that 70% success rate vs. man threshold we like to see from high-quality starters at the outside receiver spot. Moore did see a small drop in his success rate vs. zone and press coverage scores but is overall still in a solid territory there. He might have straight-up played better in 2020 but he’s still well within the circle of trust. Moore boasts strong success rates on the short and intermediate patterns. He gets into his in-breaking routes quickly and has enough deception to keep corners off balance when snapping outside. The nuances in his game have come a long way. He still hasn’t quite mastered the deep portion of the route tree and that could be the one area of improvement that takes him from very good starter to the truly great territory.
The Panthers ultra-static use of Moore the last two seasons remains quite frustrating. Moore is a pure X-receiver for Carolina taking 84.5% of his sampled snaps outside and lining up tethered to the line of scrimmage on 79.5%. He doesn’t get to move around much pre-snap and was only in space on 8.6% of his routes despite being a verifiably excellent YAC receiver. I think the Panthers are leaving layup looks and yards on the field by not having Moore play as a flanker, slot or even designing him touches more often. There are a multitude of questions about the future of the Carolina Panthers up for debate. One thing that’s comforting is they have a hit on their hands in D.J. Moore. Now it’s up to them to get more out of him as a player.”
The team that acquires Moore would also only owe $1 million of his 2022 salary, making him affordable. Moore is slated for cap hits of $20 million, $15 million and $15 million over the next three seasons, respectively, making him relatively affordable for his level of production if a team can swallow a larger cap hit or restructure his number for 2023.
3) Da’Ron Payne, IDL — Washington Commanders
According to Pro Football Focus, Payne is currently No. 7 in pressures among interior defensive lineman in the NFL ahead of Week 5 Monday Night Football. He’s recorded three sacks and 14 “stops”, which ranks third among interior defensive lineman. Payne isn’t quite as stout against the run, which makes him a little less valuable than he could be. Payne is playing on the fifth-year-option of his rookie contract and is owed around $470k per game.
The Ravens would need to either extend Marcus Peters or pay extra draft capital for Washington to eat enough of his contract to help them out. He’s a good fit for a team that lost Michael Pierce to a season ending injury, but his current cap hit is too heavy for the Ravens to take on without some serious cap shuffling.
4) Montez Sweat, EDGE — Washington Commanders
A misdiagnosis about a heart condition caused Sweat to drop in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Commanders swooped in and took Sweat towards the end of the first round. He is a freak athlete who has flashed elite level play but still needs a bit more technical refinement. Sweat has tallied 25 sacks over his short career so far, and looks to have real star potential in the right situation. Baltimore would only need to take on $2 million of Sweat’s cap hit in 2022 and he has had his fifth-year-option picked up which carries an $11 million hit in 2023, which is still solid value.
Pairing Sweat with Odafe Oweh, Justin Houston, Jason-Pierre Paul and Tyus Bowser ensures some level of capable perimeter pass rush and would allow Calais Campbell to come off the field more in lower leverage situations. Pairing Sweat with Robbie Anderson could fill voids and round out a team that can compete for a Super Bowl.
5) Clelin Ferrell, EDGE — Las Vegas Raiders
Ferrell was a Top-5 pick four years ago and hasn’t played up to that draft position, but is a heavy handed run defender who can rotate on early downs. He’s cheap, young and looking to get another payday. Not a splash move, but a quiet move that could ensure the Ravens have what they need in case of emergency up front.
6) Jakobi Meyers, WR — New England Patriots
Meyers is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. A consistent chain mover and reliable target over the middle of the field, Meyers has amassed over 700 yards each of the last two seasons despite playing in handcuffed passing offenses.
From Yahoo’s Matt Harmon —
“Meyers primarily ran out as a slot receiver for the 2021 Patriots. He took 58.7% of his snaps sampled for Reception Perception lined up inside. When he is used outside, he’s deployed as a flanker and was off the line of scrimmage for 78.5% of his snaps.
That means Meyers primarily runs his routes (55.1%) against zone coverage, so it was encouraging to see his zone success rate jump from 78% in 2020 to 80.1% this past year. A player in his role needs to be able to sift through zones over the middle of the field. While Meyers’ success rate vs. man coverage dipped from his 2020 results (72.6% to 68.1%), he still hovered around the league average. Overall, he’s still a decent separator against man coverage for a player of this archetype. Meyers knows how to work himself open. That’s a valuable trait and it’s why he continues to get playing time for the Patriots.
His best routes are the slant and flat, which are primary slot receiver layup routes. However, he did show the ability to win on curl routes against man coverage when lined up outside as a flanker. And you’ll note his 80.6% success rate on out routes. Meyers was a strong performer on the out and dig routes in his 2020 Reception Perception, as well. He has the capacity to be a little more than a typical popgun receiver from the slot and can offer some juice in the intermediate areas of the team.
Meyers should continue to be a big part of the Patriots’ offense. He’s the best route runner on the team and should be on the field for almost every snap as the flanker in two-receiver sets and the slot in 11-personnel. There are plenty of questions about how good/what the Patriots’ offense might be this year but I can’t help shake the feeling that if they transition to a more quick-strike, play-action-heavy offense that Meyers is just such a good fit to pile up targets given where he wins as a route-runner. If Mac Jones takes another step as a timing passer, their games overlap quite well. Should Meyers continue to “just hang on” as other players continue getting added to this pass-catching group, he could be a valuable role player for a long time as a big slot receiver at a time when almost everyone is looking for the next option at that position.”
