Baltimore is burning the midnight oil wheeling and dealing to find a suitable contributor
With the 2022 NFL trade deadline at 4 p.m. EST on November 1, the Baltimore Ravens are primed to make a substantial move. With a myriad of players that have been injured, are injured, or are still returning from injury, they could stand to add a veteran presence who both bolsters depth while boosting the level of talent the team possesses.
Baltimore nearly acquired Xavien Howard at the deadline last year and acquired Yannick Ngakoue in 2020 as well as Marcus Peters in 2019. Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta seems to love bargain shopping at the deadline ahead of free agency.
The Ravens don’t have much cap space as things stand, but have a few small avenues to create more such as restructuring the contracts of Mark Andrews and/or Kevin Zeitler, which according to Over the Cap could free up around $4m. Let’s take a look at some potential targets for the Ravens at positions of need.
There have been rumors that several receivers are available for trade. Those names include Pittsburgh’s Chase Claypool, Houston’s Brandin Cooks, New England’s Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, Denver’s Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, New York Jets Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore among other pieces of speculation.
With the Broncos defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars in London Sunday, the Broncos move to 3-5, which makes it difficult to gauge exactly how they view themselves at the deadline. If they’re sellers, Jeudy is a streaky playmaking separator who has drawn ire for dropping the football while still flashing spectacular ability before and after the catch. Jeudy would be affordable enough in terms of salary, has a friendship with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (the two grew up in the same area of Florida) and would quickly provide the most talented receiver room Lamar Jackson has had to work with to date. Hamler is a vertical threat who can generate yards after the catch as well. It will be interesting to see if the Broncos move on from either receiver barring an overwhelming trade offer as they attempt to claw back into competition for a playoff spot.
New England defeated the New York Jets Sunday which moved them to 4-4 and most certainly aren’t in a position to be sellers necessarily. However, Bill Belichick is one of the most active GM’s when it comes to trading players, particularly wide receivers. This year, for instance, the Patriots dealt former first-round pick N’Keal Harry to the Bears for a late round pick. In general, Belichick has been quite active in regards to trading players over the years, and have dealt with Baltimore in the last year. Bourne was quite active Sunday, playing in 54% of offensive snaps, the third most on the team, while Agholor played only 24%. An injury to DeVante Parker likely propelled Bourne into more snaps, as Bourne was a healthy scratch the previous week and four snaps the week prior. Agholor hasn’t played more than seven snaps since Week 4. While neither are world beaters, they could be cheap veteran additions that would bolster depth, although maybe not more than marginally more effective than Demarcus Robinson.
It would be hard to imagine that Brandin Cooks remains a Texan through the deadline. NBC’s Mike Florio detailed the circumstances around Cooks future —
The Texans have been trying to trade Cooks. As explained last night, his $18 million fully guaranteed salary has become an impediment. As one league source has suggested, Cooks could be willing to soften the guarantee for 2023 in order to escape the Texans and return to the Rams. Also, the Texans could eat some of the 2023 guaranteed salary in order to get the draft pick they’re looking for.
It’s reminiscent of the negotiations that played out last November between the Browns and Odell Beckham, Jr. Beckham eventually gave up a large chunk of his otherwise guaranteed salary for the balance of 2021 in order to become a free agent, when he wasn’t traded before the deadline. Once players start giving up money to facilitate their preferred personnel moves, other teams may try to get other players to do the same.
The Rams reportedly also attempted to acquire Christian McCaffrey from the Panthers, but couldn’t match the San Francisco 49ers offer. If Cooks is traded to LA, then Odell Beckham likely doesn’t sign there, which could be an interesting move for Baltimore to make later in the season. With Cooks willing to soften the guarantee to get away from the Texans, if the Rams pull the trigger elsewhere, this is an intriguing possibility for the Ravens. Cooks is a consistent veteran who has succeeded in offenses on four different teams in four different systems. Cooks has surpassed 1,000 yards receiving six times in his career, including six of the previous seven seasons. Cooks is a well rounded receiver who excels as a vertical threat and has played 70.6% of his snaps as a boundary receiver according to Pro Football Focus. He’s also played in a Super Bowl and has playoff experience.
