AFC North Update

AFC North Update
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Crabtree Culled

The Baltimore Ravens have released wide receiver Michael Crabtree. One of the Ravens big name signings from last year was released on Tuesday after just one season. Presumably there are a number of factors at work here:

Cost – Crabtree was one of several additions to Baltimore’s receiving corp last year and didn’t come cheap, signing on a three-year, $21 million deal in March 2018. His base salary would have been $5 million in 2019. By cutting him now the Ravens save $4.6 million according to Michael Ginnitti of Spotrac, but they will retain a cap hit of nearly $4.7 million.

Reduced output – Put bluntly Crabtree was one of a collection of number two recievers who didn’t produce. Despite starting 16 games he had only 54 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns. That’s 11 yards less than his total in an injury shortened 2017 and a massive 5 touchdowns less!

Scheme fit – The Ravens offence next season will look considerably different to the one that started 2018. The team is all in on dynamic playmaker Lamar Jackson having traded away their Super Bowl winning quarterback, Joe Flacco. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman will engineer a scheme around Jackson to take advantage of his skills, including his ability to create plays with his legs. Crabtree has never excelled at blocking down field and this may have impacted the decision.

There, however, mitigating circumstances. Jackson never developed confidence in Crabtree and very often made short throw to backs and tight ends. In fact, the Louisville product only passed for over 200 yards once in his rookie season. The Ravens switched to a smash-mouth, run first offence once Jackson became the starter and all the receivers numbers suffered

For the Ravens it could mean two of their 2018 receiver additions will be one year rentals. John Brown, who also under produced is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. For the team that signs Crabtree, who will look for his fourth team since entering the league, it may mean a bargain due to his lower production in 2018.

Browns Resign Robinson

Cleveland are re-signing offensive tackle Greg Robinson, in large thanks to his play in the second half of the season. It’s a move that makes sense, even if the team adds a young tackle early in the draft. Robinson himself is still only 26-years-old.

The Browns offensive line in general was much improved under Freddie Kitchens. Robinson played well but must cut down on his penalties (he was flagged for 10 holding penalties from Week 10 through the end of the season) but the team and Browns GM John Dorsey are pleased with his progress.

Robinson also has one supporter who knows a bit about playing left tackle in Cleveland. Perennial All Pro and future Hall of Fame tackle Joe Thomas, who played his whole career for the Browns, commented “Greg did such a great job and he understood how Baker Mayfield played, how he needed his left tackle to play,’’ “And Greg was a like a sponge, the whole year learning from (former Browns offensive line coach) Bob Wylie, learning from those other guys in the room.” “He did an amazing job and I can’t wait to see what he looks like next year with a full offseason of preparation.’’

I really like this move. Robinson is former No. 2 overall pick for a reason. When the Rams drafted him in 2014 he didn’t put it all together (nothing to do with Jeff Fisher’s coaching I’m sure) but he has the physical traits (6-5, 330lbs) that you’d look for and deserves a chance to show his performance wasn’t flash in the pan and build on 2018. The move is also likely low cost for the Browns EDIT It wasn’t!

Enjoy this article? Feel free to leave a comment or follow more of my writing on Twitter @Cumbleton. I write about the AFC North for Ninety Nine Yards, covering the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers and also cover the AAF.

Photos from Associated Press

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