Trade targets before NFL close
The NFL trade deadline is 4 p.m. tomorrow, and since Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta is a proponent of trades, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec has been considering the possible trade options for the Ravens.
Previously, Zrebiec took note of the Ravens cap situation. Baltimore has already added a few notable free agents in Jason Pierre-Paul and DeSean Jackson.
“According to the NFL Players Association Salary Cap Report, the Ravens are operating with just over $3 million in caps,” Zrebiec wrote. “That will certainly limit what DeCosta and co. can do, although there are ways to make a deal work on both sides. The Ravens are also not expected to receive compensatory picks for the 2023 draft, meaning they don’t have the draft capital they’ve had in years past.”
Zrebiec listed his trades in three categories, with the most likely options under “Right player, right price?”
Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans: “The fast but small wideout has already been traded three times in his career. It wouldn’t be too surprising if this happened again in the coming days,” Zrebiec wrote. “The Texans are not on the sidelines, and their general manager, Nick Caserio, is a forward-thinking decision-maker. Cooks has two years left on the contract with a base salary of $18 million in 2023 and $13 million in 2024. That comes with some challenges. However, it is difficult to dispute the production. The 29-year-old had 1,000+ yards in six of his last seven seasons.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos: “Of all the receivers being passed around before the trade deadline, Jeudy might make the most sense for the Ravens,” Zrebiec wrote. “The 2020 first-round pick is a big-play receiver who has one year left on his rookie contract. The Broncos have already invested quite a bit in their receiver room, and it hasn’t yielded good results. Jeudy and Lamar Jackson are also good friends, so perhaps he would welcome a move to Baltimore to play on an offense that isn’t considered wide receiver-friendly. Jeudy’s cost might not be much more than a Day 2 pick at this point.
Zrebiec also listed some star players under a category labeled “Doesn’t hurt to dream,” including Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Brian Burns and wide receiver DJ Moore, Denver Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, and interestingly, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool.
Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers: “The Ravens and Steelers have compromised two trades before, but in this case it doesn’t seem likely,” Zrebiec wrote. “First, it’s a long way from the Steelers trading the wide receiver who’s still under contract until next season. And secondly, do you really think if they did they would send him to Baltimore so conveniently, especially when the two teams meet twice in the last month of the season?”
Ravens are the “team to beat in the AFC North”
After Thursday’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Ravens (5-3) guaranteed they’d take first place or first place in the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals by the end of Week 8. The Ravens’ win sparked ESPN’s Jay Williams to ask Max Kellerman if the Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC North on her podcast Keyshawn, J Will & Max.
“It’s exactly the same as it was at the start of the season,” Kellerman said. “Come on, sober analysis says the Steelers wouldn’t win the division. The Browns wouldn’t win the division because they didn’t get Deshaun [Watson] until late in the season. It would come to the Ravens because of two things. Lamar Jackson and [Head Coach John] Harbaugh. You’ve got a great quarterback and a great coach together, they’re usually in the mix. And the Bengals, who came off just one game from winning the Super Bowl last year because they’re loaded.”
Williams agreed, expressing how good he feels about how the Ravens have progressed and what’s on the horizon.
“Look, at the end of the day, I think Lamar Jackson and co. will be it [in the playoffs]. The defense looked better [on Thursday], it’s going in the right direction. Let’s keep that in mind as Giants fans too [Defensive Coordinator Don] “Wink” Martindale was there for a very long time. So, we’re talking about the Pats, we’re talking about, “Hey, well, they have a new OC and a lot of their offensive schemes have changed.” Well, that goes for Baltimore as well, as that defense is already exhausted and is now trying to do that to revise. So I think they are headed in the right direction. It won’t happen overnight.”
NBC Sports’ Peter King also has the Ravens as the highest-rated team in the AFC North, ranked 9th and one place above the Bengals in his midseason check-in.
“Mark Andrews’ shoulder injury is worrying, but Lamar Jackson loves rookie alternative Isaiah Likely,” King wrote. “Here’s an advantage: None of Ravens next eight enemies are over .500.”
Ravens Ranked #1 for “Deepest NFL Roster”
During the 2022 offseason, the Ravens made a concerted effort to add both high-end talent and depth of camp. Those additions, along with numerous players returning from last season’s injuries, have led ESPN’s Aaron Schatz to rank the Ravens as the #1 deepest NFL roster.
“The best way to recognize the quality of depth in the Ravens roster is to take note of how many games the team has won over the past few years despite a slew of injuries,” wrote Schatz. “(Last year, the Ravens set a record for losing games by the Football Outsiders, and they would have set that record even in a 16-game season.) The Ravens have already had to go deep with players like this this season JK Dobbins and Kyle Fuller on injured reserve, plus edge-rushers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo, who are absent for at least the first half of the season.”
In addition to game wins, Schatz pointed out significant depths in offense and defense.
“The offensive line has quality backups including Patrick Mekari and Ben Cleveland. The Ravens defeated the Patriots a few weeks ago despite being forced to use a fourth-string left tackle and fourth-round rookie Daniel Faalele,” Schatz wrote. “Cornerback depth includes Brandon Stephens, who was a starting safety half last year, and fourth-round rookies Damarion Williams and Jalyn Armour-Davis. Malik Harrison never quite worked as a starting linebacker, but he provides good depth, as does veteran AJ Klein. Jason Pierre-Paul is a second-string edge rusher for this team.
There may be a connection between a deep roster and success, as the five deepest teams on Schatz’s list (Ravens, Bills, Eagles, Patriots, Cowboys) are 28-10 combined, while the skinny five teams (Rams, Cardinals, Giants, Panthers, Vikings) are 20-18.