It would be surprising to see the Ravens being able to acquire Claypool from their bitter rivals in Pittsburgh, however, Claypool is a rental, the Steelers are 2-6 and look completely lost offensively ranking dead last in points per game (15.0). It’s much easier to imagine Claypool, an athletic and experienced receiver with a massive frame and catch radius, to be moved to a team like the Cowboys or Packers. Claypool possesses a skillset that would round out Baltimore’s receiver room quite well, but the likelihood of Baltimore being willing to spend beyond what teams like the Packers or Cowboys will for a rental is improbable.
Two interesting situations are the Moore’s: D.J. in Carolina and Elijah in New York.
While D.J. Moore hasn’t requested a trade and reports state that it’s unlikely the Panthers are willing to deal the veteran star, it wouldn’t be shocking to find out that he wanted out of a dysfunctional situation in Carolina as they will need to rebuild. There couldn’t be a better fit for Baltimore than D.J. Moore who would be able to play alongside Mark Andrews who draws serious attention as well as the Ravens run game providing many opportunities for one-on-one coverage. Moore is also under contract for a few more seasons at a reasonable price, while any team that acquires him would only have to pay the remainder of his $1m base salary for 2022. Moore would likely cost a pretty penny due to those factors, perhaps a first-round pick and another day two or three pick, but the probability of those two drafted players providing more of an impact that a talented player in their prime isn’t high.
Elijah Moore has requested a trade from the Jets. The second-year receiver has seen only 21 catchable targets entering Week 8 despite running a team high 212 routes and being a healthy scratch after requesting a trade.
Elijah Moore was asked about his on-field chemistry with Zach Wilson:
“I don’t even know, I couldn’t even tell you. I don’t get the ball. I don’t know.” pic.twitter.com/I4qt96ENrd
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 30, 2022
From Yahoo’s Matt Harmon about Moore:
Moore lined up in the slot on just 29.9% of his sampled snaps. He took 72.3% of his snaps outside and was on the line of scrimmage for 72.8%. Despite being pegged as a slot-only player, Moore mostly ran out as an X-receiver and absolutely crushed the assignment.
Moore’s 75.2% success rate vs. man coverage puts him in the company of receivers who go on to have high-end career success and are destined to enjoy a breakout season sooner than later. Moore showed he could beat press coverage as an outside receiver with a 73.3% success rate (70th percentile).
Even if Elijah Moore ends up playing more inside as his career rolls on (a la Tyler Lockett) there is absolutely no doubt about his ability to win on the outside after his rookie season.
Moore fell below the NFL average success rate on just one route type (out). He was particularly impressive in the vertical game with the type of speed and deceptive nuance that has elevated many big-play mavens before him. Moore can effortlessly snap off routes like the comeback and curl to work back to the quarterback. He’s a dangerously quick, full-field route runner who is just plain damn impressive. Players who get open like Elijah Moore just so rarely fail. Receivers who know how to beat man, zone, press and get separation at all levels earn and command volume. Moore should be no exception.
The New York Jets are suddenly loaded at the skill-position spots. In particular, Moore will welcome the 10th overall pick Garrett Wilson to a receiver room that already housed Corey Davis. It’s just so hard not to be bullish on Elijah Moore being a high-quality starting receiver given how he performed as a rookie. Moore and Wilson could grow into being a lethal tandem and alternate pre-snap alignments.
If Zach Wilson turns out to be a plus starter at quarterback, there are many talents waiting to be unlocked in New York. Moore is right at the front and presents an extremely high ceiling. Separators just don’t fail.
The thing? Wilson didn’t turn out to be a plus starter at quarterback.
The team has repeatedly stated that they don’t intend to trade Moore. Moore isn’t the only Jets receiver who has requested a trade, with third-year receiver Denzel Mims doing so in August. Both remain Jets for now. The Jets are in a precarious position despite their record. They play the Bills twice, Patriots, Dolphins and Vikings in the second half of the season. Zach Wilson has been dreadful. They’ve lost arguably their two most productive players offensively with Alijah Vera-Tucker and Breece Hall both out for the remainder of the season. Their defense is solid, capable and will likely win them a few more games, but their current record isn’t indicative of who they are. It would be wise for them to accrue as much draft capital as possible without taking themselves out of contention. However, they’ve already showed to be buyers at the deadline, acquiring running back James Robinson for a late pick after Hall’s injury.
With Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios, it would make sense for the Jets to attempt a player-for-player trade with some draft capital involved. Something to the tune of Ben Cleveland and a day-three pick for Elijah Moore, or Cleveland and a pick-swap for Mims could benefit both teams and sets of players.
There are some interesting names being floated in the stratosphere in terms of cornerback rumors. Stephon Gilmore, Sean Murphy-Bunting William Jackson III, Sidney Jones IV, Greedy Williams and Bryce Hall. The Wizard of Oz (Ozzie Newsome) once said, “You can never have enough cornerbacks.” We saw that come to fruition for Baltimore against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. When star cornerback Marlon Humphrey came off the field due to injury in the fourth quarter the Dolphins scored two touchdowns in five plays. With Kyle Fuller already lost for the season due to injury, Baltimore doesn’t appear confident in rookie Jalyn Armour-Davis to have a major role this season. They’ve also seemed unable to find consistent quality play out of Brandon Stephens or Damarious Williams in the slot so far. Those factors lead the logic that if the Ravens were to make a move, cornerback would be the most likely scenario.
Gilmore is an older player (32-years-old) but has allowed only a 72 passer rating this year and made clutch plays in two of the Colts three wins.
— NFL Unlimited (@NFLUnlimited) October 7, 2022
The veteran is due the remainder of his $5.5m salary, which the Colts have already paid 8/17th’s. Gilmore would do three major things for the Ravens:
- Allow Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters to come off of the field.
- Allow Marlon Humphrey to move into the slot when needed.
- Provide high level insurance in the event that one of Humphrey or Peters misses time.
With Gilmore’s contract quite reasonable, his talent still there and adding Super Bowl experience, Gilmore would be a fun and reasonable move for Baltimore. It’s unknown if the Colts consider themselves sellers at 3-4-1 and games back of the Titans. They benched veteran quarterback Matt Ryan in lieu of Sam Ehlinger, which seems to be a move that allows them to begin making major decisions ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft about their direction moving forward. The Colts are in 10th place in the AFC and feel primed to sell.
Murphy-Bunting and William Jackson III are both moves that would provide a capable starter. Murphy Bunting has played over 1,000 snaps in the slot in his young career, while also playing over 1,000 snaps out wide. He would instantly provide a higher level of slot play than the Ravens currently have, while being capable of providing depth outside. William Jackson would be owed around half of his $5m 2022 salary and is under contract in 2023. Washington would likely be willing to eat as much money needed to get Jackson off the books as he’s been inactive since Week 5 and voiced his displeasure with their defense.
Linebacker, Edge rusher
It seems that cornerback and receiver are the two most likely positions we see the Ravens address their roster at the deadline. There are more possibilities for Baltimore than meet the eye, and adding good football players in rarely a bad thing. Let’s look at some fun ones.
Bradley Chubb and Brian Burns are reportedly drawing interest respectively. Both are budding star pass rushers on rookie contracts. Chubb will reportedly only accept a trade if it comes with an extension from a desired ball club. Burns is reportedly viewed as a foundational piece in Carolina for their rebuild and they will only accept offers that reflect that, which sounds like the Panthers are shooting for multiple first round picks or close to it.
While the Ravens pass rush is in a good place and they stand to gain David Ojabo and Tyus Bowser in the next week or so, no team has ever regretted acquiring a star pass rusher. If that player fizzles out, it’s a different story, but Chubb and Burns are both high level pass rushers that were first-round picks that achieved success quickly and have sustained it at some level. The Ravens haven’t been able to find themselves a premier pass rusher in years. They rarely draft high enough to pick a Chubb, Burns, a Bosa brother or Garrett type. They’ve also allowed the Za’Darius Smith’s and Matthew Judon’s of the world walk. Perhaps that was because they didn’t view those players as A-list pass rushers. Perhaps that’s because they believed they could scheme pressure or develop pass rushers again. Perhaps that’s because they believed that cornerback was more worthwhile to spend capital on.
Regardless, to pair a high level pass rusher like Brian Burns or Bradley Chubb with what the pass rush already looks like and considering their secondary, this could be a defense that wins you a championship, especially considering the quarterback you have and what you can do running the football.
In the immediate, the Ravens play one of the easiest remaining schedules, Chubb or Burns would propel the Ravens defense into another stratosphere and ensure depth regardless of injury. They could still make a run at the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the AFC if they brought on pass rushers of that caliber.
