Shrewd trading and smart drafting have long been hallmarks of the Baltimore Ravens and their front office. The trend continued during the first round of the 2022 NFL draft when Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta engineered a deal with the Arizona Cardinals.
It was a trade that netted the Ravens an extra selection in the opening round, the 23rd-overall pick. The choice was acquired for the cost of one of Baltimore’s compensatory picks this year, along with a wide receiver who posted a single 1,000-yard season in three years.
DeCosta used the 23rd pick to trade again, two places back in the first round, before selecting one of the consensus highest-rated prospects in this class to fill an obvious hole along the offensive line. The initial deal with the Cardinals has been called “an absolute robbery” by one analyst and “incredible business” by another.
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Ravens Get Top Marks for Surprising Trade
The Ravens confirmed their trade shortly after selecting safety Kyle Hamilton 14th overall. DeCosta sent the 100th pick and Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown to the Cardinals in exchange for Arizona’s first-rounder.
It soon prompted disbelief from Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus, who accused the Ravens of “ROBBERY.”
Gayle’s PFF colleague, Steve Palazzolo was impressed by how smartly the Ravens cashed in on Brown, who was the team’s first pick, 25th overall, in 2019:
Palazzolo’s complimentary assessment is an accurate one, since Brown posted over 1,000 yards just once during his Ravens career. In fairness, Brown’s best season in Baltimore was his last one, when he grabbed 91 receptions for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns.
He was about to enter the fourth year of his rookie deal, so negotiations over a new deal were looming, Yet, as ESPN’s Bill Barnwell pointed out prior to the draft, “the Ravens just signed Mark Andrews to a big contract and used a first-round pick on Rashod Bateman last year.”
Those developments made Brown a strong candidate to be traded, even if the Cardinals might have overpaid for the former college teammate of quarterback Kyler Murray. That’s certainly the view of Around The NFL’s Dan Hanzus, who couldn’t quite believe what the Cards gave away:
A first-round pick represents a premium, especially in a year when the draft class was loaded at wide receiver. Six wideouts were taken in the first 20 picks, the most in the “common draft era,” according to NFL Research.
Regardless of whether the Cardinals could have waited or moved up the board for one of those highly-regarded receivers is a matter for debate. What is clear, though, is how well DeCosta played the opening round, starting with sending Brown to Arizona, then engineering another trade and still getting a possible can’t-miss prospect.
DeCosta’s Second Trade Even Better
Not satisfied with one deal, DeCosta traded again, this time with the Buffalo Bills. He moved from 23 to 25 and also snagged the 130th pick, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Landing pick 130 was significant because it meant the Ravens earned a fifth choice in Round 4. While it’s not like-for-like remuneration for sending the 100th selection, a third-rounder, to the Cardinals, DeCosta has given himself ample ammunition to work the middle of a draft that may be short on superstars, but should have plenty of depth and hidden value.
Speaking of value, that’s just what the Ravens got when DeCosta used the pick he received from the Bills on center Tyler Linderbaum. In the process, the Ravens replaced Bradley Bozeman, who joined the Carolina Panthers in free agency.
Linderbaum’s selection was quickly endorsed by Raven.com editorial director Ryan Mink, who dubbed the former Iowa standout “the best center prospect in a long time.” It’s a sentiment echoed by many, including NBC Sports’ Chris Simms:
There’s no doubt Linderbaum fits what has generally been a run-first offense under coordinator Greg Roman. The rookie’s PFF Draft run-blocking grades had no equal at the collegiate level:
Coming away from the opening round with the two leading prospects at their positions, essentially for the cost of a third-round pick, is something other teams around the league should envy.
The Ravens gave up a draft choice earned in compensation for David Culley being named head coach of the Houston Texans in 2021. Culley lasted just one season at the helm, but the Ravens are still working the draft process smarter than anybody else.
With Linderbaum and Hamilton improving an already solid roster, DeCosta may use some of his expanded mid-round haul to trade up in rounds three and two and ensure his team comes away with yet more value.