If you saw the article on the defense, these categories won’t be a surprise to you, but if not, please take a look to understand this division.
Young Producers (3)
Mark Andrews, Alex Collins, Ronnie Stanley
These are players on their first contract who are already starting (or should be) and are playing well. A team needs as many of these players as possible to continually outperform the salary cap.
Andrews is the only offensive player from this rookie class to make a significant impact so far. Hayden Hurst and Orlando Brown should have an opportunity the remainder of this season, as may Lamar Jackson. Alex Collins has a real chance to be drop to developmental by the end of this season, but I kept him in this group for now.
Patrick Ricard could be included with this group if he played more snaps on offense, but his FB role is simply too limited in 2018. I included him with the defense.
Buck Allen, Nick Boyle, Bradley Bozeman, Orlando Brown, Jermaine Eluemunor, Hayden Hurst, Lamar Jackson, Jordan Lasley, Alex Lewis, Chris Moore, Greg Senat, Matt Skura, Kaare Vedvik
These players are all still on their rookie deal, but something is holding them back from consistent performance, a starting role, or both. We hope that most, if not all, of these players will emerge to be young producers quickly. In truth, some are running out of time to do so. Since this group is both critical and crowded, let’s take a look individually to see why I have tagged them as I have and what each needs to do to move up:
— Allen: He remains short on the performance end with low yards-per-touch figures (2.7 YPC, 5.6 YPR). He’s improved as a pass blocker, but he needs to be more explosive as a runner and receiver. He’ll be a free agent at the end of this season.
— Boyle: Nick has value as a blocker, but his catch percentage has dropped from 79% in his first 3 seasons to 52% in the first 9 weeks of 2018. The Ravens need a good blocking TE, but his performance as a receiver and suspension history will limit his market value.
— Bozeman has played well when active in 2018, including his longest trial against the Saints. He’s battled a calf injury and his playing time for the remainder of this season is not clear, but I expect he’ll compete for a starting guard or center spot next season.
— Eluemunor: He has played better than expected as a stopgap LT and is solidly in the developmental category. The Ravens have a lot of choices to make with young developmental lineman (Bozeman, Eluemunor, Lewis, Skura, Siragusa) and draft alternatives.
— Hayden Hurst: It’s very difficult to pull anything positive from his limited performance to date, but he’s a first-round pick and will be given every opportunity to succeed. If I made this list on a weekly basis (I won’t do so again until after the season), it wouldn’t be a shock for him to jump to producer status with just a couple of good games.
— Jackson: His contribution as a 3rd-down conversion specialist is not far from the minimum I’d want to see in a young producer, but still far short of what the Ravens and their fans hope he’ll become.
— Lasley: He has yet to be activated for a game. It’s going to be hard to get him snaps when the team can’t get Chris Moore on the field either. At some point, they’ll both need to get more time.
— Lewis: Alex is running out of time as a developmental prospect with his 3rd season drawing to a close. He hasn’t been awful, but he needs to hold his spot at LG long enough to differentiate himself from the other young linemen.
— Moore: He’s been an outstanding special teams player and he’s catching the ball regularly this season (12 of 15 targets). He’ll be in the final year of his rookie deal in 2019.
— Senat: Greg will be back in 2019 with a good chance to make the roster at tackle. Since he’s a pure LT by size and feet, he brings an element no others currently on the roster can in terms of backing up Ronnie Stanley.
— Skura: He hasn’t surrendered the center role yet, despite an up-and-down season. None of the other choices at center have worked out. He’ll be a 3rd-year player next year, so he’ll still be cheap, but I expect he’ll face competition from Bozeman or another draftee for the starting role. Even if he loses the starting job, he could be a valuable backup at all 3 interior OL spots.
— Vedvik: His is a cautionary tale, ideal for the NFL rookie symposium. Kaare may be traded prior to 2019.
The offense has 13 such players and the defense 11. However, I assert the quality and youth of the developmental defensive players is better.
Veterans Playing for Market Value (7)
John Brown, Morgan Cox, James Hurst, Sam Koch, Willie Snead, Justin Tucker, Marshal Yanda
A large chunk of the cap is (or will be) spent here and these players are the ones who are earning it. Brown is the only player in this group who will be a UFA after 2018. He’ll be a pivotal player in the Ravens cap plans for this offseason.
I expect Hurst, Snead, and Yanda, as well as the wolfpack (Koch, Tucker, Cox) will be back. The notion that Yanda may be cut is absurd to me, even though 2019 is his last year under contract. He remains among the best guards in football and has a modest salary of $7 million next season. An extension is a possibility.
Veteran Cap/Value Concerns (2)
Michael Crabtree, Joe Flacco
Crabtree could elevate himself from this designation with a solid stretch run. If he doesn’t improve on his 53.9% catch rate, I think he’s unlikely to be a Raven in 2019.
Flacco’s play has been far from the team’s biggest concern in 2019. However, with an injury and a significant 2019 cap savings if cut, Joe will be a question each year for the Ravens from this point forward. It goes without saying that development of Lamar Jackson may hasten his departure.
All that said, Joe has 21 TDs and 8 INTs in his last 14 games.
Quincy Adeboyejo, Kenneth Dixon, Gus Edwards, Hroniss Grasu, Robert Griffin III, Jaleel Scott, De’Lance Turner, Maxx Williams
This group had a staggering 11 players at the end of last season and every one of them is now gone. Taking a stroll down memory lane, here are the previous set of transitional players: Luke Bowanko, Andrew Donnal, Crockett Gilmore, Brandon Kublanow, Ryan Mallett, Stephane Nembot, Vince Mayle, Breshad Perriman, Maurice Shakir, Terrance West, Tim White (now on the practice squad)
It’s difficult to project anyone from this year’s transitional category could elevate his play to be a young producer or veteran playing for market value. Jaleel Scott may have the best chance. Griffin may also return for another season as the backup once he determines there is not a starting role available somewhere.
Special thanks to Brian McFarland, to whose contract details I referred frequently while writing these pieces.