Meyers is affordable ($4 million salary which equates to $235k per game played for the acquiring team) and would ensure that there is a level of competent receiver play over the middle of the field for Baltimore. The Patriots are an interesting team to consider trading with because they will probably hover around .500 but Bill Belichick has made a name for himself by trading players consistently regardless of situation.
7) Jerry Jeudy, WR — Denver Broncos
This one is a little bit more of a ‘Madden’ trade. Jeudy is a young, explosive receiver who struggles with drops but excels in every other area of the game.
From Yahoo’s Matt Harmon —
“Jerry Jeudy’s 75% success rate vs. man coverage and 73.6% success rate vs. press were both extremely promising indicators from his rookie season. However, both numbers sunk in his 2021 sample. His success rate vs. zone coverage (78.9%) was relatively stable from Year 1 to Year 2 and is still an above-average number. That shows he’s still a heady player who operates with good craftsmanship at the position. Jeudy’s biggest dropoff on an individual route basis was his slant work. He posted an excellent 87.3% success rate as a rookie (most commonly run route) but fell way down to 73.2% in 2021.
The Broncos seem intent on using Jeudy as a slot receiver, or at least the old coaching staff operated that way. He took 66.5% of his sampled snaps inside. If he’s set to continue that role as Russell Wilson’s layup slot player, he’ll need to get back to form running slants. Again, I’m willing to write off some of the separation decline due to his high ankle sprain. The boxscore letdown is easy to excuse given he’s been playing in a slow-paced offense with a crowded target tree alongside quarterback play not at all capable of being the rising tide to lift all boats. We know that the last factor is set to change in Year 3. So being optimistic on Jeudy, who was an excellent route-runner coming into the NFL, is perfectly reasonable.
We should at least entertain the possible downsides.
There’s a chance that Jeudy’s decline as a separator last year is more due to him not developing as a route-runner in the pros. Being a great technician in college is one thing, it’s a whole different ball game that requires greater nuance in the NFL. It’s possible Jeudy has plateaued there and levels off as a “good” not “excellent” route-runner and that can be true with his rookie success rates in mind. Jeudy has also struggled in contested situations (50% catch rate) and with drops (9.8% drop rate) in each of his first two seasons. Those were issues in college too. It’s also worth wondering if Jeudy is really a fit as a slot receiver. Given his strong success rates vs. man and press as a rookie – assuming that’s closer to his baseline – and his strong marks on deeper routes last year, he might be better suited to rip it up downfield on deep and intermediate routes as a flanker. There’s more good than bad with Jeudy’s film through two years but it’s just worth keeping your mind open to both possible outcomes and asking some questions. The facelift about to hit Denver’s offense and his own health could be all the answers we need. I remain more in than out on Jeudy going forward given that his rookie year was hyper-promising and he only fell from “good” to “average” in Reception Perception from Year 1 to Year 2. The addition of Wilson to an offense that has sputtered along with league-basement level quarterback play for years cannot be overstated.
8) Tyler Lockett, WR — Seattle Seahawks
Lockett has racked up over 6,000 yards and been an All-Pro three times. He’s a wildly underrated athlete who posted a 4.40s 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Combine. The Seahawks are slightly outperforming expectations with Geno Smith at quarterback. However, in a tough division and with an upcoming schedule consisting of the Cardinals, Giants and Chargers, they could certainly find themselves at 2-6 ahead of the deadline and looking to acquire a new quarterback through the draft.
Lockett would only be owed $3 million by Baltimore, making him an affordable option who can do a multitude of things at an extremely high level. From Yahoo’s Matt Harmon —
Lockett is plain and simple one of the most consistent separators in the NFL. He’s always been good but he’s been on a roll the last few years. Lockett has finished at or above the 80th percentile in success rate vs. man and press coverage in each of the last three seasons. He’s also been above 80% in success rate vs. zone in each of those campaigns. Lockett hits the benchmarks we look for from both great outside and inside receivers.
Lockett finished above the NFL average on all but one route type last season. He’s just so lethal at all levels of the field and earns targets everywhere. In addition to his separation ability, he has rock-solid hands. His 1.4% drop rate is one of the lowest among all receivers sampled for RP and he’s finished with at least a 75% contested catch rate in three of his last four seasons. Lockett lines up all over the field for Seattle but took more snaps outside (64%) than inside in his games sampled for Reception Perception. There is nothing in his profile that would point to him being anything but, at worst, the 1b receiver in the Seahawks offense.
There’s a narrative that Lockett is only so productive because of his chemistry with Russell Wilson, especially on off-script plays. That’s weird because Lockett drew a higher target share in games without Wilson last season. As RP shows, he’s a top-end individual talent. Don’t put yourself in a brain pretzel: Yes, losing a passer as good as Wilson is never good but Wilson is not the only reason Lockett has been so good the last few years. The receiver’s ability is the primary factor.
The Ravens are tight against the cap, however, most of these players would come at minimal cost in 2022. According to Over the Cap, Baltimore can free up $4m in cap space by restructuring the contracts of Mark Andrews and Kevin Zeitler. That’s a small price to pay for acquiring players at low cost in terms of draft capital. I believe the winning recipe would be to acquire Sweat and Anderson, if not to acquire Lockett. The Ravens must acquire a pass catcher that can win on the perimeter to some degree. The Ravens should be rooting for the Seahawks, Commanders and Panthers to keep losing.
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