Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jaylon Ferguson has died at the age of 26, the team announced on Wednesday. 

"We are profoundly saddened by the tragic passing of Jaylon Ferguson," the Ravens said in a statement.

"He was a kind, respectful young man with a big smile and infectious personality. We express our heartfelt condolences to Jaylon's family and friends as we mourn a life lost much too soon."

Ferguson’s agent, Safarrah Lawson, said the former Louisiana Tech star died in Baltimore. A cause of death is still being determined. 

"It's with great sadness that we announce the passing of Baltimore Ravens LB Jaylon Ferguson," Lawson said in a statement. "The family asks for your prayers and privacy during this trying time."

Ferguson played at Louisiana Tech from 2015-18, racking up 45 sacks to set the NCAA career record and earn the nickname of 'Sack Daddy'. 

The Ravens selected Ferguson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft and he went on to appear in 38 games (including 10 starts) with Baltimore. Ferguson totalled 4.5 sacks in his NFL career. 

Lamar Jackson has said he wants to be a Baltimore Raven for the rest of his career, but the 2019 NFL MVP was less definitive when asked if he will be present for the start of training camp in July.

As expected, Jackson's contract status was a main topic of conversation when he met with reporters following Thursday's final day of mandatory minicamp.

The dynamic quarterback is entering the final season of the five-year, $32.5million deal he signed as a rookie in 2018.

Jackson, who is representing himself in negotiations, said he and the Ravens have had discussions about an extension, but stopped short of saying for certain if he will attend training camp or play Week 1 without a new deal.

"We're having a conversation about it," he said. "I don’t know."

Jackson still remained optimistic he will remain a Raven past this season and beyond, though, adding when asked: "I expect so. Yes, I do."

Jackson did attend mandatory minicamp after skipping Baltimore's voluntary offseason training activities last month, though said his absence was not contract-related.

"I just wanted to stay away and just grind. I just wanted to come back and just see how it felt. [And] I feel good," he added.

Extension talks between Jackson and the Ravens have moved slowly, with general manager Eric DeCosta saying in March negotiations had gone on "at Lamar's urgency."

With a league MVP to his credit and being the only quarterback in NFL history with two 1,000-yard rushing seasons, the 25-year-old is in position for a big second contract – perhaps one that could exceed the record $230m in guaranteed money the Cleveland Browns gave quarterback Deshaun Watson on a five-year deal agreed to in March.

Jackson insisted the Watson contract would have no bearing on his situation, saying: "I'm a man of my own. I don't worry about what those guys get."

Jackson also responded to comments made by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti earlier this offseason, which suggested the star signal-caller may not think he was worthy of such a lucrative long-term contract until he wins a Super Bowl.

"I still want my Super Bowl, though, but I think I'm worthy," Jackson stated. "Yes, sir, I do."

Lamar Jackson may not be attending the Baltimore Ravens’ organised team activities, but that isn’t a concern for head coach John Harbaugh.

It’s not uncommon for established players to skip their team’s OTAs, and although Jackson won the league’s MVP Award in 2019, he is coming off an injury-marred 2021 season and is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The fact that he hasn’t engaged in discussions with the Ravens over a contract extension is also somewhat concerning.

But Harbaugh is certain his star quarterback is training hard on his own, and will be present when the Ravens open mandatory minicamp on June 14.

"I expect him to be here at mandatory minicamp," Harbaugh said Wednesday. "I know he's working hard. Lamar Jackson's a hard worker, so I'm not worried about how hard he's working.

"I fully expect him to come back in great shape, that's what he talks about. I'm sure he's throwing, I'm sure he's doing a good job, and when he gets back here, we’ll roll with Lamar."

Jackson was criticized by Chris Simms on Pro Football Talk Live on May 27, with the former NFL QB saying: "(Tom) Brady wouldn't be missing OTAs in year four of his career... Brady didn't miss an OTA until he had played in four Super Bowls."

Responding to those comments quoting a tweet featuring a clip of Simms' remarks, Jackson wrote: "Lamar wants to be Lamar Chris.

"This part of OTAs is voluntary my guy I will be there, just not on your watch. It's probably other QBs not attending voluntary OTAs either but since it's Lamar it's a huge deal. Find something else to talk about."

Jackson, who is set to make just over $23 million guaranteed on his fifth-year option in 2022, averaged 240.2 passing yards and 63.9 yards rushing in 12 games last season. He finished with 16 passing touchdowns, a career-high 13 interceptions and an 87.0 QB rating – eighth lowest among the 30 quarterbacks with at least 350 passing attempts last season.

