As the Ravens figure out their future with quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Kansas City Chiefs are happy to have Patrick Mahomes in theirs. The two-time NFL Most Valuable Player won his second Super Bowl MVP on Sunday, leading Kansas City back from a double-digit halftime deficit in a 38-35 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the 2022 season wrapped up, here are four Ravens-related takeaways from Super Bowl LVII.
Breaking the financial mold
The best recipe for NFL success isn’t complex: Find an elite quarterback. The trouble comes when you have to pay him like an elite quarterback.
Entering Sunday, no quarterback had won a Super Bowl with a salary cap hit higher than Steve Young’s in 1994 (13.1%), the league’s first year with the cap. Over the past decade, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks had been a mix of up-and-comers on rookie contracts (Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Mahomes), established stars on team-friendly deals (Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford) and caretakers with just enough help (Nick Foles, Peyton Manning).
Mahomes’ second Super Bowl title, however, breaks the mold. His $35.8 million cap hit accounted for 17.2% of the Chiefs’ space in 2022, according to contract database Spotrac. Kansas City’s championship is as much a testament to Mahomes’ greatness as it is to its team-building approach.
“There’s a pressure of not wanting to let him [Mahomes] down, or fail him,” general manager Brett Veach told Sports Illustrated ahead of the Super Bowl. “He can play any type of football, so you feel like you have a little bit more of a window to work with, in regards to what you can bring in here. But at the same time, the expectations are so high, there’s the pressure of you can’t miss anything and you gotta do whatever you can.”
If the Ravens and Jackson, a pending free agent, can work out a long-term deal this offseason, his cap hit would likely exceed 13.1% in most, if not all, of the years he’s under contract. If Jackson signs an exclusive franchise tag tender for the 2023 season, however, his projected $45 million cap hit would represent a daunting 20% of the Ravens’ available spending, nearly double his 2022 figure (11.2%).
A celebrated send-off?
When Chiefs coach Andy Reid was interviewed after Sunday’s win, one of the first people he credited was his offensive coordinator.
“I’ll give the credit to the big O-line and Pat Mahomes and all those guys around him,” Reid said when asked about the Chiefs’ second half, which featured three touchdowns and a go-ahead, last-minute field goal. “Eric Bieniemy was phenomenal also.”
Chiefs players explained afterward that Bieniemy had found a weakness in the Eagles’ defense; Philadelphia was so eager to defend against possible jet sweeps that it was vulnerable to fakes off that horizontal presnap motion. Two of Kansas City’s second-half touchdowns came on coverages busted by that misdirection.
Bieniemy, the Chiefs’ coordinator since 2018, has been passed over for numerous head coaching opportunities in recent years. He’s not expected to get a top job this offseason, either. But with his one-year contract in Kansas City set to expire, the Ravens were among those reportedly interested in hiring him as a coordinator. They announced Todd Monken, who helped Georgia win two national championships in the last three years, on Tuesday.
The Washington Commanders are reportedly still interested in Bieniemy, so he could soon be headed for a job with more autonomy in play-calling. After overseeing yet another blistering Chiefs offense, he shouldn’t have too much trouble with his sales pitch.
“Eric Bieniemy has been tremendous for us and I think tremendous for the National Football League,” Reid, who has shared play-calling duties with Bieniemy, told reporters Monday. “I’m hoping he has an opportunity to go somewhere and do his thing where he can run the show and be Eric Bieniemy.”
A new direction for motion?
Presnap motion was a hallmark of Greg Roman’s offenses in Baltimore, used over and over to unsettle defenses and leverage the Ravens’ personnel advantages. In Roman’s four years as play-caller, the team regularly ranked among the NFL’s leaders in the rate of motion before the snap and at the snap.
But the ways Roman used motion were different from the ways the Chiefs use motion. When the Ravens moved a player around, it was typically to set up a run play or a play-action pass — fullback Patrick Ricard rounding the corner to take on an edge-setting linebacker, for example, or tight end Nick Boyle relocating to the backfield before arcing out wide on a read option.
In the Ravens’ passing game, though, the presnap picture could be largely static. According to Sports Info Solutions, only two players over the past four seasons were targeted on at least 10 routes that featured some motion: wide receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Devin Duvernay, both in 2021. Brown had 13 catches on 15 targets for 77 yards, while Duvernay had 12 catches on 12 targets for 59 yards. They were largely quick hitters, too: Brown’s average depth of target was 1.4 yards downfield, while Duvernay’s was minus-1.9 yards.
In the Chiefs’ offense, a more pass-happy but less motion-inclined attack, it’s harder to get a read on where Mahomes’ top targets might line up. Twelve Kansas City players over the past four years were targeted at least 10 times in a season when in motion, according to SIS. Just this past season, tight end Travis Kelce had 34 catches on 46 targets for 418 yards — and nine of those targets came on passes at least 10 yards downfield. On Sunday, all three of Mahomes’ touchdowns went to receivers who’d gone in motion.
Every team uses motion differently; the Eagles largely ignored it in 2022 and still had one of the NFL’s most efficient passing attacks when Jalen Hurts was healthy. But the Ravens’ change at coordinator gives them a chance to change their approach.
You need more than two years to decide who got the better of a trade. Even with the benefit of complete hindsight, it can be difficult to determine a winner and a loser.
But 22 months after the Ravens traded Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown, a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 sixth-round pick to the Chiefs for their 2021 first-round pick (No. 31 overall), 2021 third-round pick, 2021 fourth-round pick and 2022 fifth-round pick, the early advantage is clear: Kansas City.
In Brown, the Chiefs got a solid, durable left tackle who, despite falling short of the elite form he showed toward the end of his time in Baltimore, helped protect Mahomes’ blind side from Philadelphia’s NFL-best pass rush Sunday. And with the second-round pick Kansas City got from the Ravens, the team drafted inside linebacker Nick Bolton, who has led the Chiefs in tackles each of the past two years and who scored on a fumble recovery Sunday.
The Ravens used their first-round pick on outside linebacker Odafe Oweh, whose second-year production fell off after a promising rookie season. They used their third-round pick on guard Ben Cleveland, who started just once in 2022. They used their fourth-round pick as an asset in another deal that ended with them drafting cornerback Shaun Wade, who didn’t play a snap in Baltimore, as well as tight end Charlie Kolar, who appeared in just two games in 2022. And they used their fifth-round pick as an asset in another deal that ended with them drafting offensive tackle Daniel Faalele, who played in 16 games as a rookie.
Salary cap space was another consideration, of course; Brown earned $16.7 million in 2022 after signing his franchise tag tender. The Ravens used some of their savings to sign tackle Morgan Moses, who graded out comparably in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus, on a considerably cheaper deal.
The value proposition of the deal could change radically over the coming years as the involved players rise and fall. But if the Chiefs wanted a player and a pick that could help take them back to the sport’s biggest game, their deal has to be considered a success. If the Ravens wanted a haul of rookie contracts that could help them build a winner around Jackson, well, the jury’s still out.