The 2019 offense performed at a historic 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 plenty of key producers on their rookie contract contributing.
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, Bradley Bozeman, Marquise Brown, Orlando Brown, Gus Edwards, Hayden Hurst, Lamar Jackson, 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.
Bradley Bozeman and Hayden Hurst were each elevated to this category after good second seasons. Patrick Ricard was moved to the veteran/market value category after signing his new extension. I moved Matt Skura to the developmental group with what was reported as a significant knee injury entering his 4th season.
The 8 players in this category on offense is testimony to the rapidity and quality of the rebuild as well as the complementary fit with Jackson. Amazingly, none will be UFAs after 2019. Only Ricard, Skura, and Stanley will be UFAs after 2020.
Developmental (6): Miles Boykin, Justice Hill, Trace McSorley, Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers, Matt Skura
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: For the year, he caught just 13 of 22 targets for 198 yards. He recorded just 4 catches for 67 yards in 9 games since the bye. He continued to get snaps due to his effectiveness as a run blocker. Miles needs to improve his route-running skills and specifically his ability to impact the game over the middle of the field, where Jackson is more comfortable throwing and he could be as imposing as the TE group.
- Hill: Justice is in a difficult spot behind Mark Ingram as a receiver where he could make a significant contribution. His running style is not as complementary to Jackson as that of Edwards or Ingram in terms of the read option. Perhaps the most disappointing statistic from 2019 was 66 touches with no play longer than 18 yards.
- McSorley: He played his first NFL snap against the Steelers in the finale, so it’s fair to say the Ravens never found a combined slash/special teams role for him. There is still hope he’ll contribute, but he probably needs to win the backup job from Griffin to have a meaningful role and his spot as a 3rd QB competes with other roster needs.
- Mekari: Patrick played every snap at center after Skura was hurt. The dropoff was significant, but he has the advantages of both versatility (in theory he can play any OL position) and physicality, which the Ravens may take more time to develop.
- Powers: Questions about his inactive status for the first 16 weeks were partially answered with a fine performance in 29 snaps during the finale against a motivated Steelers team. If Yanda returns, but Skura is unable to start the season, it’s possible the Ravens will consider moving Bozeman to center to make a starting spot for Ben.
- Skura: The injury Skura suffered against the Rams throws his future into question entering his 4th season. If he is unable to start the 2020 season active, I expect the Ravens will try to work out a 1-year extension as they have for other players coming off injuries in their contract years (Brent Urban and Dwan Edwards come to mind). He had taken another step forward before the injury and had been one of the most durable players in the league.
The total of 6 players in this group is a little thin, but that’s 1) often the case before the influx of draft talent and 2) a function of the high number of young producers on offense.
Veterans Playing for Market Value (10): Nick Boyle, Morgan Cox, Robert Griffin III, Mark Ingram, Sam Koch, Patrick Ricard, 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.
While under contract for 2020, Marshal Yanda’s future is the big question for the Ravens offense. His comments describing the team in the third person and on-field picture taking don’t bode well for a return, but he may decide he wants to go out a champion and return for 1 more season. I expect he’ll again be extended for a year if he does return.
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.
Seth Roberts is the only UFA in this group (indicated by *).
Veteran Cap/Value Concerns (1): James Hurst
James Hurst will enter the third season of a 4-year deal and has earned all contract guarantees. There is a $2.75M cap saving for cutting him. His 2020 included blowout relief play against the Dolphins, Bengals, and Rams as well as starts at LT against the Jets and Steelers. Hurst stands to maintain solid performance when the Ravens have full use of their pistol offense and read option because he has less difficult blocks to provide and may face an opponent who needs to control rush lanes. It is in a game that the Ravens trail that he may struggle when his suspect pass blocking skills come to the fore.
Transitional (7): Randin Crecelius, Parker Ehinger, Hroniss Grasu*, Chris Moore*, Jaleel Scott, Andre Smith*, DeAnthony Thomas*
It’s common this group is loaded with young players who suffer an injury, but only Randin Crecelius is in that category here. Of the others, 4 are veterans brought in for what appears to be 2019 only.
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.
Moore had a reduced receiving role in 2019 with just 5 targets, all prior to the bye. He’s a valuable special teams player who probably wants to play for a team willing to give him a role as a receiver.
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. Jaleel Scott was active for 3 games and had 1 catch for 6 yards. He’ll be entering his 3rd season, so his option value has declined and he’s a risk to be cut at the end of camp in favor of a rookie WR.
Special thanks to Brian McFarland, to whose contract details I referred frequently while writing these pieces.