Lamar Jackson didn’t like it, but the Baltimore Ravens’ decision to trade one key player has been rated as the team’s “best offseason move.” A leading analytics site has praised the Ravens for avoiding having to pay a premium for a player at a position where contracts have been inflated this year.
Instead, general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh dealt a player with one eye-catching season on his CV for a first-round talent on a rookie contract. The swap is seen as safeguarding the Ravens for the future and a possible sweetener for Jackson, the franchise quarterback who is yet to sign a long-term extension.
ALL the latest Ravens news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Ravens newsletter here!
WR Trade Made Sense for Ravens
In his look at the best moves made by each AFC team this offseason, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus zeroed in on the Ravens trading Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. The wideout was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals during the first round of the 2022 NFL draft, along with a fourth-round pick, in exchange for a first-round choice, the 23rd selection overall.
Spielberger applauded how the Ravens used what they got for Brown, specifically the 23rd pick. This became the 25th-overall selection after being flipped to the Buffalo Bills, a trade that also netted Baltimore the 130th pick, giving the franchise back the fourth-rounder it originally gave up in the Brown deal.
As Spielberger noted, the Ravens made savvy use of the 25th pick: “The 25th overall pick was then used to select Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, whose 95.4 overall grade in 2021 was the best mark ever given to a center since PFF started grading college games. Baltimore was able to come out of the first round with safety Kyle Hamilton and Linderbaum while saving a ton of future investment at wide receiver, a position that has obviously undergone a substantial market explosion.”
Tyler Linderbaum should go straight into the starting lineup to replace last season’s pivot man, Bradley Bozeman, who joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. There shouldn’t be any drop in performance levels, based on how Linderbaum dominated at Iowa:
Taking Linderbaum off the board was a smart, no-frills move by DeCosta. Yet, Spielberger’s point about the “market explosion” for wide receivers is what will ultimately make this trade a win-win for the Ravens.
Premier wide receivers cashed in at an alarming rate this offseason. A prime example was Christian Kirk, the man whom Brown will replace in Arizona.
Kirk’s a solid pro and a talented pass-catcher, but he’s also never posted 1,000 yards in a season. Nor has he started a full season, yet Kirk was still able to command a deal worth up to $84 million over four years from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kirk’s contract made a few eyes water, but it was nothing compared to those handed out to Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. Adams got a five-year contract from the Las Vegas Raiders, set to pay him an average of over $28 million a year, while the Miami Dolphins gave Hill an average salary of $30 million to leave the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Ravens didn’t want to be on the hook for a similar contract a year from now if Brown built on his stellar 2021 campaign, when he set career-highs in catches (91) and yards (1,008).
It’s a scenario envisaged by Locked on Cardinals Podcast host Alex Clancy:
Spielberger believes making this decision another team’s problem is one reason why the Ravens successfully rebuild their roster each year: “It resembles the tough decisions good franchises have to make to sustain success. The Ravens avoiding top-of-market paydays on Marquise Brown and tackle Orlando Brown Jr. while adding elite talent on rookie contracts will go a very long way in keeping a talented roster around quarterback Lamar Jackson if (when) he finally agrees to a big-money extension.”
There’s a lot of truth here, but there’s also a caveat for all the pats on the back the Ravens are receiving. This trade will only rate as a success if Brown isn’t missed among a group of receivers Jackson could be forgiven for not having much confidence in ahead of the new season.
Brown Underachieved, but the Ravens Still Haven’t Replaced Him
There’s a reason Jackson was initially a little miffed when Brown’s trade was announced:
Brown had become Jackson’s go-to target among an otherwise unconvincing group of wide receivers. Replacing his production won’t be easy, even if Brown is happy to try his hand in a different offense.
The 25-year-old told I Am Athlete Tonight (h/t)Dov Kleiman, back in April, the “system wasn’t for me.” It wasn’t the first time Brown bemoaned the Ravens’ run-pass disparity under offensive coordinator Greg Roman, saying “we have to find a way to balance our game” after the 2020 season, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
Not everybody is convinced by Brown’s complaints. Analytics expert Warren Sharp detailed how the Ravens put the ball in the air more than most last season and Brown still saw a healthy number of targets.
Sharp believes Brown didn’t take full advantage of his opportunities:
While Brown may have underachieved, the Ravens are taking a risk by not replacing him. Instead, DeCosta, Harbaugh and Roman are content to let second-year man Rashod Bateman lead a group featuring Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace.
This quartet combined for 97 catches, 1,012 yards and three touchdowns last season. It’s beyond wishful thinking to believe the Ravens have what they need at wide receiver, particularly when Jackson is entering a contract year.
He needs a No. 1 weapon on the outside, and there are few free agents who fit the bill, including T.Y. Hilton, Odell Beckham Jr. and Emmanuel Sanders. Adding a proven veteran on a low-cost deal would put the finishing touches on making the Brown trade one of the best moves the Ravens have made in years.