Marcus Spears knows the Baltimore Ravens need to give quarterback Lamar Jackson a reason to stay for the long haul. Fortunately, Spears, who played nine seasons as a defensive end in the NFL, has the answer.
His solution is simple. A trade for Arizona Cardinals’ wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, an elite pass-catcher who would immediately become the go-to target Jackson needs.
Hopkins will be on the trading block this offseason, according to recent reports, and the wideout valued at $34.36 million can be acquired on terms favorable to the Ravens’ salary cap situation for 2023.
Ex-Raven Knows How to Transform Lamar Jackson’s Offense
Spears’ suggestion is a timely one, since the Cards are thinking about trading No. 10, according to Jordan Schultz of the Score:
The stars are aligning for the Ravens, who need a marquee playmaker on the outside to transform a sluggish passing game. Jackson’s numbers and development are stalling without a headline receiver.
He’d passed for a modest 2,242 yards and 17 touchdowns before injuring his PCL against the Denver Broncos in Week 13. Jackson’s paltry 6.9 yards per attempt sum up the problems the Ravens have moving the ball through the air.
Those issues are hardly surprising when Jackson has to aim for a mixture of over-the-hill veterans and untested receivers. DeSean Jackson is 36, while 29-year-old Sammy Watkins couldn’t catch on with the Green Bay Packers. Their struggles could be offset if Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay hadn’t been lost to season-ending injuries.
Hopkins is an obvious upgrade on the Ravens’ current options, despite recent injuries and off-field issues. He was suspended for six games this season after violating the NFL’s PED policy, while Hopkins missed seven games in 2021 due to hamstring and knee problems.
When he’s healthy, 30-year-old Hopkins is one of the league’s most dominant players. He’s enjoyed six 1,000-yard seasons, five Pro-Bowl berths and being named an All-Pro on three occasions.
The Ravens can acquire Hopkins and his awesome track record on manageable terms outlined by Spotrac’s Michael Ginnitti:
The Ravens can make room for those salaries thanks to $40,821,209 worth of space under the cap. Most of general manager Eric DeCosta’s available funds will be dedicated to securing Jackson’s future, with the transition tag set to cost $30,402,000, according to Over The Cap.
DeCosta should make the effort to create any additional room needed for Hopkins, even if it means giving up a couple of draft picks in the process.
Ravens Need True WR1 in 2023
Hopkins is still a true WR1, despite the way the 4-13 Cardinals struggled this season. While reminders of his talents were few, Hopkins provided enough glimpses to encourage the Ravens to make a deal.
Hopkins can also work defenses underneath to turn short passes into long gains. His speed and moves after the catch produced this touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12:
The Ravens don’t have a receiver who can match Hopkins’ all-round skill set. If they did, they would boast a more versatile and explosive air attack.
Not only that, but Hopkins’ arrival would also make things easier for Jackson and the Ravens’ running game. The extra attention defenses pay Hopkins in coverage means lighter boxes for the Ravens to gash on the ground.
There are too many compelling reasons to trade for Hopkins for the Ravens to ignore the possibility. The cost needn’t be prohibitive, since the Cards sent the Houston Texans second- and fourth-rounders, along with running back David Johnson, to acquire ‘Nuk’ in 2020.
DeCosta isn’t armed with a second-round pick this year, thanks to the in-season trade that netted Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears. Perhaps the Ravens could offer their third-round selection for ’23 and a late-rounder next year to tempt the Cards into striking a quick swap deal involving Hopkins.