Ravens Tipped to Pursue Heisman Trophy Winning QB

Tyler Huntley and Lamar Jackson

Getty The Ravens are tipped to replace a QB with a Heisman Trophy winner.

Lamar Jackson isn’t the only quarterback whose future the Baltimore Ravens must decide this offseason. Backup Tyler Huntley is also a free agent and one NFL writer believes the Ravens should replace him with a former Heisman Trophy winner.

Marcus Mariota couldn’t stick as the starter for the Atlanta Falcons, so ESPN’s Bill Barnwell believes he “probably won’t be looking at starting opportunities.” That’s good news for the Ravens, who could use another “hybrid quarterback if Jackson misses more time with injuries.”

Ravens Need Another Jackson

Barnwell is willing to “support the logic of pursuing a backup quarterback who plays in similar ways to your starter, but Huntley hasn’t been good enough to consistently move the ball when Jackson has been out.”

The last point holds true, no matter how much the Ravens might wish it was otherwise. Huntley is 1-1 in two starts since Jackson injured his PCL against the Denver Broncos in Week 13.

It was Huntley who performed clean up duty against the Broncos, scoring the go-ahead touchdown from two yards out in a 10-9 win. A 16-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers followed, but the bubble burst for Huntley against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday, December 17.

The Ravens were beaten 13-3 after Huntley failed to ignite a moribund passing game. He missed on 13 of his 30 throws and averaged just 4.6 yards per completion.

Citing numbers from Next Gen Stats, Tony Lombardi of Russell Street Report showed how Huntley was reluctant to take deep shots in Cleveland:

An inability or unwillingness to push the ball vertically has been a problem for the Ravens in the passing game all season. Only the Carolina Panthers, Falcons and Chicago Bears have thrown for fewer than the 2,671 yards the Ravens have mustered through the air.

Huntley hasn’t been able to stop a slide that began when Jackson was still upright. Nor has Huntley been able to replace No. 8’s ability to gash defenses on the ground.

Jackson’s deputy has rushed for just 3.5 yards per attempt. It’s one reason why Mariota makes more sense as the next man up behind the face of the franchise.

Former No. 2 Overall Pick Still Has Wheels

He was eventually usurped by rookie Desmond Ridder, but not before Mariota showed he still has some of the skills that made him the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans.

Specifically, the 29-year-old rushed for 438 yards and four touchdowns on 85 attempts. One of those scores came against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6:

It was the kind of read-option play Jackson has made his forte since entering the league in 2018. The Ravens offense is designed around these plays, along with a healthy amount of play-action passing.

Mariota can still be effective in the latter area, as he proved when he connected with 2022 eighth-overall pick Drake London against the Panthers in Week 10:

The Ravens could expect Mariota to make a quick transition to their offense, assuming head coach John Harbaugh and coordinator Greg Roman are still calling the plays. Roman, in particular, needs to prove he can direct a prolific attack when Jackson isn’t on the field.

There are few more dynamic runners at the quarterback position, but all the running exposes Jackson to more injuries. He’s missed nine games since becoming the full-time starter in 2019. The problem is the Ravens don’t win without Jackson.

They went 0-5 when he damaged his ankle last season, squandering a playoff berth in the process. Huntley lost all four of his starts during this dismal run.

It’s why the Ravens won’t want to countenance a life without Jackson, who is set to be a free agent. Barnwell revealed the Ravens “are expected to use the exclusive franchise tag to keep him, which projects to come in north of $45 million for the 2023 season.”

The tag would be expensive, even for a team projected by Spotrac.com to have $45,039,962 worth of room under next year’s salary cap. General manager Eric DeCosta would need to get creative, but he should be able to make space for the kind of low-cost and short-term deal Mariota could expect to earn as a backup.

First, DeCosta would need to establish the player’s injury status, after CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reported “the Falcons informed Mariota on Dec. 8 that they would be making the switch to rookie Desmond Ridder. The next day, the team was informed via a text from Mariota’s representation that the quarterback would soon undergo a procedure for a chronic knee injury, even though he never appeared on the injury report this season with a knee injury and didn’t miss a snap due to one.”

Mariota didn’t react well to being benched, according to Jones, even though the dual-threat signal-caller “had just five touchdowns to three interceptions and was averaging a paltry 157 passing yards” in the five games before the Falcons made the switch.

Things didn’t work out in Atlanta, but Mariota would be a more credible fill-in for Jackson than Huntley or undrafted Anthony Brown.