In the long term, regardless of what happens with other contracts, spending capital on high level pass rushers has turned out well for teams like the Rams with Von Miller (and the Bills so far), Chargers with Khalil Mack, Titans with Harold Landry, Jets with Carl Lawson, Bengals with Trey Hendrickson, Eagles with Haason Reddick, Patriots with Judon, Packers and Vikings with Smith, so on and so on. Howie Roseman’s investment into his pass rush has created a monster defensively in Philadelphia, who just acquired yet another pass rusher in Robert Quinn from the Bears. I don’t think a football coach or GM has ever thought to themselves, “oh no, not more good pass rushers!”
Pairing Burns or Chubb with Humphrey, Williams, Peters, Clark, Stone, Hamilton and company up front sounds like a championship caliber defense.
Roquan Smith also requested a trade from the Bears ahead of this season. Smith would require some finagling, as he’s still owed around half of his $9.3m salary. Whether the Bears would be willing to assist with that is unknown, but Smith was quite displeased when the Bears traded Quinn to the Eagles, although reports are indicating that the Bears are unwilling to trade Smith as things stand. Smith possesses a relatively similar frame and skillset to Patrick Queen, although Smith is more advanced in coverage and capable of carrying slot receivers up the seam, which only a handful of NFL linebackers can do with any consistency. The Ravens wanted Bobby Wagner this offseason and he ultimately signed in LA, so it could be more likely that they attempt to acquire a more square frame that can stay in the box and defeat the run out of nickel to pair with Queen than someone like Smith, but again, adding good football players isn’t a bad thing.
The Ravens rarely make short-term moves when it comes to spending capital on players. They chased after Yannick Ngakoue for a few years before bringing him to Baltimore. It seemed like there was a good chance that Ngakoue would be extended and he wasn’t. The Ravens have spent defensively for years. That’s their process. Buy the defense, raise the offense. It would be status quo to see them trade for a player like Gilmore and that is a trade that they should strongly consider making if all else fails. However, if they have the opportunity to acquire a prime impact player such as Moore, Burns or Chubb, they should.
Those are players that you’re happy to have under contract regardless of Lamar Jackson’s situation or not. That’s why they cost so much in terms of draft capital. The doomsday in Baltimore is that Lamar Jackson leaves. If that happens, the Ravens will have at least two first-round picks in their pocket with a few more in all likelihood. The best case scenario? You’ve acquired a star player at a premium position that allows you to make a deep run in the AFC against teams like the Chiefs and Bills, find yourself in a position to advance to, or compete for a Super Bowl. That carries momentum into a Lamar Jackson extension that gives them a low cap hit in at least year-one as the cap continues to raise due to new TV deals and increase league-wide viewership and revenue. You’ve found a star player at a premium position and are totally bought into cementing a real Super Bowl run in the next two years without totally mortgaging away the future in terms of draft capital.
If those players are too expensive, Brandin Cooks would be an awesome middle ground that provides another layer to your passing game. While his contract is muddy, if you can spend a third round pick for the Texans and Cooks to make the contract palatable, it’s a great move. The Ravens have spent their assets defensively for years. Any addition to their offense, even if it were to be acquiring a starter-quality running-back for a day three pick, would be welcome. It’s time to either get a star pass rusher to take your defense over the top, or spend something offensively aside from picks and retaining your own to allow you to compete with the Bills and Chiefs in any game script. Cooks could get you there and either of the Moore’s have a shot to as well.
Generally, it is unwise to trade two first-round picks for any non-quarterback. If you can get a franchise left tackle or a top-five cornerback or wide receiver, those can be exceptions. If the Ravens are capable of acquiring any true impact player for anything along the lines of a 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick, do it. The Ravens, despite a never-ending carousel of players being injured and returning from injury, are fifth in DVOA, fifth in PFF overall grade, predictive metrics, Las Vegas and even the average bettor all view them as a top-five team, or just outside of it. If not now, when?
Hitting a single would be acquiring a Mims or Jones type. Hitting a double would be acquiring a Patriots receiver, Jackson or Murphy-Bunting type. Hitting a triple would be acquiring a Gilmore, Brandin Cooks or Elijah Moore type. Hitting a grand-slam 450 foot no-doubter would be acquiring a DJ Moore, Burns or Chubb type. Swing for the fences.
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