Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson: “I’d Be Happy” If Ravens Signed Antonio Brown

On Tuesday, Lamar Jackson told reporters that he would be in favor of the Ravens signing Antonio Brown (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). Of course, that wouldn’t be the quarterback’s call, but his endorsement is noteworthy nonetheless.

[RELATED: Antonio Brown Hires New Agent]

I’d be happy if they signed him,” Jackson said. “But it’s not my decision.”

This isn’t the first time that Brown has been connected to Baltimore. Recently, Jackson worked out with the controversial wide receiver in South Florida, along with AB’s cousin, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Meanwhile, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta has refused to comment on his own level of interest in the one-time superstar. Earlier this month, he said that he’d keep those thoughts “in-house” while continuing to explore options at the position.

Do we feel the urgency? We probably feel that with every position,” the GM told the team website. “We want to be the best we can be at every position. This happens to be a wide receiver class with a lot of really good players. If we’re on the clock and we think that guy is the best player, we’ll probably pick him. Hopefully we can build our offense to the point where we can say, ‘Hey, we’re un-defendable.’”

Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler, is still in limbo with the league office. Recently, he hired a new agent to represent him, and he’s hoping that will expedite his case with Roger Goodell & Co.

Speaking strictly from a football perspective, Brown would boost any offense – including the Ravens’ world-class unit. He has caught 841 passes for 11,253 yards over the course of his ten-year NFL career, with a good chunk of those coming against Baltimore.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mark Ingram Expected Back For Playoffs

Mark Ingram went down in Cleveland in Week 16, and his calf strain may force Baltimore to turn to other running backs. But by the time the Ravens play their next game of consequence, Ingram is expected to be back in uniform.

The Pro Bowl running back should be back in time for the Ravens’ divisional-round game, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). Ingram will have either 20 or 21 days to recover, depending on Baltimore receiving the Saturday or Sunday Round 2 date. After good news stemming from a Monday MRI, that is expected to be enough rehab time.

Baltimore’s Ingram signing has worked out incredibly well. The 30-year-old back earned his third Pro Bowl nod and surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the third time, getting to 1,018 with his 55-yard showing Sunday. Ingram will also end a season with more than five yards per carry for the second time, finishing with 5.0 per tote in the Ravens’ historically successful ground attack.

The point man of said ground force, Lamar Jackson will also be shelved for Week 17. For the first time in the franchise’s 24-year history, the Ravens have clinched home-field advantage. The runaway MVP frontrunner will have two weeks of rest before taking the field in his first divisional-round game. While the words “calf strain” have taken on a new meaning after the Kevin Durant debacle, Jackson may well have Ingram out there when the Ravens resume relevant football.

AFC North Notes: OBJ, RG3, Steelers

Developments over the past few days point to another complicated Odell Beckham Jr. offseason, but the Pro Bowler’s top Browns confidant does not believe he’s angling for a Cleveland departure. Multiple reports linked Beckham to being dissatisfied with his fit in the Browns’ offense, but Jarvis Landry said (video link via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot) Thursday his longtime friend is not seeking to leave the team next year. Landry has outperformed Beckham this season, despite the latter being regarded as one of the game’s premier receivers and costing far more in a trade than the ex-Dolphin did. Beckham and Baker Mayfield have yet to form a reliable connection. It appears the Browns and their highest-profile player have a long way to go to ensure they are on the same page.

Heading into the Ravens’ opportunity to clinch their sixth AFC North title, is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Should the 11-2 Ravens win their next two games, they can lock up home-field advantage for the first time in franchise history. If that happens, do not expect Lamar Jackson to play in Week 17. If they can beat the Jets and Browns, the Ravens are expected to start Robert Griffin III in Week 17 against the Steelers, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (Twitter link). This would certainly stand to aid the Steelers’ playoff hopes. RG3 has not started a game since 2016.
  • Speaking of the Steelers, they may not be able to afford Bud Dupree in free agency. Pittsburgh is unlikely to agree to terms on a long-term deal that would keep the improving outside linebacker off the market, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. The Steelers could tag Dupree for nearly $16MM but do not have much cap space to make that work. (Though, they managed to work around similar constraints in tagging Le’Veon Bell twice.) The 2015 first-round pick has recorded a career-high (by far) 9.5 sacks this season.
  • The Steelers will attempt to keep nose tackle Javon Hargrave off the market, Dulac adds. Though, the fourth-year defensive lineman is expected to hit the market. Pittsburgh is projected to possess barely $5MM in cap space in 2020. The franchise’s propensity for restructuring deals notwithstanding, the team will face a difficult task extending Hargrave and Dupree before free agency opens.
  • Jonah Williams may not play in a game for the Bengals this year, but the first-round tackle will get in some practice work to close out a lost rookie season.

