In Part 1, I talked about how the Ravens got here, and expressed some optimism that they can address their offensive problems in 2018. In Part 2, I’ll lay out specifics.
Away we go…
2018 Free Agents
This is a robust market of skill position players. As strong as it’s been in years in my estimation. A couple of the right players off the list below would transform this offense to one that can allow the Ravens to compete at the highest level again.
Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant, Jarvis Landry, Tyrell Williams(RFA), Julian Edelman, Taylor Gabriel, Donte Moncrief, Larry Fitzgerald, Jordan Matthews, John Brown, Marqise Lee, Dontrelle Inman, Willie Snead (RFA),
*RFA-Restricted free agents, subject to tenders from their respective teams, could cost signing team a draft pick depending on tender used if the former team declines to match terms
I laid out the Ravens’ 2018 and 2019 free agents in Part 1. 2020 is when things get more interesting.
2020: Jimmy Smith, Marshal Yanda, Eric Weddle, Justin Tucker, Danny Woodhead, Breshad Perriman (if 2019 option picked up), Lardarius Webb, Kamalei Correa, Anthony Levine, Bronson Kaufusi, Tavon Young, Chris Moore, Alex Lewis, Kenneth Dixon, Willie Henry, Matt Judon, Marcus Canady
It would make sense for the team to structure the potential contracts in a way that most, if not all, of the guaranteed money is in 2018 and 2019. This would give them flexibility to retain some of the players hitting free agency in 2020.
Who Will they Sign?
Fit-When assessing what the team needs to fix the passing game I look at four key areas of improvement. Separation, catch point ability, yards after catch, red zone ability. Adams brings a blend of all four. He’s matured into a good route runner, brings a physical element to the game picking up yards in the open field, and he can line up all across the formation. The Packers would have a big decision to make here but they have the option to release Randall Cobb with a minimal cap hit to offset a big deal for Adams.
In that case Cobb could be an intriguing target.
Fit-Gabriel would be the Ravens’ first skill position player worthy of schemed open field touches since 2011 Ray Rice. He could also stretch the field vertically from the slot. When you look at great offenses around the league, they have layers to their attack and adding Gabriel would bring that to Baltimore.
The Falcons have assembled a very nice cast of weapons. I’m sure they’d like to keep Gabriel around, but with Julio Jones and Mohammad Sanu’s cap numbers and Devonta Freeman due for a large raise I don’t think they’ll be able to match a substantial offer.
I don’t think Perriman’s projection changes in this scenario. I remain high on him. He has productive starter ability with #1 WR upside and will still have the opportunity to ascend to that.
Moore now slots into a role where he can play to his strengths as a perimeter downfield target with guys like Adams and Gabriel in the middle of the field. I also expect him to grow as a kick returner.
Kenneth Dixon projects as the feature back of the future for this team. With weapons and speed around him he’ll have more room to operate. His ability as a receiver as well as his tough running style would make for great offensive balance and unpredictability.
Provided he’s back to form, Danny Woodhead gives the team the ability to keep that same balance and unpredictability when Dixon’s not in the game. His pass protection skills also gives the team insurance if Dixon doesn’t improve adequately enough in that aspect of his game.
Dennis Pitta is not a guy you feature an offense around but he’s always been able to find open areas in the short and intermediate game. That would be his only role in this scenario.
There is no guarantee they all make it to 2018 but Maxx Williams, Darren Waller and Nick Boyle all have the talent to contribute on the NFL level; it’s about how they develop over the next year. One or more of them could emerge and take advantage of coverage leaning to stop other players.
This doesn’t mean the team should stop here. Look at great offenses around the league: every year they keep adding to keep their strengths strong. The Saints traded up for Alvin Kamara despite having Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. The Packers drafted three running backs with varying skill sets to go with Ty Montgomery. The Steelers took JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 2nd round despite a strong receiver corps. The Patriots added Brandin Cooks, Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to a team that had no problem scoring.
The Ravens should still focus on offense in the 2018 draft. There’s still the likelihood of one or two long-term holes on the offensive line. What if none of the young tight ends take a step forward? Dixon has the looks of a really good feature back but there are a few potential game breaking options at RB in the 2018 class.
2018 has the potential to be one of the turning points in this franchise’s history.
We’ve opined for years now that the Ravens needed to get more modern and athletic on defense – mission accomplished. On paper this unit has the chance to be scary going forward.
Doing the same for the offense would be the culmination of decades of struggle, mediocrity and missteps.
2018 Free Agency can be the inflection point. The Ravens just need to commit to it.