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Offseason Primer: Ravens Still Looking for Weapons for Lamar Jackson, with Cap Space to Spend

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With their 2020 season ended in the Divisional round by the Buffalo Bills last Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens look ahead attempting to retool, reload and continue the growth and maturation of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Jackson took a step back from his 2019 campaign that made him the youngest MVP in NFL history, passing for 2,757 yards and 26 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He did rush for seven scores and eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground for the second-straight season, becoming the first quarterback in league history to do so.

Entering this offseason, Baltimore’s primary objective should be to acquire Jackson a true No. 1 receiver on the outside. While wide receiver Marquis “Hollywood” Brown caught a career-high eight touchdowns, the Ravens failed to have a pass catcher reach 800 receiving yards. If they do not address the need through the draft, notable options in free agency will likely include, Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown.

Baltimore’s run game was dominant again last season, as they led the league with 3,071 yards. Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins appears to be a budding star, rushing for 805 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns. His emergence factored into the Raven’s decision to cut veteran running back Mark Ingram on Tuesday.

Turning to the defensive side, the Ravens were stout in 2020 under defensive coordinator Don Martindale. The unit ranked second in scoring defense at 18.9 points allowed per game, and had 22 takeaways. Cornerback Marlin Humphrey led the league with eight forced fumbles, while his partner Marcus Peters had four interceptions and four forced fumbles of his own. Lastly, rookie linebacker Patrick Queen had a strong showing as well with 106 total tackles, nine tackles-for-loss, three sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

The Ravens already own the sixth-most cap space in the league, but could create more if they decide to part ways with some of their more expensive veterans, especially on the defensive side. 34-year-old defensive end Calais Campbell and 31-year-old defensive tackle Brandon Williams are both making north of $10 million next season, but such such moves could significantly hinder Baltimore’s front with edge rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue both entering free agency.

Baltimore clearly has plenty of tough decisions to make and different paths they may choose to follow as they look to continue the quest for their franchise’s third Super Bowl.

Notable Free Agents:

OLB Matthew Judon
DE Yannick Ngakoue
WR Willie Sneed
RB Mark Ingram
DE Derek Wolfe
C Matt Skura
QB Robert Griffin III
SS Anthony Levine
WR Chris Moore
OLB Tyus Bowser
OLB Pernell McPhee
LS Morgan Cox
G D.J. Fluker
CB Tramon Williams
WR Dez Bryant
DE Jihad Ward
DT Justin Ellis
SS Jordan Richards
TE Eric Tomlinson
WR DeAndrew White
RB Gus Edwards (Restricted)
P Johnny Townsend (Restricted)
CB Devontae Harris
LB Chris Board (Restricted)

Cap Commitments:

Baltimore has an active cap of $136,542,293 entering the 2021 offseason, according to Spotrac. The Ravens have the sixth-most cap space in the league at $28,604,089.

Steelers Opponents

Bengals Release former Steelers Center B.J. Finney

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The Cincinnati Bengals have released center B.J. Finney, the club announced Friday.

Finney began 2020 with the Seattle Seahawks after signing a two-year, $8 million deal in the offseason, but was traded to Cincinnati on Oct. 28. He saw action in just one game with the Bengals.

Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State by the Steelers in 2015, Finney played four seasons in Pittsburgh as a plug-and-play offensive lineman. He started 13 games over his Steelers career.

The Steelers lost starting center Maurkice Pouney to retirement and starting left guard Matt Feiler is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career.

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NFL

Mic Drop: Hating Tom Brady is Simply Jealousy

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Do you hate Tom Brady? If you answer yes to that question, ask yourself why you hate Tom Brady. Mike Asti explains why it’s time for football fans to just stop hating Tom Brady and realize that their hatred is simply rooted in jealousy for the greatest quarterback of all-time.

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NFL

Le’Veon Bell Doesn’t Regret Sitting Out 2018 Season with Steelers

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Le’Veon Bell doesn’t regret the path he took to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers, he told reporters on Tuesday.

It seems to have worked out pretty well for Bell, who will play in Super Bowl LV this Sunday, the first Super Bowl of his career, in his second season after signing a contract that took him away from Pittsburgh.

Bell sat out the entire 2018 season after refusing to sign the Steelers’ second consecutive franchise tender. Instead, he waiting for free agency and signed a four-year contract with the New York Jets worth a guaranteed $35 million.

A year and a half into that contract, the contract wasn’t working out for either party, as Bell had failed to recapture the individual success he had in Pittsburgh and the Jets were well on their way to a second straight losing season. Bell asked for a trade from New York, and when the Jets couldn’t find a partner, they released Bell.

He caught on in Kansas City, signing a contract for the rest of the 2020 season to help the Chiefs take the load off rookie starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He ended up starting two games for Kansas City and playing in nine, rushing for 254 yards and two scores.

But even during the worst of his run with the Jets, Bell said he never considered sitting out in Pittsburgh to be a mistake.

“No, that never crossed my mind,” Bell said. “Me sitting out, I feel like it helped me on the back end of my career. … It kind of like reset my body. I feel like it’s going to help me for the end of my career and elongate my career.”

Bell expressed some disappointment in not being able to play the Steelers in the postseason. Pittsburgh was unbeaten when Bell signed with the Chiefs, and it looked like the teams were on a collision course in the AFC, but the Steelers lost five of their last six games to close the season.

“We thought we were going to have to see the Steelers at some point, which I was excited about,” Bell said. “Obviously, it didn’t end up happening.”

One member of Bell’s Steelers that he will see this week is wide receiver Antonio Brown, who also manufactured his exit from Pittsburgh, demanding a trade in the 2019-20 offseason that took him from Pittsburgh to Oakland. Brown was then cut by the Raiders, signed with New England, got suspended and was released again before eventually signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“It’s crazy to think as long as we’ve been playing together, we’ve never made it to this point, but playing against each other is going to be fun,” Bell said.

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