AFC Notes: Jackson, Miller, Fitzpatrick

Former Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the Ravens released a statement denying a report by Michael Lombardi of The Athletic claiming Mornhinweg wanted to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver. Jackson, of course, was the subject of much debate as a draft prospect with many pundits, including ESPN’s Bill Polian, calling for a position change to wide receiver.

Jackson, however, remained adamant that he was a quarterback, was selected in the first round by Baltimore and has taken the NFL by storm over the past two seasons. Mornhinweg, who was replaced by Greg Roman as the team’s offensive coordinator entering this season, made clear in his statement that “My thoughts before the draft, and even more when we started working with Lamar, was that this young man was going to be a special quarterback.” Regardless of what his opinions were at the time, Jackson has proven he is an NFL signalcaller.

Here’s more notes from around the AFC:

  • The Broncos were deflated after blowing a 20-0 lead in their 27-23 loss to the Vikings on Sunday. To try and help team moral, all-pro linebacker Von Miller organized a team dinner just a couple hours after landing back in Denver, according to Kyle Newman of the Denver Post. Per Newman’s report, the dinner was a resounding success. Players brought their family members and seemed to rebound from their loss and get ready for another week.
  • Dolphins head coach Brian Flores told reporters that Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain Miami’s starting quarterback this week against the Browns, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Flores, however, would not rule out the possibility of backup quarterback Josh Rosen retaking the job from Fitzpatrick at some point this season.

AFC North Notes: Jackson, JuJu, Browns, Tate

The second of the Ravens‘ two 2018 first-round picks has changed the course of their franchise, with Lamar Jackson becoming an MVP candidate barely a year after he made his first NFL start. Ravens brass took extensive measures to keep their Jackson interest secret. While John Harbaugh has said he discussed Jackson at length with his staff and scouts leading up to the 2018 draft, Eric DeCosta said he and previous Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome did not mention their interest in Jackson to the team’s scouts or coaching staff, according to Peter King of NBC Sports. Nor did the Ravens interview Jackson at the Combine, with Newsome and DeCosta wanting to keep what turned out to be an important secret. The Ravens, however, took a risk on losing Jackson by trading back twice in Round 1. Baltimore selected Hayden Hurst at No. 25 before trading back into the first round, via Philadelphia, for No. 32.

We felt like there was a pretty good chance that Lamar might be there later in the first round, early part of the second round,” DeCosta said, via King. “We were willing, if we could, to trade back, trade back, accumulate capital and then possibly either try to trade back again or in a second round, make a play and get Lamar at that point. But, you know, it was a risk.”

“We were (nervous about losing Jackson). We were. But I think you’ve got to stay as clinical in the moment as you can, and really just go with all your best information and the plan.”

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Although Myles Garrett‘s appeal will take place Wednesday, the odds the Browns defensive end plays again this season appear slim. “He will not play the rest of the season,” Roger Goodell told OTG’s Gary Myers (via Pro Football Talk). “He will probably meet with us some time in the offseason. We’ll make a judgement. … Does he have remorse? Does he understand why it’s not acceptable? Do we understand what he’s going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” Garrett is suspended indefinitely for striking Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet.
  • Prior to the AFC North rivals’ game-ending fight, the Steelers saw wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson suffer concussions. In addition to the head injury Smith-Schuster sustained, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) the third-year receiver also sustained a knee injury on the play that ended his night. Smith-Schuster has not missed a game this season but he’s uncertain for Pittsburgh’s Week 12 tilt against Cincinnati.
  • The Bengals observed one of their emerging wideouts stretchered off the field Sunday. Auden Tate is in concussion protocol and suffered a cervical strain, Zac Taylor said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Baby, on Twitter). Tate flew back to Cincinnati with his teammates and has appeared to escape a serious injury.

AFC North Notes: Jackson, Steelers, Bengals

The RavensLamar Jackson interest began before his junior year at Louisville. It escalated a few weeks before the 2018 draft. During a disagreement among Ravens staffers regarding quarterback preferences going into a draft that would have five QBs taken in the first round, John Harbaugh pronounced his willingness to build a new offense around the dual-threat passer.

