The Baltimore Ravens are in an interesting situation entering the 2019 NFL offseason. Baltimore has a number of free agents that could either be moving on to new homes in 2019 or stay a Raven for the foreseeable future. Not just backups either — leaders and very large impact players.
The offence has now been forced to adapt to the skillset of Lamar Jackson. Jackson is perhaps the most athletic quarterback in the NFL and the switch from Joe Flacco proved to favour a significantly different supporting cast. Baltimore is going to stick to their run-heavy approach in 2019 under new offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Roman during his time as the Buffalo Bills OC had his teams lead the NFL in rushing yards, yards per attempt, and touchdowns in back to back seasons (2015 and 2016).
With a portion of the Ravens core approaching the ends of their careers, there are a lot of huge decisions to make as the start of free agency approaches. This is the 2019 edition of Walk/Keep/Cut where I predict the fates of the Ravens that could remain in Baltimore for another season or be moving onto new ventures in 2019.
Baltimore Ravens 2019 Offense: Walk, Keep or Cut
John Brown (WR) – Verdict: WALK
The speedy wideout bet on himself after a couple of down years as a member of the Arizona Cardinals and showed out in a big way in 2018. Brown showed obvious chemistry with Flacco from the day he arrived with Baltimore but the change to a run-heavy offense hurt Brown’s production. In the nine games Brown played with Flacco, he caught 34 balls for 601 yards and four touchdowns. His production then took a nose dive as he finished the year with a total of 715 yards. Though it wasn’t the full season Brown may have hoped for, he definitely made good on his ‘prove-it’ one-year deal.
Under Flacco, Brown looked like one of the best deep threats throughout the NFL and noticeably stands out amongst the free agent wide receiver class. That kind of stature likely means the Ravens probably won’t be able to hold onto him for another year. Even though he would “love to continue being a Raven,” Brown will probably get offered a lot more from somebody else. It would be nice if Brown could remain in Baltimore but it seems unlikely.
Alex Collins (RB) – Verdict – KEEP
After a breakout season in 2017 saw the former 5th round pick come within 23 yards of a 1000 yard season, Collins battled consistency throughout 2018. Collins came into the year as the Ravens clear-cut starting running back but failed to get much going in any game in 2019. Though he reached the endzone seven times in his 10 games, Collins only amassed 411 yards and a sour 3.61 yards per attempt. His season officially ended when he was shut down before the Ravens week 13 matchup with a lingering foot injury.
Despite the off year for Collins, the Ravens will probably still bring him back going into 2019. His powering and aggressive running style likely sets him up to be more of a change of pace back but its a style the Ravens don’t have outside of himself. Baltimore has recently been linked to potentially signing Mark Ingram in free agency, but Collins provides a similar running style, familiarity, and cheap price tag. Collins will still only be 25 at the beginning of September.
Gus Edwards (RB) – KEEP
It doesn’t get more pure downhill than Edwards. The undrafted rookie exploded onto the Ravens scene besides Jackson to total 654 rushing yards and average 93.4 per game in Baltimore’s last seven contests. There’s also a good chance he enters the 2019 season as the Ravens starting running back after starting each of the Ravens final seven games. In a sense, his 2018 season was exactly how Collins was introduced into the offense in 2017.
Edwards is an exclusive rights free agent in 2019 meaning that the Ravens only have to offer him a one-year contract to keep him around. They’ll probably do just that and make him prove himself in 2019. Until the Ravens acquire a back in free agency or the draft, Kenneth Dixon will be the only other running back likely to challenge Edwards for the starting spot. Dixon averaged 5.5 yards per carry while Edwards averaged 5.24. Neither are really pass-catching backs but Dixon is the better receiver.
Javorius Allen (RB) – Verdict: WALK
Allen had a bumpy 2018 season, to say the least. Coming off a year in which he was the primary change of pace back beside Collins, Allen’s production all but disappeared after Jackson took over. He touched the ball just two times after the Ravens bye week while being scratched twice in Baltimore’s last two regular season games. However, he was still able to find the endzone five times in the Ravens opening nine games and grab 35 balls out of the backfield.
Allen simply fell out of favor with the Ravens offense and there isn’t really any sense in bringing him back. Baltimore may seek to find another passing down back but Allen doesn’t appear to be the answer.