The Ravens lost four of the five games Jackson missed last season and finished 8-9 to miss the playoffs for the first time in his career.

Lamar Jackson hit back at criticism of his absence from Baltimore Ravens' OTAs as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

The 2019 NFL MVP has shown no willingness to engage in discussions with the Ravens over a contract extension.

He has insisted he has no desire to part company with Baltimore, but Jackson has not been present as the Ravens have started early on-field preparations for the 2022 campaign with the OTAs – organised team activities.

Jackson was criticised by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, who referenced previous comments from the Ravens star, who previously said he wanted to be the Tom Brady of his era.

Simms said on PFT Live: "Brady wouldn't be missing OTAs in year four of his career. ... Brady didn't miss an OTA until he had played in four Super Bowls."

Responding to those comments quoting a tweet featuring a clip of Simms' remarks, Jackson wrote: "Lamar wants to be Lamar Chris.

"This part of OTAs is voluntary my guy I will be there, just not on your watch. It's probably other QBs not attending voluntary OTAs either but since it's Lamar it's a huge deal. Find something else to talk about."

Simms responded, saying: "That’s all good my man. You be you. I am rooting for you. Yes I would like to see you at OTAs. But you got to do what’s best for you. Not singling you out.

"We have discussed all QBs who have not attended OTAs. You are Lamar freaking Jackson!! Of course we r gonna talk bout you."

Jackson won the MVP award in his second season after throwing for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also ran for 1,206 yards and seven scores.

However, the Ravens suffered a shock Divisional Round loss to the Tennessee Titans to end that season, and were eliminated at the same stage of the 2020 campaign by the Buffalo Bills.

Jackson endured an injury-hindered 2021 season, throwing 16 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and adding a career-low two touchdowns on the ground as the Ravens missed the playoffs with an 8-9 record.

No player in the NFL has a higher yards-per-carry average over the course of the last three seasons than Jackson's 6.36.

New Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown has confirmed he requested his trade away from the Baltimore Ravens.

And the former Oklahoma pass catcher, who is to be reunited with Kyler Murray, says he told Lamar Jackson the Ravens' run-first offensive system "wasn't for me" more than a year ago.

In one of two significant receiver trades on the first day of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Cardinals parted with the 23rd overall pick in return for Brown and a third-round selection.

Having already secured perhaps the best player in the draft in ultra-versatile safety Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens used their additional first-round pick to bolster their offensive line in front of quarterback Jackson with center Tyler Linderbaum.

Jackson's Twitter activity suggested he was unhappy with the Ravens' business, frustrated by the loss of the wide receiver he has looked to more than any other in his NFL career to date (256 targets, 164 receptions, 20 touchdowns).

The former NFL MVP posted a series of messages, including sharing a post from Brown in which he said to his former QB: "Wish I coulda played with my brotha forever but ima see you at the top."

However, speaking to media on Friday, Brown revealed he was the driving force behind the trade, and his desire to move on could have come as no surprise to Jackson.

"It was just [about] my happiness," he said. "I talked to Lamar about it after my second year, then after my third year leading up to the end of the season.

"He wasn't playing, but I let him know again: I can't do it.

"It's not really on Lamar; I love Lamar. It's just the system wasn't for me, personally. I love all my team-mates, I love the guys, but it was just something I had to think about for myself.

"The Ravens and I both handled it the right way. I didn't go out and make anything public; I just kept it in-house, kept working, and it all worked out."

In the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Jackson's first two as a full-time starter, the Ravens ran on 56.0 per cent and 55.9 per cent of their plays respectively, leading the league in this regard.

Since entering the NFL in 2018, Jackson has recorded 3,673 rushing yards – by far the most among QBs and the seventh-most of all players.

Murray (1,786 rushing yards just since 2019) is third among QBs over that period, but Brown already knows he can effectively link up with the Cardinals star.

In 2018, at Oklahoma, Murray's 4,361 passing yards and 42 passing TDs led the Big 12, with Brown his top receiver with 1,318 receiving yards and 10 receiving TDs.

Murray wrote on Twitter following Brown's trade: "Let's run it back! Hollywood to the desert... Y'all welcome my boy!"

Marquise Brown is back with Kyler Murray after he was traded from the Baltimore Ravens to the Arizona Cardinals.