If we draft Lamar, I’m good with that,” Harbaugh said during an hours-long discussion about Jackson (via The Athletic’s Dan Pompei, subscription required). “We can build an offense around him. We’ll play great special teams, great defense and be a ball-control offense. We’ll build a big, physical offensive line. We’ll get physical running backs. We’ll block on the perimeter. We’ll run all the elements of the college offense. We’ll do something different.”

After choosing Jackson, the Ravens rode some of Greg Roman‘s Colin Kaepernick-based concepts to a division title. Harbaugh, Roman and then-OC Marty Mornhinweg considered going back to Joe Flacco when the Ravens’ offense stalled for much of their wild-card loss to the Chargers, but each of Harbaugh’s assistants agreed Jackson gave the team the best chance to win. As for the Ravens’ 2019 offense, it will feature similar run designs to what was used last season. But Pompei adds the passing attack was considerably revamped in the offseason.

I expect this to change the way offensive football is played in the National Football League,” Harbaugh said. “Not that everybody is going to take on this style. But I expect us to create something that hasn’t been seen before. … I think we’re going to be in more elements than any team has ever been.”

Here is the latest from the AFC North, shifting first to Pittsburgh:

  • This weekend, Artie Burns is due an $800K bonus. If the Steelers are to move on from the former first-round pick who has not lived up to that billing, they would stand to limit their losses by doing so soon. Burns’ camp, however, is confident the fourth-year corner will still be a Steeler by week’s end, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Pittsburgh still has Joe Haden and Mike Hilton and added UFA addition Steven Nelson and third-round pick Justin Layne.
  • A hamstring injury will move T.J. Watt to the Steelers’ active/PUP list, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic tweets. The Pro Bowl outside linebacker should be expected to return fairly soon.
  • The Bengals placed Darqueze Dennard and running back Rodney Anderson on their active/PUP list. Dennard underwent offseason knee surgery, while Anderson’s college career ended after an ACL tear. The former Oklahoma running back is a candidate for the reserve/PUP list to start the season, per Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Should Anderson stay on the PUP list to start the season, he must remain there for six regular-season weeks.

John Harbaugh: “Joe’s Going To Have A Market”

It sounds like Joe Flacco‘s tenure with Baltimore may be coming to an end, but head coach John Harbaugh is still a big fan of his long-time quarterback. Following today’s season-ending loss to the Chargers, Harbaugh said the veteran quarterback should have plenty of suitors during the offseason.

“Joe Flacco is going to play really well in this league. Joe can still play — I think we saw that the first half of the season,” Harbaugh said (via Cindy Boren of the Washington Post). “Joe’s going to have a market. There’s going to be a lot of teams that are going to want Joe because they understand that. I’ll be in Joe’s corner wherever he’s at. He’s special. Joe Flacco is a great talent; he’s an even better person. He’s the best QB in the history of the Ravens without question…He’s going to do just fine.”

Harbaugh all but said that Flacco won’t be in Baltimore next season, although this isn’t much of a surprise. It was clear that the veteran’s tenure with the organization was coming to an end when they decided to stick with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson following Flacco’s return from a hip injury.

A report from mid-December indicated that the organization would ultimately either cut or trade the 33-year-old. This offseason marks the first time the Ravens can cut ties with Flacco and save money against the salary cap, although reports have indicated that the front office could help move the veteran to a franchise of his choice.

Flacco was still more-than-serviceable in his nine games this season. The veteran signal-caller completed 61.2-percent of his passes for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Jackson struggled during today’s loss, and Harbaugh admitted that they considered inserting Flacco into the lineup. Ultimately, the veteran didn’t see the field for what will likely be his final game with the franchise.

If this is indeed the end of Flacco’s tenure in Baltimore, the veteran will finish his stint sitting in first for the majority of the team’s all-time passing stats. The 2008 first-round pick even ranks 15th in franchise history in rushing yards, which only accentuates his all-time value to the franchise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Expected To Cut Or Trade Joe Flacco In 2019

This is not particularly surprising news in light of the team’s decision to stick with rookie Lamar Jackson even though Joe Flacco is once again fully healthy, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com) reports that Flacco is not expected to be back with the Ravens in 2019. Jackson is 3-1 in his time as a starter, and he would be 4-0 if not for a difficult loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City last week.

