The offense is performing at a high level with one of the smallest apportionments of cap in the entire NFL. The fact Jackson is on his rookie deal is significant, but the Ravens have also been fortunate to avoid IR on offense where each such injury has a cost in cap.
If you saw the article on the defense, these categories won’t be a surprise to you, but if not, please refer to the definition of these divisions:
Young Producers (8): Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, Orlando Brown, Gus Edwards, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Ricard, Matt Skura, Ronnie Stanley
These are players on their first contract who are already starting (or should be) and are playing well. A team needs as many of these players as possible to continually outperform the salary cap.
More amazing than the total of 8 players in this category is the fact none will be UFAs after 2019. Only Ricard, Skura, and Stanley will be UFAs after 2020.
Developmental (7): Miles Boykin, Bradley Bozeman, Justice Hill, Hayden Hurst, Trace McSorley, Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers
These players are all still on their rookie deal, but something is holding them back from consistent performance, a starting role, or both. We hope that most, if not all, of these players will emerge to be young producers quickly. In truth, some are running out of time to do so. Since this group is critical, let’s look individually to see why I have tagged them as I have and what each needs to do to move up:
- Boykin: His consistency has improved over the last 4 games as he’s collected 7 of his last 8 targets for 115 yards and a TD. That’s a period where he had 115 offensive snaps (penalties included), so the scale is still not what the Ravens might have hoped.
- Bozeman: He had his best game of the season against the Seahawks, but leads the Ravens in pressures allowed (15.25), QHs (1.67), and sacks (3.67). Much of that stems from lacking the lateral quickness to negotiate stunts and other teams are targeting it. His overall raw score puts his play at a C-. That’s not a result that screams for change, but the Ravens have 2 young alternatives.
- Hill: The Ravens have run the ball 248 times (excluding kneels) in 7 games (35.4 per game), but Hill has just 18 total carries (4.3 YPC) and 7 targets with 3 catches for 19 yards with none coming in the last 3 weeks. He’s a player who would ideally step forward against the Pats to create mismatches in space.
- Hayden Hurst: His catch rate (14/18, 78%) and YPC (10.1) have improved dramatically from the preseason. Hayden is caught in a tweener role since Andrews is almost always in the game for obvious passing downs, he needs to find receiving opportunities on unobvious passing downs.
- McSorley: He’s been inactive for all 7 games. I still see a player who may get a chance with injury or win the backup role in 2020. Given the difficulty the Ravens have had finding opportunities for their playmakers, I expect he’ll be inactive the rest of the season unless the unthinkable happens.
- Mekari: Patrick has been active for every game, presumably due to his versatility, but his only play was against Miami where he was unimpressive in 22 scored snaps. He is likely to get another opportunity due to injury.
- Powers: His development is now behind a curtain to the fans and media after a mixed preseason. He stands a good chance to be a starter in 2020 if injury/inefectiveness does not present him with the opportunity in 2019.
Veterans Playing for Market Value (9): Nick Boyle, Morgan Cox, Robert Griffin III, Mark Ingram, Sam Koch, Seth Roberts, Willie Snead, Justin Tucker, Marshal Yanda
Only a moderate chunk of the 2019 cap has been spent here, since the offensive players include the wolfpack and the Ravens have a QB on his rookie deal. Among these players, only Seth Roberts will be UFA after 2019.
Marshal Yanda is signed through 2020, but he will likely reevaluate retirement at the end of 2019. If he continues to play well and without injury, I think he could be signed to another similar extension this offseason.
Willie Snead was just extended and each of the other 4 pure offensive players (Boyle, Griffin, Ingram, Roberts) are providing value in line with expectation.
Veteran Cap/Value Concerns (1): James Hurst
Michael Crabtree and Joe Flacco were in this group at the end of the 2018 season but have since departed.
James Hurst is in the second season of a 4-year deal and has played just 15 scored snaps as a backup at guard and 6th offensive lineman. Last year he started the season at RT with moderate success before Orlando Brown took the job. When he returned from an injury, he played LG ineffectively, culminating in an awful performance in the Wild Card game against the Chargers. For 2020 there is a $2.75M cap savings from cutting him. If the Ravens find a backup tackle they like in the draft or during camp, I expect they will consider releasing him.
Transitional (3): Randin Crecelius, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott
This group had 5 players at the end of the 2018 season (Adeboyejo, Allen, Lewis, Scott, and Vedvik). Amazingly, Scott remains here and DeCosta got a return of draft capital on both Lewis and Vedvik.
It’s difficult to project anyone from this transitional category could elevate his play to be a young producer or veteran playing for market value. Moore caught 19 of 25 targets (76%) in 2018, but has been targeted just 5 times in 2019. He will be UFA at the end of the season and cold return on a 2-year special teams contract like Levine or McClellan did. Jaleel Scott has been active the last 2 weeks, but has played just 2 special teams snaps. Since this is the second year of his rookie deal, he’ll be pressured for his roster spot by rookies with more option value in 2020.
Special thanks to Brian McFarland, to whose contract details I referred frequently while writing these pieces.