Adam Schein: Ravens Could Be NFL's 'Next Great Dynasty'
In January, Fox Sports Radio's Colin Cowherd said he believes the Ravens could be a 15-year dynasty. As we inch closer towards the start of the 2020 season, NFL.com's Adam Schein echoed similar praise about what's being built in Baltimore.
Inspired by ESPN's The Last Dance documentary focused on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Schein listed the nine teams he believes can become the NFL's next great dynasty. At No. 2 were the Ravens.
"I firmly believe Eric DeCosta has assembled the NFL's best roster, 1-53," Schein wrote. "April's draft was another masterclass from the Baltimore brass. First-round pick Patrick Queen is the next star linebacker in Baltimore. Second-rounder J.K. Dobbins was put on Earth to run the ball for the Ravens. Baltimore's depth chart, on both sides of the ball, is overflowing with talent. Of course, no one's more enticing than the reigning league MVP."
The Ravens are coming off a 14-2 offseason and sit at the top of the pecking order in the AFC along with the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, a dynasty isn't just predicated on one season. Schein believes the Ravens have the potential to win for a long time because of Lamar Jackson.
"Jackson is as special as they come," Schein wrote. "His improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 was staggering. What happens if he takes another massive step forward this fall? Do the Ravens possess a legitimate cheat code??"
The biggest argument against a dynasty in Baltimore to this point is that the Jackson-led Ravens haven't been able to get over the playoff hump the past two years. You have to win it all once to win it multiple times.
It's still early though. Jackson hasn't even started two full seasons under center. Jordan didn't win his first championship until his seventh season, although he still put up some pretty crazy numbers before that.
There's plenty of reason to believe Jackson's best football is ahead.
"Baltimore has a fantastic coach in John Harbaugh - and inherently, the team boasts a stellar culture," Schein added. "They scout and develop and think and plan better than your team. The offense is a terrifying mix of speed and creativity. The defense is strong and consistent. Same with special teams. This organization has everything in place to serve as Kansas City's main foil for years to come. What a series of AFC title games we could have in store!"
ESPN Not as High on Ravens' Offseason
We've seen some pundits say the Ravens have had one of the best offseasons in the NFL. Others, like ESPN's Bill Barnwell, aren't as optimistic.
Barnwell ranked the offseason for all 32 teams and had Baltimore in the middle of the pack at No. 18.
What Went Right: "Finally freed of the last vestiges of the Joe Flacco contract, the Ravens used their newfound cap space to try to build a devastating defensive line. While they let Michael Pierce leave and decided against confirming their deal with Michael Brockers after a physical, they traded a fifth-round pick for Jaguars star Calais Campbell and signed Derek Wolfe to a one-year deal. Baltimore then found its long-term replacement for C.J. Mosley by using its first-round pick on Queen."
What Went Wrong: "The only disappointing thing the Ravens had to deal with was losing legendary guard Marshal Yanda to retirement. They are an offensive line factory and used third- and fourth-round picks on Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson, respectively, but Yanda will be missed. Wolfe was a nice Plan B, but he was a downgrade from Brockers. The Ravens didn't really replace [Hayden] Hurst, and given how frequently Mark Andrews has been banged up as a pro, I expected them to use a mid-round pick to find a backup there."
Barnwell thinks the Ravens still need to add an edge defender. Jadaveon Clowney remains the premier free-agent option, and Barnwell noted that an extension for Ronnie Stanley could help open up cap space for a move.
"Clowney might be too rich for their blood, although I'd love to see them use what will likely be the last bargain year on Lamar Jackson's deal to stretch Clowney onto their roster," Barnwell added.
Ravens' End of Season Stretch Ranked One of NFL's Easiest
The Ravens had one of the toughest end-of-season stretches last season. Of course, it didn't turn out that way after reeling off 12 straight wins.
This season, Baltimore has - based on last year's records - one the easiest schedule stretches from Week 15 through Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, and Cincinnati Bengals, who went a combined 12-36 last season.