Nick Boyle (TE) – Verdict: KEEP
Boyle was a fifth-round pick of the Ravens in 2015 and is perhaps most infamously known for the two suspensions he has earned as a member of the Ravens. The two suspensions led to Boyle missing 14 games in his first two seasons. This led to him being pushed down on the depth chart, never really established himself as anything more than a blocking tight end in Baltimore. Boyle was named the starting tight end in 2018 but was outplayed by Mark Andrews despite out-snapping every other Raven tight end.
Boyle could be resigned in 2019 on a very minimal deal but Andrews and fellow rookie tight end Hayden Hurst are likely going to see a large increase in playing in their second seasons. The Ravens usually like to carry at least four tight ends on their roster so one of Boyle or Maxx Williams will probably remain on the roster. Hurst still needs time to develop after missing the first four games of 2018 with a foot injury and Boyle is the Ravens best blocking tight end.
Robert Griffin III (QB) – Verdict – KEEP
The signing of Griffin may go down as one of the more underrated signings of the 2018 offseason in Baltimore. Griffin was actively communicating with Jackson throughout the preseason and it seems to have helped Jackson win six out of his first eight starts. Though Griffin only dressed for three regular season games in 2019, he did his job and has been nothing but grateful as a Raven.
However, I do believe that if the Ravens are able to bring Tyrod Taylor back to Baltimore for a reasonable price, they would do it. Taylor played under Roman in Buffalo and could be a similar mentor to Jackson with a higher floor than Griffin. Griffin did exactly what was asked of him in Baltimore and was all class along the way. If the Ravens don’t like the other backup quarterback prospect prices, it makes a lot of sense to bring Griffin back.
Ty Montgomery (RB) – Verdict: WALK
Montgomery came over in a trade with the Green Bay Packers to join a backfield that was already teeming with mid-tier backs. His fit in the Ravens offense was maybe a bit forced but in his six games in Baltimore, he received 25 touches for 148 yards from scrimmage. He was then primarily used as a returner in their playoff game averaging 17.67 yards per return. Montgomery was dealt for a 2020 seventh round pick so the Ravens can’t be too upset with the limited value he provided.
Considering the amount of playing time he received in such a run-heavy offense, it would be surprising if Baltimore brought him back in 2019.
Maxx Williams (TE) – Verdict: WALK
Williams never quite fit in with Baltimore since he was drafted. The Minnesota alumnus was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft but never lived up to the quality the Ravens demanded of him. Maybe not a fault of his own, but Williams was supposed to be the successor to Dennis Pitta. He caught a career-high 32 balls in his rookie year but never further developed as a pass-catching tight end. He only secured 31 grabs in his next three seasons.
Williams has since developed into more of a blocking tight end. In 2018 he found himself surpassed on the depth chart by both rookie tight ends as well as Boyle. The Ravens could resign Williams on a cheap one-year deal but I think a change of scenery is probably what Williams needs.
Michael Crabtree (WR) – KEEP
In a similar situation to Brown, Crabtree’s production took a tumble after the midseason quarterback switch. He wasn’t playing great before the change and had some huge hickups but was still a solid possession receiver. In his nine games with Flacco under center, Crabtree registered 472 receiving yards, 41 catches, and two scores. His biggest undoing was his drops. Crabtree tied for fifth-most in the NFL in an offense that heavily prioritized the run for half of the season. Not a great look when you’re known for your strong hands. Crabtree started every game during the 2018 season.
What makes Crabtree expendable is his cap hit going up from $3,333,333 in 2018 to $9,333,333. That cap hit would make him the 24th highest paid receiver in the league during the 2019 year. He would also only cost $4,666,668 in dead cap while clearing up roughly the exact same amount.
If Crabtree is to be cut it might wait until after the initial wave of free agency and perhaps after the draft. The Ravens were still hungry for a receiver going into the 2018 draft and are probably looking for receivers in 2019 with skill sets similar to Crabtree. Cutting Crabtree would also leave second-year Raven and 26-year-old Willie Snead as the oldest receiver. It wouldn’t be surprising if Crabtree is cut but the more likely scenario is that he stays for another year.
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