by Ryan Mink & Clifton Brown
Mink: I answered this question last week too, but circumstances have changed after the Arizona Cardinals released the five-time Pro Bowl receiver. Would Hopkins boost the Ravens' already significantly upgraded wide receiver corps and offense? Of course. The questions are: by how much and what would it cost?
The Ravens reportedly have around $12 million in salary-cap space currently, and that's without first-round pick Zay Flowers signed yet. Baltimore could also still be in the market for a veteran outside linebacker, cornerback, or safety. The Ravens may feel like any or all of those might be bigger needs (which can be addressed at a lower cost) at this point than another star wide receiver. Plus, General Manager Eric DeCosta always wants to go into the season with a salary-cap buffer in case he needs to make midseason additions or a trade deadline deal.
With that said, the Ravens have reportedly done their homework on Hopkins and I expect they'll keep tabs on him throughout his free-agent process. If the price is right, and/or plans at other positions don't work out, I think they could make a move. Adding Hopkins, who said he'd like to play with Lamar Jackson, would suddenly give Jackson one of the top collections of wide receivers in the league. That's nothing to dismiss.
Brown: This is a critical season for Duvernay heading into the final year of his rookie deal. We know he's a Pro Bowl returner, but how involved Duvernay is offensively will depend on how much he improves and on the health of other players.
I see Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, and Zay Flowers as Lamar Jackson's top three wideout targets when healthy. However, the arrival of new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken gives every receiver a chance to make a fresh start in a scheme that should be wide receiver friendly. Meanwhile, any injuries to others in the position group could open the door for Duvernay to find more targets.
It's a good sign that Duvernay is running and participating in OTAs, even though he's not 100%. That bodes well for the chances of him being at full strength by training camp, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said Duvernay's recovery was "right on schedule."
This is the deepest wide receiver room that Duvernay has ever been a part of, and the competition for snaps will be intense with newcomer Nelson Agholor also vying for a consistent role. Duvernay has top-tier speed, consistent hands, and run-after-catch ability and was having his best season (37 catches, 407 yards, three touchdowns) in 14 games before his injury. The key for Duvernay is to prove that he's still an ascending player - better than he was last year. If he does that, I think Monken will find snaps for Duvernay and give him opportunities to make plays.
Mink: I'm intrigued to see how the Ravens shuffle their defensive line after the departure of Calais Campbell. There's nobody quite like him, so it's literally big shoes to fill. The return of Michael Pierce, who I believe you're referring to, is huge. If healthy, Pierce can live up to his "Juggernaut" nickname as a fearsome run stopper who can also surprise you with some pass rush ability. He looked very good last season before his bicep injury.
Broderick Washington has a strong campaign last year and I expect he'll see more snaps again this season. Justin Madubuike is another fourth-year lineman on the cusp of breaking out. And don't sleep on second-year big man Travis Jones. All three of those players will get increased snaps. Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald also said he could reduce an outside linebacker to put his hand in the dirt on occasion. The Ravens will be flexible with their alignments and player rotation.
Brown: Flowers is a talented player with intriguing potential and a unique family story. I think he has 1,000-yard seasons in his future and that he'll have a long NFL career. And yes, I think Flowers could make the Pro Bowl at some point - something that no receiver drafted by the Ravens has ever done.
However, if Flowers makes the Pro Bowl, I don't think it will happen until he's on his second contract and has learned all the nuances of what it takes to be a top NFL receiver. The key for Flowers is to play bigger than his size in the NFL, like he did at Boston College. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Flowers is strong and compact with excellent leaping ability. Flowers became a star in college because he wasn't just a speed receiver. He broke tackles and outleaped taller defenders to make contested catches. Flowers doesn't look to go down after making a catch. He looks for more yards, and he doesn't shy away from making catches in traffic.
Those traits make the Ravens believe Flowers can be effective lining up anywhere, not just primarily in the slot. If that's true, and if he eventually becomes a No. 1 target, then Flowers can become a Pro Bowler. For now, Flowers should focus on learning Monken's offense like the back of his hand, minimizing his drops, and becoming a target that Jackson can depend on every Sunday. Mark Andrews did that as a rookie and continued improving to become a Pro Bowl tight end. That would be a good career path for Flowers to follow.