A first-round pick of the Ravens in 2019, Brown played with Murray during their college days at Oklahoma.

They will now look to re-establish their rapport after the Ravens sent Brown and a third-round pick (100th overall) to acquire Arizona's 23rd overall selection in the first round.

News of the trade came shortly after the Ravens used the 14th overall selection on safety Kyle Hamilton, regarded by some as the best player in the draft at any position.

Brown caught 91 passes for 1,008 yards in 2021, the first 1,000-yard season of his pro career.

His 21 receiving touchdowns since 2019 are the 11th-most among wide receivers during that span.

The ultra-versatile Hamilton, who can play as a deep safety, in the box and in the slot, registered eight interceptions between 2019 and 2021, the fifth-most among FBS safeties during that period.

Lamar Jackson has flatly rejected any suggestion he wants to leave the Baltimore Ravens, describing such talk as a "false narrative".

Jackson is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, with no signs of an agreement with the Ravens on an extension.

But the 2019 MVP moved to put to bed the idea of him continuing his career elsewhere after the 2022 campaign.

He posted on Twitter: "I love my Ravens I don't know who the hell putting that false narrative out that I'm having thoughts about leaving stop tryna read my mind."

Jackson took the NFL by storm in his second year in the league in 2019, throwing for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also ran for 1,206 yards and seven scores.

However, the Ravens suffered a shock Divisional Round loss to the Tennessee Titans to end that season, and were eliminated at the same stage of the 2020 campaign by the Buffalo Bills.

Jackson then endured an injury-hindered 2021 season, throwing 16 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and adding a career-low two touchdowns on the ground as the Ravens missed the playoffs with an 8-9 record.

No player in the NFL has a higher yards per carry average over the course of the last three seasons than Jackson's 6.36.

The Ravens will hope they can sign him to a new deal and then help Jackson recapture his 2019 magic throwing the ball, with Baltimore likely all too aware that a strong 2022 season played on the final year of his current contract would lead to a more difficult negotiation next offseason.

John Harbaugh has signed a three-year contract extension to remain as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

Harbaugh had been about to enter the final year of the four-year deal he signed in 2019.

The Ravens failed to make the playoffs in the 2021 season, finishing bottom of the AFC North on 8-9, and losing all of their last six games of the regular season.

However, it was only their second losing season since winning the Super Bowl under Harbaugh in 2013, when he beat his brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.

Harbaugh arrived in 2008 to replace Brian Billick, with the 59-year-old boasting an overall regular-season record of 137-88.

It was also acknowledged by many that the Ravens' poor end to 2021 – having been 8-3 after Week 12 – was heavily influenced by bad luck with injuries.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti revealed the news at the annual league meeting on Tuesday, 

"I think John's grown and grown and grown," he said. "It's kind of interesting. I don't feel like I'm just signing up the same guy. I think that's really a compliment to him.

"I really feel like there's a rebirth in John as the years go on. Things that mattered to him don't matter as much anymore.

"I'm just thrilled as an owner to have a guy that's going to be going into his 15th year. So, I'm pretty pleased with it."

Harbaugh is now under contract through the 2025 NFL season.

Za'Darius Smith has agreed a three-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings, according to reports.

The 29-year-old became a free agent after being released by the Green Bay Packers, and has now signed on with their NFC North rivals.

Reports suggest Smith's contract in Minnesota will have a base value of $42million, and potentially be worth up to $47m with incentives.

He had been expected to return to the Baltimore Ravens last week – whom he left for Green Bay in 2019 – supposedly agreeing to a four-year, $35m deal, but later pulled out.

In the days following Smith's apparent signing, both Von Miller and Chandler Jones – who are several years older than Smith – signed contracts with the Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders respectively, worth nearly double the annual salary of the deal offered by the Ravens.

The versatile edge rusher recorded 18.5 sacks in four seasons in Baltimore after he was drafted in the fourth round in 2015.

He then racked up 26 sacks across his first two years in Green Bay, helping them to back-to-back NFC Championship Game appearances.

However, a back injury limited him to just one regular-season appearance in 2021. Smith returned for the Packers' Divisional Round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, but could not prevent a 13-10 defeat.

After reportedly agreeing to a four-year, $35million deal with the Baltimore Ravens, edge rusher Za'Darius Smith is back on the market.

Smith is the third player since this season's free agency discussions began to pull out of a deal that was widely-reported.

