The Ravens will soon officially join the QB On a Rookie Deal club. Lamar Jackson’s rookie season turned out about as well as the team could have hoped. He got to sit and learn to start the year but also played enough for them to have a comfort level with his readiness to play going forward, allowing them to make an informed decision on when to end the Joe Flacco era. They also got a playoff berth out of the deal.
Obviously, the circumstances are far deeper than that but I’m sure if you told Ravens brass in training camp that this would be the outcome, they’d take it. So now what?
Let’s take a look at the roster as it currently stands.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Robert Griffin III
Developmental 3rd QB?
Jackson’s dynamic ability combined with Greg Roman’s run game sparked an unexpected 2nd half of the season run that led to a division title. Jackson will now enter year two as the unquestioned face of the franchise. His poise, pocket movement, arm talent and of course electric athleticism all lend credence to his ability to be a high-level NFL starter. His inconsistencies in his base and footwork leading to accuracy issues remain a concern to his overall ceiling.
Part of Lamar’s development will come organically. Experience will slow the game down for him, as progressions will come quicker and coverages will reveal themselves faster. As much as people will look at completion percentage and his athletic profile and question his ceiling as a pocket passer, he already shows well at some of the little nuances of the position. He’s a super calm mover in the pocket who’s always looking downfield and while not consistent, has made high-level touch throws. I liken him to Steph Curry in the way that he fully understands his power. He knows he’ll make defenders in space or rushers closing in on him miss. He makes amazing plays with subtle movements to buy time look routine.
What will be pertinent going forward is that the Ravens find a way to get him to throw from a wider base more often. As talented a thrower as he is, no QB can consistently excel without a fundamentally sound lower half. Footwork should be a heavy part of the offseason focus.
The Robert Griffin III signing was glossed over by many, myself included. Fighting for his NFL viability, RGIII came in and played well through camp and in the preseason. His footwork and anticipation were noticeably improved and he wound up being a valuable mentor for Lamar. The Ravens’ decision to keep three quarterbacks to start the season I believe was twofold. They wanted to use Jackson in packages to highlight his athleticism and not rush him into action as a signal caller. I also think they saw an opportunity for Griffin to be a long-term backup and valued the opportunity to see how he’d take to being a big brother of sorts. Stylistically he also allows the scheme to remain the same should Jackson ever have to miss time. For all these reasons I would expect RGIII to return as the backup in 2019.
I do think it would be beneficial to find a third QB late in this draft or even as an undrafted free agent. Someone to keep in the program who doesn’t have to take up a spot on the 53-man roster. Ideally someone mobile. The problem is looking at this draft class of quarterbacks made my head hurt. If anybody has any recommendations, shoot them my way.
While the likeliest scenario is RGIII returns as the backup, there will be options if they so decide otherwise…
Free Agent Options
Tyrod Taylor is a logical fit. Former Raven. Led Roman’s offense efficiently in 2015 with the Bills. Has the mobility the team has intimated they’ll look for in Lamar Jackson’s backup.
Similar reasoning as above, as Josh Johnson is likely much cheaper but also a big downgrade. More of a plan C and would maybe necessitate prioritizing the position a little more in the draft.
Easton Stick, North Dakota State
Stick is an interesting backup QB prospect. His mobility and ability to throw on the run would allow the Ravens scheme continuity. He’s a poised player who can move around in the pocket and can throw with timing. Not really a deep ball thrower but has enough arm to win in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Very good QB2 prospect.
Projection: 5th to 6th round
Gardner Minshew, Washington St.
Minshew is another guy I could see as a functional QB2 in the NFL. If everything around him is clean he can move an offense and he has a more than solid arm and some mobility. When things break down his accuracy wanes and he feels more like a “see it, throw it” type of guy, but the league is littered with those.
Projection: 5th to 6th round