When NFL schedules come out in April, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will be looking to see if his team plays the Cleveland Browns within the first month of the season.
The assumption here is that newly signed Cleveland running back Kareem Hunt will most likely be suspended for at least the first four games of the season for a physical altercation with a woman last February in a Cleveland hotel.
But on Monday when it was announced the Browns had signed the former Kansas City Chiefs running back to a one-year contract, Cleveland became a contender. On paper alone, their offense is better than the Ravens’ because they have top talent at the quarterback position in Baker Mayfield, a good receiver in Jarvis Landry and two quality running backs in Nick Chubb and Hunt.
Hunt is a game changer as a running back and receiver. As a rookie in 2017, he rushed for 1,327 yards and had 455 receiving yards. Last year, he had 824 yards rushing and 378 receiving in 11 games before the Chiefs released him because of the altercation in Cleveland.
The NFL reportedly is investigating two other alleged incidents that happened after he was released by the Chiefs, but Hunt has sought treatment and counseling. The Browns conducted their own investigation and apparently feel comfortable signing Hunt even though the league still hasn’t made a decision on any suspensions.
I’m all for giving people second, even third chances in some situations and hope things turn out well for the 23-year-old Hunt.
As for the Browns, they are no longer the Clowns. They have a bunch of picks in the first five rounds in the NFL draft and could have one of the league’s top weapons in Hunt. Covering running backs out of the backfield has been a major problem for the Ravens in recent years.
That’s one of the reasons Harbaugh will be looking at that early season schedule.
Will Brown or Bell end up in purple?
There has been a lot of speculation about the Ravens possibly acquiring Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown or signing Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.
One, or both, would be great additions here but neither fits into Harbaugh’s team-first philosophy. Both are outspoken, which Harbaugh doesn’t care for, and both basically quit on the Steelers last season.
Despite bringing in Michael Crabtree for the start of 2018, the Ravens still don’t have a legitimate No. 1 receiver so Brown would be a perfect fit. Bell is arguably the best running back in the NFL and a great weapon out of the backfield.
But the Ravens want downhill runners; backs that make one cut and go. That’s not Bell’s style. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta has talked about being financially responsible with the salary cap and both of these players would be out of his range. Also, the unforgivable sin in the NFL is for a player to quit on his team. A player can have a bad game or season. They can use performance-enhancing drugs or get arrested, but there is little tolerance for quitting.
Ravens players might be willing to play with Bell or Brown, but the front office will have some doubts.
Who will draft Murray?
It will be interesting to see where Heisman Trophy winner and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray goes in the draft.
Murray passed for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns last season. He ran for another 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns, but Murray is only 5-10 and 195 pounds.
In the past, NFL coaches wanted quarterbacks to be at least 6-3 but maybe that’s different now with the emphasis on more athleticism from the position as teams include more run-pass option plays in their offense.
Murray was the ninth overall pick in last June’s baseball amateur draft by the Oakland Athletics as an outfielder. He could conceivably play both sports, but quarterback is the hardest position to play of almost any sport.
Ravens need to look at young safeties
There is uncertainty about veteran safety Eric Weddle returning next season. Weddle, 34, had a solid but unspectacular season in 2018 and is expected to make $6.5 million in 2019.
Harbaugh has talked about bringing Weddle back for another year, but the Ravens need to take a good look at youngsters like Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott. Clark, a sixth-round pick in 2017, played well for the Ravens this season when he got on the field and Elliott showed promise in training camp and in preseason games before he fractured his forearm and was put on injured reserve.
Elliott, 6-2 and 218 pounds, was a sixth-round pick in last April’s draft.
Questions for Bisciotti
It’s been a week now and I still I haven’t heard a word from the Ravens or owner Steve Bisciotti about his end of the year, state of the Ravens news conference.
I assume when the Ravens weren’t making the playoffs Bisciotti felt compelled to show fans his concern. Now that the Ravens were eliminated in the wild card playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers in January, the owner has stepped back instead of stepping up again.
Here’s the big question that everyone wants Bisciotti to answer: Were you involved in the decision to keep veteran quarterback Joe Flacco on the bench for rookie Lamar Jackson, and how much did that impact on Harbaugh’s decision not to play Flacco in the final game against the Chargers?
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