At 2-2, the Ravens had a lot of issues coming into their Week 5 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After beating the Steelers, 26-23, Ravens fans likely feel absolutely no better about any of those issues. But they're 3-2 and have put real distance (two games and a tiebreaker at the moment) on a division rival that perhaps faces even more significant issues.
If I were Yelp-reviewing the weekend, it would probably be something like, "Two and a half stars ... it happened. Maybe I'd do it again because I've had worse footballing experiences. Like if I had to pick between that and sitting in an empty room for four hours doing nothing, I'd PROBABLY choose the football game."
It was one of the weirdest games in the history of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, but it was a victory. And it was the type of victory that could pay big dividends for a team competing for an AFC North title. But coming out of the game, Ravens fans likely find themselves still obsessing over the team's pass rush struggles, lack of secondary depth behind cornerback Marlon Humphrey or pass-catching depth behind receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews.
They're all totally viable concerns. They were concerns before the Steelers game and they'll continue to be until something drastic changes. The defense in particular was merely passable against a Steelers team that played both a backup quarterback and the backup-iest of backup quarterbacks. While the Ravens' best player (by far) made a game-winning play, there's no reason to think their performance would have been good enough had they been up against any qualified NFL quarterback, much less one of the outstanding quarterbacks they're scheduled to face the rest of the way (Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Deshaun Watson and Jared Goff).
Offensively, quarterback Lamar Jackson and Co. struggled to find any rhythm at all, while Brown and Andrews spent portions of the game hurt. The good news is that the Ravens have looked functional with Brown and Andrews on the field. The bad news is that the usage of the second-year tight end in particular has lead to him taking a number of hits in the middle of the field, and Brown has been a bit injury-prone throughout his football life. These problems are real.
With that in mind, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported Oct. 6 that the Ravens were
"among the most active teams"
ahead of the Oct. 29 NFL trade deadline. That's logical, of course. The combination of multiple needs, a number of hapless teams and more activity at recent deadlines suggests it would make sense that the Ravens would consider this avenue for improving their team. They're almost certainly going to be in the mix in the division the whole way. It is plausible that a move or two could put them over the top.
So yeah, it makes sense that they would want to be aggressive, right?
Well ... maybe not as much as you'd think. It's certainly tempting as we watch this season unfold to think that the team could solve these issues immediately. But is it prudent? It's hard to think so.
The issues here:
1.) Can the Ravens truly solve all of their problems by trying to pluck players away from bad teams? If so, do those upgrades really make this team a viable Super Bowl contender or merely give them a better chance to compete with the Browns for a division crown?
2.) How much draft capital would it cost in order to make such moves?
3.) If they have to spend real draft capital, can they do it for players that can help them long term as much as they do short term?
La Canfora referenced Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe as a player the Ravens could target. While Wolfe would likely cost less (because he's a free agent at the end of the season), he's also a player that has tallied all of 1.5 sacks throughout his last 21 games (dating back to the beginning of the 2018 season). If the Ravens want to make such a move, it wouldn't terribly hurt them, but does it really get them closer to making a trip to Miami?
We've all had visions of Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs (Maryland) dance through our heads, but their respective teams have been either reluctant or completely unwilling to part ways with those players. Because of that, the asking price is such that it would significantly hinder the team's ability to add talent in the coming years.
The truth is that the Ravens as constructed are probably still multiple pieces away from being a Super Bowl championship-caliber team. The best way to find those pieces? The way they found Jackson, Brown and Andrews. By doing a better job of drafting. While there would seem to be a bit of a rush to create a window because the Ravens will have a couple of years before they would potentially give Jackson a big-money, long-term deal, that shouldn't create full-on Houston Texans-like panic that it needs to happen THIS year.
None of this is to say the Ravens shouldn't make or listen to calls. Obviously if the right option is out there at the right price, it's never a bad idea to generically try to help your football team. And if during the next two weeks a group of players emerge (particularly, say, when they play the Seahawks in Seattle in two weeks) that suggests some of these problems could be solved internally, then perhaps a little more aggressiveness might be warranted at the deadline.
But as of now, I think this group isn't close enough yet to justify such boldness.
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