While the talk of the town has been about whether Baltimore will extend Lamar Jackson this offseason, and deservingly so, two other Ravens players with one year left on their rookie deals might be getting extensions as well.
Former Oklahoma teammates Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown Jr. are coming off productive seasons, cementing themselves as integral parts of the Ravens offense. During his press conference on Monday, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta praised the franchise's track record of retaining players they drafted, he also cautioned these deals won't happen overnight.
For example, before offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley got his big deal prior to suffering a season-ending injury in Week 8, DeCosta said an ongoing back-and-forth with Stanley's agent had taken place for almost a year. The same for cornerback Marlon Humphrey's big extension.
"We want to keep our good, young players. That’s something that as I thought about myself and being a GM, I really wanted us to try and do," DeCosta said. "We have these players. We draft them. We like them. We know them. They really fit us, and we want our fans to be able to reap the enjoyment of these players over time if we can, again, based on the parameters of the salary cap. So, we will continue to engage in talks with all of our good, young players, and try and sign as many guys as we can."
While securing Jackson's long-term future is DeCosta's clear priority (along with figuring out the coronavirus' impact on the salary cap), solidifying his QB's surrounding cast is also important. Enter Andrews and Brown, a pair of third-round picks in the 2018 draft who together are key cogs in making sure Jackson stays upright.
For Brown, switching from right to left tackle after Stanley went down was a challenge he met head-on, culminating in his second straight Pro Bowl. That versatility could end up boosting Brown's bargaining power, but DeCosta could be more focused on securing an interior lineman who's adept at pass protection.
“I think one of the things we have to do is get better up front with pass protection," DeCosta said. "Losing Ronnie Stanley was definitely a tough deal for the offensive line to handle. Orlando (Brown Jr.) did a great job, and I think the offensive line, in general, really battled versus some adversity this year. But pass protection is going to be a factor."
The Bills got constant pressure in the AFC Divisional Round, sacking Jackson three times and delivering a hit that caused a concussion while Jackson attempted to avoid a sack following a bad snap. Plays like those, which effectively ended Baltimore's season, are what DeCosta wants to avoid, either via free agency or the draft.
Reaching a long-term agreement with Andrews might well come before Brown. Andrews is one of Jackson's favorite targets, having caught 20 touchdowns over his first three seasons.
"We want to have the best offensive line we can, and Orlando [Brown Jr.] had a great year this year," DeCosta said. "We are a tight end-centric offense, and Mark Andrews, in my opinion, is one of the better tight ends in the entire NFL. He’s a Pro Bowl tight end, in my opinion. So, we would be foolish to not want to try and keep him. Those discussions will start up at some point. Hopefully, we can make progress and get some deals done.”