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The Ravens didn’t sign Michael Brockers — now what?

The Ravens didn’t sign Michael Brockers — now what?

Earlier this week, the Ravens touted their defensive line as the most improved position group through the first wave of free agency. They even felt comfortable enough to trade rotational piece Chris Wormley to the Steelers. 

Now, the defensive line has more questions than answers. 

The team confirmed early Friday morning, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic originally reported, they were unable to come to a deal with defensive lineman Michael Brockers over concerns because of a physical. More specifically, there were concerns over the status of Brockers’ left ankle.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ravens team doctors were unable to examine Brockers themselves and instead had to rely on the work of independent doctors. 

During a conference call with reporters Thursday, new acquisition Calais Campbell said he had to go to the Mayo Clinic to receive his physical. He called the process tricky. 

Brockers quickly signed a very similar deal to the one he signed with Baltimore to stay in Los Angeles with the Rams just hours after the Ravens deal fell through. His new deal is a three-year deal worth $31.5 million. 

So now, the Ravens are left with the difficult reality that a handful of potential targets are no longer viable options due to the first wave of defensive linemen having signed elsewhere. They also shipped off Wormley and a 2021 seventh-round pick for a 2021 fifth-round pick, further depleting the defensive line. 

Michael Pierce, a talented run-stopping defender, left during free agency to sign with the Vikings, too. 

Baltimore now has Campbell, Brandon Williams, Justin Ellis, Jihad Ward and Daylon Mack on the depth chart at defensive line. Not only do the Ravens need more depth at the position, they also need another starter. 

While the Ravens have the 28th pick in the draft, including seven picks in the first four rounds, the front seven’s needs now have been thrust into the spotlight. Before, an argument could’ve been made that the Ravens should devote resources elsewhere: inside linebacker, interior offensive line, wide receiver, or perhaps an edge rusher. 

Now, the defensive line, and front seven as a whole, is once again the team’s biggest need. While it’s not necessary to address in the first round specifically, the Ravens are now almost guaranteed to make a handful of picks in the front seven for next month’s draft. 

The Ravens could dip their toes into the free agent market once again with their newfound cap space and make a run at a few veterans still left on the market. They could also go after an edge player, or an inside linebacker instead, to help cover up an additional need before the draft. 

The Ravens had a plan entering free agency, and quite simply, it went as well as they expected. 

Now, though, the Ravens are left with a questionable physical and a handful of questions to answer about the future of the defensive line.

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Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin heading to Florida to work out with Lamar

Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin heading to Florida to work out with Lamar

The importance of Miles Boykin’s second season as a Raven cannot be overstated. 

After a strong offseason last year, one that included a standout training camp, Boykin went under the radar in his 2019 campaign. He posted just 13 catches for 198 yards in 16 games and caught three touchdown passes. He was targeted only 22 times all season. 

He was the team’s eighth leading receiver, in terms of catches and yards, and was fourth in targets at the receiver position.

Now, with two more rookies in the wide receiver room, the urgency Boykin is facing is palpable. 

“I just feel like I’m getting better as an all-around player,” Boykin said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “I’m capable of a lot more, I’ll be able to play faster this year and have more chemistry with Lamar and just be able to go out there and play the game the way I want to play.”

He’ll travel to Florida next week to throw with Lamar Jackson, wide receiver Marquise Brown and a host of other Ravens, in place of offseason workouts that have been canceled. In the meantime, he’s trained with fellow second-year player in quarterback Trace McSorley, who is closer to home for Boykin -- meaning workouts are less of an ordeal to make happen. 

Chemistry for Boykin will be important, as the Ravens shipped tight end Hayden Hurst to the Falcons in the offseason and have said they could look to become more of a passing team in the future. 

But the Ravens also drafted wideouts Devin Duvernay and James Proche in April’s draft, which muddies the water as to where the increased targets can come from. 

That’s where Boykin thinks he can step in with his experience in the wide receiver group.

“When you’re younger, you worry about, ‘What do I have to do?’” Boykin said. “When you’re older, you know, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Like, 'this makes sense.' Everything starts to roll off of it. Now I’m worried about how to do things right, I’m not worried about what I need to do right. That’s part of film study that you don’t have time for during the season.”

Boykin added he won’t be shy about helping those rookie wide receivers, though, as now he’ll be one of the veterans in the room just a year removed from his rooke season.

“I would say film is going to be huge, especially during July,” Boykin said. “Even though I wasn’t participating in OTAs, I was still involved in meetings, I was doing everything else. I just couldn’t practice because I was injured. Even then, for rookies, it gets hard and stressful because you’re trying to pick up a whole new playbook. In July, you have a chance to relax a little bit, and I don’t think it’s going to be like that this year, especially for rookies.”

Despite everything, from Boykin’s confidence to knowledge of the offense, the threat of coronavirus has dampened expectations for everyone across the league in terms of what can be expected. 

That’s not Boykin’s concern, however. Whenever the 2020 season comes, if it does, he knows he’ll be ready. 

“At the end of the day, I’m still playing football -- if we have a season, obviously,” Boykin said. “It doesn’t matter where I’m playing it, who I’m playing it against, football is football. There’s going to be 11 people on each side of the ball and I just have to go out there and do my job. It doesn’t affect me as much.”

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Ravens among Super Bowl favorites in 2020, according to one advanced metric

Ravens among Super Bowl favorites in 2020, according to one advanced metric

The Baltimore Ravens were one of the best teams in football in 2019, and one advanced metric has them on the same course for 2020.

On Tuesday, Seth Walder of ESPN released projections for all 32 NFL teams based on ESPN's Football Power Index. The model takes into account the team's results from last season, changes to the roster and coaching staff in the offseason, Las Vegas win totals, quarterbacks and more. For accuracy, the simulation was run 20,000 times.

The model's projection for the Ravens was about as good as it comes. ESPN has the Ravens obtaining the second-highest win total in the NFL at 11.0. That ranks just behind the defending Super Bowl Champion Kanas City Chiefs who were simulated to have 11.2 wins.

More importantly, ESPN's FPI also likes Baltimore's chances to make the playoff and succeed in them. Though the Chiefs hold the highest percentage to make the playoffs (94%) and the largest chance to win the Super Bowl (21%), the Ravens are right behind in each category with a 92% chance to make the playoffs and 17% chance to hold the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.

Part of the reason the model is so high on the Ravens stems from their potent offense. Last year Baltimore and Lamar Jackson scored points at a ferocious pace and that shouldn't change in 2020. Even as defenses begin to adjust to Jackson's running ability, his growth as a passer will make him just as, if not even more, dangerous. Pair that with the return of Mark Andrews, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Mark Ingram as well as the additions of J.K. Dobbins and speedy receivers in the draft and Baltimore's offense shows no signs of slowing down.

Additionally, FPI takes into account the Ravens defense, and the unit's ability to reload and work toward getting more physical by adding Calais Campbell and Patrick Queen bode well for the upcoming season.

Numbers, expectations and odds don't dictate everything, and the Ravens know that after the divisional round disaster against the Titans last season. However, the metric's projections don't seem too far off from what the Ravens can do in 2020.

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