It could be the dawn of a new era in Baltimore. As expected, 2018 first-round pick Lamar Jackson will get his first start under center for the Ravens today in place of an ailing Joe Flacco, as Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes. However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that Flacco is not expected to need surgery on his hip, so while his status for next week’s contest against the Raiders is up in the air, he could be ready for the stretch run. But if Jackson performs well and can keep the Ravens’ playoff hopes alive, head coach John Harbaugh — who is facing the end of his tenure in Baltimore — will have a very difficult decision to make. Jackson has reportedly shown considerable improvement in practice this week, and anticipation for his debut is running high.
Now for more from the AFC North:
- It’s not just Flacco and Harbaugh who could be seeing their Ravens careers draw to a close. As Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes, today’s game feels like a last stand of sorts for a number of players. If Baltimore loses, it will be all but eliminated from playoff contention, and as the team transitions to a new GM and possibly a new head coach, veterans like Flacco, Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Michael Crabtree could all be on their way out.
- Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Bengals WR A.J. Green, who is inactive today, did at least travel with the team and worked out this morning. That suggests he could be ready to return next week.
- We learned earlier this week that new Bengals assistant Hue Jackson won’t have a role in the team’s offense, but the defense is a different story. Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network report that Jackson is spending all of his time on the defensive side of the ball, and Garafolo suggests that Jackson could become Cincinnati’s defensive play-caller in a few weeks (Twitter links). Right now, head coach Marvin Lewis is still making the defensive calls, but Jackson has been present for the defensive meetings and is bringing a spark and excitement to that unit.
- Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says the Steelers made an eleventh hour push to get Le’Veon Bell to rejoin the team before last Tuesday’s deadline. They reportedly outlined the significant role they had in mind for him for the remainder of the season, and they made it clear that they wanted him back. They also made him aware that they intend to use the transition tag on him this offseason, but Bell simply had no interest in playing in 2018.
- In a separate piece, La Canfora examines the free agent market for Bell. Many GMs and cap experts believe Bell overplayed his hand, as does former NFL agent Joel Corry (Twitter link). But as Corry points out, it only takes one team to give Bell the money he wants and to make him and his agent look quite savvy, and Rapoport indicates that the market for Bell’s services could be more vibrant than many expect (video link). Rapoport says Bell is looking for a front-loaded five-year, $85MM pact, and he suggests that may not be a huge stretch given the number of cash-flush teams that could be in play for him.
- We learned earlier today that the Browns are interested in interviewing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for their head coaching job at the end of the season, though GM John Dorsey has released a statement quelling that rumor.