"The reason this is a big deal is that the NFL playoff format is changing this year, and there's a good chance this stretch of games could work out to Baltimore's advantage," CBS Sports' John Breech wrote.
"With seven teams now qualifying for the postseason out of the AFC, that means only one team will be getting a first-round bye. With only one bye up for grabs, there's a good chance that Ravens will be battling it out for the top seed over the final few weeks of the year, and with a season-ending schedule that looks like this, there's a good chance the Ravens will end the season on a high note and clinch the No. 1 overall seed."
Breech made the argument that the stretch could even extend one week earlier. The Ravens will have 11 days of rest before facing the Cleveland Browns in Week 13.
"To put Baltimore's season-ending schedule in perspective, the Chiefs' final three games are against the Saints (at New Orleans), Falcons and Chargers," Breech wrote.
Oddsmakers also believethe Ravens are in store for another successful season. Baltimore's over/under win total is set at 11.5, and The Athletic's Vic Tafur is taking the over.
"The Ravens not only got to keep both their coordinators - amazing how no team waited to raid the Ravens' or Chiefs' staffs - but improved their roster on offense and defense," Tafur wrote. "And there is no reason to think that Jackson takes a step back either. All the Zoom meetings in the world won't help teams adjust to him."
Dobbins Enters Top Situation for Rookie Running Backs
The Ravens made a strength an even bigger strength when they drafted Dobbins in the second round, and there's no question he'll have plenty of opportunity in his rookie season.
Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner ranked Dobbins third on his list of top rookie running back situations.
"Dobbins would be higher if it weren't for the Ravens' running-back-by-committee approach in recent seasons," Renner wrote. "But that's not as big a deal when you run as much as the Ravens do. Baltimore's 527 designed runs in 2019 were 66 more than any other team, and even if you filter out those that went to Jackson, their running backs still ranked sixth with 392 carries. That's a lot of touches to go around."
According to CBS Sports, Dobbins has 20/1 odds to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. That's the same as first-round receivers Jalen Reagor and Justin Jefferson.
The Ravens rushed for an NFL record 3,296 yards last season, and the Dobbins addition shows they have no intention of slowing down. Greg Roman has always had a workhorse running back in his offense. Last year it was Mark Ingram II, and pundits believe Dobbins will stand out even in a crowded room.
"You get Dobbins to go with Ingram," NFL Network's Steve Wyche said, via NBC Sports. "That's only going to help set up the play-action pass game because they're going to be able to run the ball like crazy."
Report: Teams Can't Prevent Assistant Coaches From Interviewing for Coordinator Jobs
The hiring landscape in the NFL made major changes on Tuesday.
According to NFL Network's Jim Trotter, owners approved a resolution that would prevent teams from blocking assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions.
"Clubs would also not be allowed to include in contracts provisions restricting upward mobility, such as right-to-match clauses or requirements for compensation if the employee leaves for another team," Sports Illustrated's Jenny Vrentas wrote. "This resolution, which would eliminate hurdles to assistants and personnel evaluators advancing, is almost certain to pass. The incentive idea may require further discussion, or could even be tabled to a later date."
How could that affect the Ravens? It may give teams more of an incentive to target successful assistant coaches. Quarterbacks Coach James Urban and Tight Ends Coach Bobby Engram reportedly received interest to join the Philadelphia Eagles early in the offseason, but chose to stay in Baltimore.
With success comes opportunities for coaches, and Harbaugh has openly expressed support for his staff pursuing promotions.
Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi questioned the possibility of adding Cam Newton. "Cam was scheduled to make $18.5 million in 2020. Would he willingly take the $2 million that RGIII is scheduled to make this season? Once all the rookies are signed, the Ravens will only have $6-$8 million in cap space. What about the physical ailments without the proper doctors' access to explore them? At 31, does Newton want to carry a clipboard indefinitely?"