Happy birthday, Mark Andrews. On Andrews’ 26th birthday Monday, he and the Ravens agreed to a big-time four-year extension.
The deal is reportedly worth $56 million, making Andrews the third-highest paid tight end in terms of yearly average salary ($14 million). Andrews, who was entering the final year of his rookie contract, has been one of the NFL’s best tight ends for the past couple years and now he’ll be paid like it.
San Francisco’s George Kittle ($15 million) and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce ($14.3 million) are the top earners at the position. Andrews, however, reportedly got 60% of his deal guaranteed and has a shorter length with the contract set to expire when he’s 30 years old.
“We are thrilled to announce a four-year contract extension with Mark Andrews on his birthday,” General Manager Eric DeCosta stated. “Mark is exactly the type of player we wish to keep as a Raven long-term. He’s competitive, passionate, talented and a leader. We are so excited to have him in Baltimore for the next five years. Congratulations to Mark and his family – and happy birthday.”
The Ravens haven’t inked quarterback Lamar Jackson to his forthcoming mega-deal but securing one of his favorite targets before he hits free agency is a big win for Jackson and Baltimore’s offense. Jackson has targeted Andrews 186 times over the past two years – the most of any player on the team.
“The way we see the game, when the ball is snapped, it’s just going out there and playing football and doing what we did when we were kids,” Andrews said. “It’s awesome to be able to have that, not to have to rep continuously to be able to see things the same way. I love him to death, I love him as a person, as a leader, as a quarterback. He’s my guy.”
Andrews went to the Pro Bowl after the 2019 season in which he posted 64 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. He scored seven more touchdowns last year while posting 701 receiving yards on 58 catches. Since 2019, Andrews’ 17 receiving touchdowns are the most among NFL tight ends.
This year, with more wide receiver weapons around him, Andrews is hopeful that some of the attention defenses have placed on him will subside. However, it’s clear from Andrews’ big contract, everybody knows he’s one of the game’s best.
Andrews, like Jackson, didn’t put much attention on getting a contract extension this offseason. He said he was going to leave that to his agent and “stay focused on what’s important.” But Andrews left no doubt where he wanted to be long-term.
“Playing for the Ravens is top-notch,” he said a couple weeks ago. “It doesn’t get much better than this. I don’t think it does get better than this. I want to stay. I want to play here for the rest of my career. That would be awesome.”
The Ravens lost another running back to injury, this time third-year running back Justice Hill who suffered a torn Achilles tendon last week and will also be lost for the year.
Needing more depth at the running back position, the Ravens have reportedly turned to a former rival for help. Baltimore has signed former Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell to the practice squad, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Bell would be expected to join the 53-man roster as soon as he is ready. The Ravens are shorthanded at running back heading into their Monday night season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.
J.K. Dobbins, who was expected to be Baltimore’s lead running back, was lost for the season after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the preseason finale against Washington.
Losing Dobbins and Hill leaves Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams as the two running backs on the 53-man roster, creating a need for a No. 3 running back that Bell could fill.
A former four-time Pro Bowler with the Steelers, the 29-year-old Bell has not played at his peak level since 2017, his last season in Pittsburgh when he rushed for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns.
After sitting out the 2018 season in a contract dispute, Bell spent less than two seasons with the New York Jets (2019, 2020), before he was released in October of 2020 and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Bell gained 789 yards and averaged 3.2 yards per carry in 2019 with the Jets, and gained 254 yards on 63 carries as a backup with Kansas City last season.
The Ravens reportedly worked Bell and other running backs out earlier this week to get an in-person look at what kind of shape he’s in and determine what he could bring to the team.