The day the Tennessee Titans, not the Baltimore Ravens, traded for Julio Jones I received a text. A friend of mine who currently works for an NFL team said, “Know you wanted Julio … bummer. Would Chandler Jones be a decent consolation prize?”
I was unaware of Chandler Jones’ circumstances at the time. I did not know the Arizona Cardinals pass rusher was unhappy going into the final year of a contract and knowing at 31 that this would likely be his last chance to make real money in the NFL. I certainly did not know that he would be requesting a trade in the coming months.
And more than that, I didn’t know how to answer his question. And truth be told, I still don’t.
To be clear, I didn’t expect the Ravens to trade for Julio Jones, and I don’t expect them to trade for Chandler Jones. Betting against the Ravens making significant trades throughout their history, even with bad odds, would have served your wallet well. And it’s still no guarantee that the Cardinals will trade their disgruntled superstar. Many have pointed out the significance of this season for head coach Kliff Kingsbury and a franchise that seemingly needs to be in “win-now” mode.
But it’s still a relevant conversation, amplified by social media interest from Ravens players like Marlon Humphrey and Lamar Jackson. Even Pro Football Focus identified the Ravens as an “ideal” spot for Jones to land.
Considering how interested I was in the Ravens pursuing the former Falcons receiver, you’d think I’d be equally interested in them pursuing one of the top edge rushers of the last five years, particularly as the argument can reasonably be made that at the moment, the Ravens have a more glaring personnel weakness at edge rush than at wide receiver.
And indeed, I … think I am. I think so.
Sure, Jones is 31 years old and coming off a season in which he played just five games before having to undergo season-ending biceps surgery. And sure, the Ravens just made a bold trade for an edge rusher (Yannick Ngakoue) last year that worked about as well as the starting gun at the Olympic triathlon. And yeah, the Ravens did spend a first-round pick on an edge rusher (Odafe Oweh). And sure, Jones’ $15.5 million salary for 2021 is an issue for a team with only a bit more than $7 million in cap space right now.
But I think so. Yeah. I think so.
Okay, so obviously I’m not as convinced of Chandler Jones (yes, of course, the younger brother of Super Bowl XLVII champion Arthur Jones) being the answer for the Ravens as I was with Julio Jones. And I can’t fully explain why, either. No player has more than his 97 sacks since entering the league in 2012. While his 2020 campaign came to a quick end, he is only a year removed from a dazzling 19 sack/eight forced fumble 2019 season. He’s a true difference maker at a premium position the Ravens need to address.
And yet, man, I don’t know.
The Ngakoue situation has really burned me. It truly seemed as though the Ravens needed one dominant player who could just get after quarterbacks. Adding Ngakoue appeared to be a direct answer to another dispiriting regular season loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the obvious measuring stick for the Ravens in the AFC. Ngakoue appeared to be the singular piece the Ravens needed to make up the difference against Kansas City, someone who could be responsible for nothing other than getting Patrick Mahomes on the ground.
And yet, despite paying a real price to acquire the former Maryland standout, the Ravens never really figured out how to make Ngakoue work. They appeared as unwilling as ever to simply allow a player to put his hand in the dirt and go get a quarterback, which is particularly odd since, well, that’s what makes Ngakoue valuable.
For all of Chandler Jones’ greatness as a pass rusher, he’s not known as a particularly strong run defender. He is a more complete linebacker than Ngakoue could have ever been, but his value, if healthy, is getting after quarterbacks. So after the Ngakoue debacle, it’s fair to ask if the Ravens would use him appropriately to make it worth not only the NFL Draft capital (probably not that much different than the Julio Jones price) but also the additional shuffling they’d need to do to the roster because of the cap, including giving Chandler Jones one more payday.
Yet, I’m still in favor. Adding Chandler Jones would presumably take some pressure off of Oweh while also allowing Tyus Bowser to be used in a more hybrid role after signing his extension this offseason. A healthy Chandler Jones would make the Ravens better for the next couple of years.
But I’ll be less despondent if they don’t make the trade. This roster is enough to expect that they’ll be in the mix come January again. They just need to play better when they get there.