Why Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens want to keep Marquise Brown

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- After Kansas City traded Tyreek Hill on Wednesday, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell speculated on social media that the Chiefs might reach out to the Baltimore Ravens about acquiring Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to fill their need for a speedy wide receiver.

This line of thinking was not well received by Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who squashed the conjecture in his usual polite fashion.

“Excuse my French real quick sir … But HELL NAW!” Jackson responded on Twitter.

Jackson isn’t the only one backing Brown to remain with the Ravens. It’s been a common theme in Baltimore, where Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta announced the team would pick up Brown’s fifth-year option last month.

These votes of confidence come after another uneven season for Brown, a first-round pick in 2019. Last season, he became the first Baltimore wide receiver to surpass 1,000 yards receiving since Mike Wallace did so five years ago. But Brown finished with more dropped passes (seven) than touchdown catches (six).

The Ravens have until May to decide whether to pick up Brown’s $13.4 million option, which would keep him under contract through the 2023 season. But DeCosta explained after the season why there is no uncertainty about the team’s plans to retain Brown.

"He’s a talent,” DeCosta said. "I love his personality and his competitiveness and his passion. Quite honestly, for his skill set, for what he brings to the table, the fifth-year option, in my mind, if you look at receivers and what they’re making now, it looks like a bargain.”

Since DeCosta said this last month, the market value for wide receivers has soared. Hill ($30 million per season) and Davante Adams ($28 million) each surpassed DeAndre Hopkins ($27.25 million) as the NFL’s highest-paid wide receivers.

It’s not just the superstar receivers cashing in. Christian Kirk signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason after totaling 236 receptions for 2,902 yards receiving and 17 touchdown catches in four seasons.

In comparison, Brown has produced 195 receptions for 2,361 yards and 21 touchdown catches in three seasons. So, the Ravens believe they're getting great value with Brown considering Kirk is averaging $18 million per season.

“He plays the game the right way,” DeCosta said of Brown. "I think he’s got a high-care factor, and I still think, I still believe there’s a lot of upside there, and I think he would say the same thing. He hasn’t played his best football, and I would say that about most of our guys. That’s why I’m excited -- because I think we’re going to get that this year.”

The biggest frustration with Brown is how his play varies from week to week and down to down. He can make an unbelievable grab for a touchdown in one game and drop a perfectly thrown pass in the end zone the next week.

Those up-and-down performances continued throughout last season. In the first nine weeks, Brown had the sixth-most receiving yards (682) in the league, along with six touchdown catches. In the final nine weeks, he managed the 37th-most receiving yards (442) and failed to reach the end zone.

One factor for the declining production was Brown having a better connection with Jackson than backup Tyler Huntley, who started the final four games. But Brown has never made any excuses during his Ravens career, and he refused to do so this season.

“I feel like I had a weak 1,000 yards, but I’m grateful, [I’m] thankful,” Brown said. "But [that was] definitely not how I wanted to end the season. We started the season off good. One of the key things I talked about was consistency, and I feel like the later half of the season wasn’t that consistent. So, for me, 1,000 yards is really just like a base. [I] really want to get in the playoffs, win Super Bowls and become a better player.”