When Baltimore traded back into the first round in this year’s draft to select Jackson, it seemed that Flacco’s time with the Ravens was coming to an end. But Jackson struggled to develop as a passer, the front office finally made a concerted effort to surround Flacco with some weapons, and the team got off to a hot start led by strong play from its long-time signal-caller. The Ravens, though, lost three in a row before Flacco succumbed to a hip injury, and given that Jackson’s presence has opened up the running game, and given that Jackson has made noticeable improvement with his arm (though he is still far from perfect), Baltimore is seemingly prepared to usher in a new era.

This offseason marks the first time the Ravens can cut ties with Flacco and save money against the salary cap, which Rapoport suggests is a possibility. However, RapSheet also says that Baltimore plans to treat Flacco with class and could orchestrate a trade to a team of his choice.

Flacco has received his fair share of criticism over the years, some of which is justified. But the fact remains that, notwithstanding his large contract — which was signed at a time when plenty of teams would have lined up to give it to him — Baltimore’s front office has largely treated the offense as an afterthought, asking Flacco to make hay with a collection of declining veterans or unproven (and generally unproductive) players. Even when the Ravens have tried to invest significant financial or draft resources into the offense, it has rarely worked out (see, e.g.Breshad Perriman).

That is not to mention the parade of uninspiring offensive coordinators the team has employed; it is worth noting that Flacco enjoyed the best regular season of his career when Gary Kubiak served as the team’s OC in 2014, and Baltimore would have qualified for the playoffs in each of the last two seasons if not for backbreaking defensive collapses at the end of the year.

All of which supports Rapoport’s point that Flacco will be a hot commodity this offseason, either as a free agent or as a trade candidate. Rapoport names the Jaguars, Redskins, Dolphins, and Raiders as potential landing spots.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens To Start Lamar Jackson On Sunday

Joe Flacco is healthy, but he’s not getting his old job back. On Wednesday, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that Jackson will start for a fifth consecutive game when the Ravens take on the Buccaneers.

Jackson took the reins when Flacco was diagnosed with a slight tear in his hip. Since then, the Ravens have gone 3-1 in Jackson’s starts and nearly made it 4-0 before the Chiefs topped them in overtime on Sunday. The Ravens have been saying all the right things about Flacco so far, but keeping him on the bench when he’s fully healthy could signal the beginning of the end for him in Baltimore.

The Ravens can cut Flacco after the season and save some money against the cap, though they would also have a dead money hit to contend with. Many expect that Baltimore will go that route, assuming Jackson continues to do enough to prove that he is fully ready for the starting gig moving forward. The Ravens may also be able to trade the veteran signal-caller to a QB-needy team.

Jackson, 21, has been a bit inconsistent in his four starts, but they apparently feel that he gives them the best chance to win moving forward. The Ravens currently have a 55% change of reaching the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight, and they’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the playoffs if they win out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Ekeler, Roethlisberger, Jackson, Reed

While Week 14 wasn’t nearly as bad as recent weeks in terms of carnage, there were still some significant injuries to big players today. The Chargers are already dealing with the loss of running back Melvin Gordon to an MCL injury, and may now be without his backfield mate Austin Ekeler for a while. Ekeler aggravated the stingers he’s been dealing with in the team’s win over the Bengals today, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Chargers play in Kansas City this Thursday night in a huge game for playoff seeding, and Schefter writes that “the short week will make it tough” for Ekeler to play.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the second half in the Steelers‘ loss to the Raiders with a rib injury, but is expected to be fine and play next week against the Patriots, Schefter writes in a separate tweet. Joshua Dobbs filled in for Roethlisberger today, and Big Ben’s absence ended up costing the team the game as they scored zero points with Dobbs under center. The Steelers are just 7-6-1 and in danger of falling out of the playoffs with a very tough upcoming schedule, so they’ll need Roethlisberger at full strength.
  • In the same tweet, Schefter notes that X-Rays on Lamar Jackson‘s ankle came back negative and that he’s expected to play next week against the Buccaneers. Jackson missed the final plays of the Ravens’ thrilling overtime loss to the Chiefs today, and Robert Griffin III filled in. If Jackson’s ankle ends up becoming an issue, it would further complicate the murky situation between him and Joe Flacco.
  • The Redskins have had some of the worst injury luck in the league, and got even more bad news today. Tight end Jordan Reed sprained his foot, Schefter notes, and will presumably miss some time. Reed has been plagued by injuries the past few years, but had been able to stay healthy so far this year. He’s dealt with foot injuries in the past, so this could very well wind up ending his season. The Redskins are looking to finish strong with new quarterback Josh Johnson, and this will make things significantly more difficult for the offense.