With the NFL trade deadline less than two weeks away, it’s hard to know who might be a seller. Half of the league’s division leaders have just three wins over the season’s first six weeks. Only three teams have at least five wins. Only three teams have fewer than two wins. The margin between contending and middling is razor-thin.
Two more weeks of games separate the NFL’s general managers from the league’s Nov. 1 deadline, and by then, Eric DeCosta will know who’s up for grabs. But as the Ravens (3-3) prepare for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns (2-4), their interest in the trade market is tough to forecast. The Ravens have a hole at wide receiver but a front office keen on preserving its draft capital. The defense has a significant list of injuries but enough returning talent to patch things up.
DeCosta figures to be proactive. From 2018 to 2020, he acquired running back Ty Montgomery, cornerback Marcus Peters and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue at the deadline. Could another trade happen this year? Here are three potential deals that Baltimore Sun reporters Childs Walker and Jonas Shaffer and editor C.J. Doon could see coming together.
Ravens trade seventh-round pick for Jets WR Denzel Mims
Walker: You could argue that the last thing the Ravens need is another cast-off wide receiver, which is what Mims, a 2020 second-round pick out of Baylor, has become for the Jets. He has not played a single snap in his third season after his production declined from Year 1 to Year 2. If the Ravens were going to trade a late-round pick for a pass catcher, Robbie Anderson would have been a far more productive option, and we know they did not pull the trigger on him before the Carolina Panthers sent him to the Arizona Cardinals.
So what are we talking about here, especially after the Ravens took a practice squad flier on DeSean Jackson, a greater deep threat at age 34 than Mims was at age 24? This pitch is more about the Ravens’ need for live bodies at wide receiver and their shopping tendencies at the position than it is about Mims.
We have seen Lamar Jackson’s passing production plummet with No. 1 wide receiver Rashod Bateman sidelined by a foot sprain, and we have watched Bateman deal with enough injuries over the past two years to know he’s not a safe bet to play every week. Devin Duvernay has stepped up admirably this season, but Demarcus Robinson, another retread, has not produced much, and James Proche II seems permanently trapped outside the team’s game-day plans. We have no idea what, if anything, Jackson has left to offer.
So the Ravens need help, no matter how much their offense eschews one of the most glamorous positions in the sport. Former Maryland star DJ Moore is the name on optimistic fans’ lips because of the perception that Carolina might be selling off all its attractive offensive pieces. But when have we seen the Ravens sacrifice a Day 1 or Day 2 pick — the likely price for Moore, if he’s available at all — for a wide receiver? When have we seen them spend tens of millions of dollars at the position, as they would have to do to keep Moore over the remaining three years of his contract? Right player, unrealistic fit.
Which brings us back to Mims, a less enticing prospect. He is a 6-foot-3, 207-pound wide receiver who ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. Even then, he was known as a low-floor, high-ceiling prospect whose lack of craft and intensity undercut his physical gifts. Jets coaches raved about his improvement before this season, but actions speak louder, and they have not chosen to play him. Would he likely change much for the Ravens’ offense if they traded for him? No. But this is the Ravens’ reality — spending little on long shots with a bit of juice — at a position that has always deviled them.
Ravens trade sixth-round pick for Falcons OLB Lorenzo Carter
Shaffer: The Ravens don’t need an outside linebacker as much as they did, say, three weeks ago, when Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo weren’t cleared to practice, Justin Houston had just sprained his groin, and Odafe Oweh was the only healthy option on the 53-man roster.
The position’s depth was poor then. Now, it’s promising. Jason Pierre-Paul’s signing gave the Ravens a plug-and-play starter opposite Oweh, who’s no longer needed as an every-down presence. Malik Harrison has helped out as an edge-setting linebacker. Bowser, who led the team in sacks last year and has impressed coaches with his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, could make his season debut Sunday. Ojabo’s return is just around the corner. Houston’s nearing full health, too.
But if coordinator Mike Macdonald’s preference is to drop seven into coverage on obvious passing downs, he needs an impactful pass rush. How much faith can DeCosta put in a group of outside linebackers likely prone to further injury? This is a long season, and player availability from week to week is a crapshoot. Having only three true outside linebackers available for a must-win game, for instance, might not be enough. The Ravens’ pressure rate entering Week 7 is just 18.4%, tied for 26th in the NFL, according to Pro Football Reference.
Carter would be a nice insurance policy — if Atlanta’s willing to part with him. In six starts for the NFC South-leading Falcons (3-3), Carter has two sacks, six quarterback hurries and 11 total pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus. The former third-round pick has also graded out as a solid run defender over his five-year NFL career.
Carter’s deal makes him expendable and affordable. His Falcons contract expires after this season, and with a base salary worth just $1.5 million, the Ravens wouldn’t need any salary cap gymnastics to make the finances work. A late-round pick isn’t much, either, when you’re buying insurance at a crucial position.
Ravens trade first- and fourth-round picks for Panthers WR DJ Moore
Doon: With all due respect to my dear colleagues, the Ravens should be looking for an established star, someone who can come in and make an immediate impact. The former Terps standout fits the bill.
Before an understandable dip in production this year thanks to the Panthers’ abysmal quarterback situation, Moore had been incredibly reliable. The 2018 first-round pick is the only NFL wide receiver with at least 1,200 scrimmage yards in each of the past three seasons, and he caught 12 touchdown passes in that span.
This wouldn’t be a one-year rental, either. The 25-year-old signed a three-year, $61.9 million extension this offseason, an average annual value of $20.6 million that ranks 10th in the league at the position. With most top receivers commanding north of $25 million annually, it’s a relative bargain to have Moore under those terms as the salary cap rises.
Not only is the 5-11, 215-pound Moore a talented receiver, but also a capable and willing run blocker, an essential skill for the Ravens’ offense. Despite being held to three catches for 7 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Moore earned praise from interim coach Steve Wilks for his selfless performance.
“[He] didn’t get the touches that he probably wanted yesterday, but if you really study and watch the tape, his blocking was phenomenal — outstanding,” Wilks said. “That’s tough for a receiver to buy in and do because he really wants the ball.”
With Moore joining Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews, the Ravens would finally have enough weapons for Jackson to keep up with the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills and make a deep postseason run. The Panthers’ asking price might be too steep for the “right player, right price” Ravens, but considering Jackson’s ongoing contract negotiations, it might be prudent to make a deeper investment at wide receiver.