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The Baltimore Ravens picked up an athletic and promising tight end, trading with the Jacksonville Jaguars for Josh Oliver. It’s a low-risk deal but could be a massive get for Baltimore, once again pointing to general manager Eric DeCosta being a few steps ahead of everyone else.
On the surface, it might not look like that big of a deal. Oliver has played in just four games through his two years in the league, ending both seasons on injured reserve. The conditional seventh-round pick the Ravens gave up certainly points to Oliver’s value not being all that high. But let’s look at Oliver a little closer to get a clearer picture of the player Baltimore is getting.
A third-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Oliver is very clearly a talented pass-catching tight end. Joe Marino at TheDraftNetwork put together an initial scouting report on Oliver and it reads perfectly for what Baltimore is looking for. In it, Marino notes Oliver has experience running a full route tree, has the hands to win in contested situations, is fast enough to get open, and agile enough to make plays with the ball in his hands. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Oliver checks a lot of boxes and has all the makings of a serious threat in the Ravens’ tight-end-centric offensive scheme.
While there are knocks on Oliver’s ability to block, it’s a skill very few tight ends come into the league doing well. Look at Mark Andrews as a prime example of how a player can enter the NFL being downright bad at blocking but improve with coaching. Even if Oliver didn’t learn a single thing in Jacksonville, the Ravens will almost assuredly get him right in that regard.
The real concern is Oliver’s injury history and the impact it has had on his development. His rookie season ended prematurely after a back injury put him on injured reserve. Then, before the 2020 season even started, Oliver suffered a no-contact foot injury and was placed on injured reserve. However, with Baltimore’s seventh-round pick being conditional on Oliver making the team, the Ravens are at least a little protected on that front. If Oliver gets injured before the season starts, they simply cut him and don’t have to pay anything to the Jaguars for the tryout.
Really, I’m a little confused why Jacksonville traded him for so little. The worst-case scenario is that they were going to cut him before the season began. The best-case scenario is that he’s able to stay healthy and plays up to his third-round status. Given his relatively low cap hit on his rookie contract, it’s not like he was some massive cap burden that had to be dealt with immediately. Then again, the Ravens have often pulled off one-sided trades over the years, so I guess this is nothing new.
With just four games under his belt in the NFL, it’s fair to view Oliver as a rookie developmentally. However, with two more years remaining on his deal, that would give Baltimore enough time to not only get an immediate return on him but potentially coach him up into a starting option, all for very cheap. Think of it this way . . . If the Ravens were able to snag a player who had a third-round value on him in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL draft, fans and analysts would be ecstatic, praising Baltimore up and down.
The Ravens were very clearly the winners of this trade, regardless of how it pans out. But it has the potential to make them massive winners if Oliver can stay healthy and get on the field.