Even after a few days to mull it over, I’m still torn on how to feel about the Orlando Brown Jr. trade. There’s enough there to fit just about any narrative you’d like, right?
If you believed the Ravens “had” to trade Orlando Brown because he was unhappy, you can probably believe that they did fairly well. No matter what kind of funny math they had to do to get there, they did receive an additional first-round pick. If you think the Ravens should have held on to Brown no matter what because his presence gave them the best chance to win a Super Bowl next season, the thought of him protecting Patrick Mahomes next season likely gives you more than a small amount of pause.
And then there’s that whole thing where before last week, the Ravens had two undeniable, indisputable areas of absolute “need” on their roster (wide receiver, edge rush) and two top-60 picks in the draft that could be used to address them. Instead they find themselves with THREE indisputable areas of need but, still, two top-60 picks.
There’s much to cover here. I begin by saying that I absolutely do not believe Alejandro Villanueva is the Ravens’ answer at right tackle, nor do I believe they think that. A declining player who has always been a far better pass blocker than run blocker and hasn’t played right tackle isn’t THE answer at right tackle. He might be “someone we’ll consider if we can’t find an answer,” but he is not an answer. I find Dennis Kelly to be a far more plausible stopgap, but he is not currently on the roster yet.
Perhaps Tyre Phillips can be the answer at right tackle, but that means he’s not the answer at left guard. Which means Bradley Bozeman isn’t the answer at center. It’s a cycle more vicious than the bassist from The Sex Pistols.
So here we are. Three unquestionable needs. They can’t all be addressed early because the Ravens have just two early picks (albeit both late in the first round). That doesn’t mean the Ravens won’t eventually draft players at all of these positions, but you’re not going to believe this, you’re more likely to find great players in the first two rounds of the draft than later.
Yes, I know, the Ravens have found good players later in drafts. They’ve also had fourth rounds that were allegedly historically great only to actually prove to be Tavon Young, Chris Moore, Alex Lewis, Willie Henry and Kenneth Dixon. Woof.
But again, they can’t address all their needs early. Because of that, some Ravens fans and analysts have suggested the smartest thing the Ravens could do is to trade back from one of their first-round picks in hopes of acquiring more. I’m … opposed.
And not just because I’m shamelessly plugging our “Project Gameday Draft Special” live broadcast from Looney’s Pub Perry Hall for the Great 8’s Memorabilia/Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland Draft Party hosted by Gus Edwards. I mean, sure, you can get Meet & Greet tickets right now at Great8sMemorabilia.com or MissionTix (and you can save $8 by using the code “GLENN” at checkout) and you can listen to the show at PressBoxOnline.com/Radio or watch at Facebook.com/PressBoxSports with myself, Ken Zalis and Jeremy Conn BUT THAT’S DEFINITELY NOT THE POINT I’M TRYING TO MAKE HERE, YOU GUYS.
No, trading out of the first round isn’t particularly fun for the guys hosting the draft show. But with two first-round picks, this isn’t necessarily like other years. Hosting a show all night only for the Ravens to not even make a pick is kinda like watching an awards show all night only for the last award to be given to someone who isn’t even there and the non-host of the show having to offer an awkward “k bye” to sign off. The Ravens would still make a pick even if they used another first-round pick to trade back and acquire more.
But seriously, that’s NOT why I’m opposed. I’m opposed because the Ravens roster is still in greater need of “spectacular” than “solid,” and those are the picks where it is more likely to find “spectacular.”
We need to be honest here. Where is the “spectacular” on the Ravens’ roster currently? They have a spectacular quarterback and spectacular cornerback (Marlon Humphrey) and spectacular kicker and if healthy, a spectacular left tackle. The difference in getting past the top teams in the AFC isn’t whether they find another special teams contributor who can play some snaps at safety. It’s about whether they find true difference makers.
So yeah, I’m opposed to trading back. But not necessarily opposed to trading up. If the Ravens believe an edge rusher like Kwity Paye or a receiver like Rashod Bateman is truly SPECTACULAR, I’m far more in favor of them trying to move up and get one of them, even if it means they address fewer overall needs in the early rounds of the draft.
Keep in mind, everyone but NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks believes the Ravens are likely on the cusp of having to pay a significant amount of money to their quarterback. The failures in the first and second rounds of the 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 drafts helped pave the way for the roster issues the Ravens faced when they paid their last quarterback. (Those picks: Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, Matt Elam, Arthur Brown.)
It’s not that paying a quarterback ruins a football team. It’s that the combination of paying a quarterback and failing to find players in the draft who prove to be spectacular early in their careers can ruin a football team. The Ravens must start drafting now to overcome the cap issues they’ll face after paying Jackson. And yeah, they still need help to try to win a Super Bowl immediately. Finding Justin Madubuike and Devin Duvernay and Malik Harrison and Phillips in one round seems swell on paper but moving up to get Justin Jefferson instead might have been franchise-changing.
Identify special. Do whatever is needed to get special. Solve whatever problems you still have after that. See you at Looney’s Thursday night.
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