Randy Gregory was believed to have extended with the Dallas Cowboys before backing out and signing with the Denver Broncos, as J.D. McKissic cooled on his decision to join the Buffalo Bills, instead re-signing with the Washington Commanders. 

Questions started to arise after the Ravens had not announced the signing through official team channels, with general manager Eric DeCosta saying, "I think over the coming days we'll have more to say on other moves that we make."

Smith missed the last 16 games of this past regular season after two dominant years in 2019 and 2020, and at 29 years old, the offer from the Ravens appeared to be strong.

However, in the days following Smith's apparent signing, both Von Miller and Chandler Jones – who are multiple years older than Smith – signed contracts worth nearly double the annual salary of the deal offered by the Ravens.

Playing at one of the league's premier positions, Smith should have a strong market as a reliable source of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Za'Darius Smith is returning to the Baltimore Ravens after three seasons away from the team that drafted him.

Released by the Green Bay Packers in a move to create salary cap space, Smith is re-joining the Ravens on a four-year, $35million deal, according to multiple reports.

The versatile edge rusher recorded 18.5 sacks in four seasons for the Ravens after he was drafted by Baltimore in the fourth round in 2015.

He joined the Packers in 2019 and racked up 26 sacks across his first two years, helping Green Bay to back-to-back NFC Championship Game appearances.

However, a back injury limited him to just one regular-season appearance in 2021. Smith returned for the Packers' Divisional Round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers but could not prevent Green Bay from suffering a 13-10 defeat.

Smith's return to Baltimore sees the Ravens make another high-profile addition to their defense, having also signed safety Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70m contract.

The signings come after a 2021 campaign in which the Ravens missed the playoffs while giving up a league-worst 5.98 yards per play.

Quarterbacks Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have both decided to pass on participating in the upcoming 2022 NFL Pro Bowl.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Allen was voted as an alternate in the AFC roster, having initially missed out to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was absent for the latter stages of the season with an ankle injury.

Jackson's ankle injury will force him out of the Pro Bowl game, while Allen has opted to let his body "rest and recover" after a hectic season.

Allen's season had prematurely ended last weekend at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs 42-36 in overtime in a Divisional playoffs classic.

"Unfortunately, I will be declining the invitation to play in the Pro Bowl this year - in order to allow my body to rest and recover from the harshness of the season," Allen told ESPN.

"The type of quarterback [that] I am, I obtain a lot of bumps and bruises along the road of a season, so I will use this time to let my body heal."

The AFC roster may be short on quarterbacks with Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert as started and Patrick Mahomes the only back-up.

Mahomes will be aiming to clinch a spot in the Super Bowl with the Chiefs this weekend, meaning he may become unavailable for the Pro Bowl, scheduled for February 6 in Las Vegas, too.

Dual threat Bills QB Allen had a career-high 4,407 passing yards for 36 passing touchdowns, along with a career-best 763 rushing yards with six touchdowns.

Jackson only managed 12 games due to injury prematurely ending his season, with a 64.4 percent completion rate for 2,882 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Jacksonville Jaguars helped the Pittsburgh Steelers virtually secure a playoff place as they stunned the Indianapolis Colts in their regular-season finale.

Indianapolis needed only to beat a two-win Jaguars team to secure their place in the postseason.

History, however, was against Frank Reich's team, the Colts having not won in Jacksonville since the 2014 season.

And the Jags' home hoodoo over the Colts continued as Indianapolis quarterback Carson Wentz imploded in a 26-11 defeat.

Wentz was sacked six times in a game the Jaguars led the entire way, rookie first overall pick Trevor Lawrence throwing multiple touchdowns for the first time since Week 1.

The dagger effectively came when Lawrence capitalised on Wentz's lone interception, the former Philadelphia Eagle picked by Jags linebacker Damien Wilson in the third quarter.

Lawrence then successfully handled a high snap from center, rolled to his right and lofted a three-yard pass to Marvin Jones Jr, who made a leaping grab in the back of the endzone.

The Colts were eliminated from the playoffs after the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime. The Steelers will qualify unless the Los Angeles Chargers' game with the Las Vegas Raiders ends in a tie.

Despite the win, the Jaguars claim the number one pick in the 2022 draft by virtue of the Detroit Lions' win over the Green Bay Packers, who rested players for much of the game.

Titans take one seed

The Kansas City Chiefs kept the pressure on the Titans with their win in Denver on Saturday, but Tennessee did not waste the opportunity to clinch the one seed, though they received a scare from the lowly Houston Texans.

Tennessee surged to a 21-0 lead, only for the Texans to respond with 18 unanswered points of their own. Ryan Tannehill's fourth touchdown pass, on which he hit Julio Jones for the receiver's first touchdown as a Titan, gave them breathing room that proved enough as they hung on for a 28-25 win after Danny Amendola's second touchdown reception frayed the nerves.

Watt ties sack record as Steelers stay alive

Ben Roethlisberger bid a tearful farewell to Heinz Field in the Steelers' home finale on Monday, but his likely final season in the NFL looks like being extended into the Wild Card round.

The Steelers fought back from 10-3 down to lead 13-10 on a Roethlisberger pass to Chase Claypool and, though Justin Tucker's field goal forced overtime, the leg of Chris Boswell had the final say, giving the Steelers a 16-13 victory in a game that saw T.J. Watt tie Michael Strahan's single-season sack record as he took his tally to 22.5.

With Chargers head coach Brandon Staley saying they would not play for a tie that would punch the postseason ticket for them and the Raiders, the Steelers' spot seems virtually assured.

The 18th and final round of the NFL regular season is upon us and there remains plenty of intrigue in a frantic scramble to make it to the playoffs.

Five teams from the AFC are competing for two postseason berths, while one spot is up for grabs in the NFC. 

Away from the Super Bowl picture, there are a number of other intriguing subplots ahead of an action-packed weekend.

Stats Perform previews some of the standout games and the best of the rest.


Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) @ Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)

The winner of this contest is guaranteed a playoff spot, while there is also a scenario whereby a tie could see both advance. Interestingly, six of the previous seven games in Oakland/Las Vegas have been decided by three points or fewer.

The Raiders beat the Colts on a last-second field goal last week to prevail 23-20 – their fifth win of the season by four points or fewer, tied with the Packers and the Titans for the most in the NFL.

Justin Herbert set the single-season passing touchdowns record for the Chargers last week with his 35th of the campaign. He now requires 172 yards this week to also take the passing-yards record.

The Chargers' 34-13 win against the Broncos was their fourth victory in a win while scoring 30 points or more. They have averaged 33.9 points per game in wins this season, second most in the NFL behind the Bills (35.1).

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

The Steelers have won three in a row against the Ravens, with all three of those victories being decided by less than a touchdown, the most recent coming by a 20-19 scoreline last month.

Last week's 12-point win over the Browns was the Steelers' largest of the season, though not since 1969 have they gone a full campaign without winning by at least 13 points.

The Ravens are coming off the back of a 20-19 loss to the Rams, their league-leading eighth game decided by three or fewer points this season – no team in NFL history has had more than nine games decided by three or fewer points.

Najee Harris rushed for 188 of the Steelers' 190 rushing yards against the Browns and accounts for 77.9 per cent of his side's rush yards this season, the highest share of any player in the NFL.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) @ Denver Broncos (7-9)

The Chiefs will be looking to respond to their defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 17 when they take on the Broncos, whom they have defeated in 12 successive meetings – the league's joint-longest active winning streak along with the New England Patriots against the New York Jets.

Despite last week's defeat, the Chiefs have scored at least 30 points in four successive games, which is the longest-running streak in the NFL and one short of their all-time record of five set in 2004 and 2018.

Kansas lead the way in the NFL with 391 first downs this season and, with nine more this weekend, will become the fifth team in the last 70 years with 400 or more first downs in a season.

The Broncos were defeated by the Chargers last time out to ensure a losing season for the fifth straight year, an unwanted run they last went on from 1963 to 1972 with 10 straight losing seasons.

Elsewhere...

The Jaguars require a victory against the Colts to avoid becoming the fourth team in the last 30 years to have consecutive seasons with two or fewer wins. The Colts have lost three games this season by exactly three points – the Seahawks are the only team this season that has failed to win a single game by three or fewer points with more losses in such games (0-5).

The Rams can clinch their third NFC West title in six seasons season since moving back to Los Angeles with victory over the 49ers. However, the Niners have won each of their last five meetings with the Rams.

The Falcons have three successive wins against the Saints in Atlanta and are seeking a fourth in a row for the first time since between 1991 and 1994. Following defeat to the Bills last week, the Falcons have alternated between wins and losses over their last seven games.

The Bills can clinch their second consecutive division title with victory against the Jets, following on from a previous run of 24 straight seasons without finishing top. All 10 of Buffalo's wins this season have come by 12 points or more.

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