August 14, 2022

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The Ravens’ 2021 season ended Jan. 9 with a sixth straight loss and a litany of questions on what comes subsequent. At midday on Monday, when the NFL’s authorized tampering interval unofficially kicks off free company, basic supervisor Eric DeCosta will attempt to reply them.

After making a handful of strikes final week to liberate wage cap house, staff officers have extra work to do to reposition the Ravens as Tremendous Bowl contenders. This week may dictate the form of one of the necessary offseasons in franchise historical past.

“We’ve got some work to do in plenty of completely different areas,” DeCosta mentioned in February. “I feel every thing is fixable, and it may be improved and constructed and strengthened, for certain. … I feel we’ll have sufficient wage cap room to do every thing we have to do, to do accountable, good offers that work for the membership but additionally work for the participant.”

The Ravens have apparent wants throughout their roster, each huge (defensive position) and small (vast receiver). Right here’s a have a look at who’s set to return, who’s seemingly leaving, and who may make sense in free company and the draft this offseason.

Quarterback

Returners: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley

Free brokers: Josh Johnson

What they want: A wholesome offseason for Jackson, and perhaps a couple of extra contract discussions in Owings Mills. The price of franchise quarterbacks goes up each offseason, and Jackson is coming off essentially the most disappointing season of his profession. If he and DeCosta can discover widespread floor earlier than the season, they may hammer out a win-win deal and finish the hypothesis round Jackson’s future in Baltimore.

Working again

Returners: J.Okay. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Ty’Son Williams, Nate McCrary

Free brokers: Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman

What they want: Wholesome knees. Dobbins and Edwards are recovering from season-ending ACL accidents, and their restoration, together with Justice Hill’s from a torn Achilles tendon, may lead the Ravens to put money into the place within the draft. There must be good worth within the fourth or fifth spherical with a speedster like Cincinnati’s Jerome Ford or a chain-mover like Arizona State’s Rachaad White. Don’t count on any important free-agent expenditures.

Vast receiver

Returners: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, Tylan Wallace, Miles Boykin, Jaylon Moore, Binjimen Victor

Free brokers: Sammy Watkins

What they want: One other outdoors receiver, ideally an enormous one. Accidents slowed Watkins over the season’s remaining three months and sure slammed the door on a possible return. Boykin’s $2.5 million wage has made him a possible wage cap casualty; after one other disappointing season, the previous third-round decide may very well be launched or traded. Their departures would go away the Ravens with a talented however smaller receiving corps.

Contemplating coordinator Greg Roman’s run-first tendencies, and the run-blocking obligations Ravens receivers tackle within the offense’s condensed formations, the unit may want one other imposing presence. Clemson’s Justyn Ross and Purdue’s David Bell have their weaknesses as potential Day 2 or Day 3 prospects — a scary damage historical past for Ross, a restricted ceiling for Bell — however with their measurement, they undertaking as sturdy blockers.

Tight finish/fullback

Returners: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Josh Oliver, Tony Poljan, Ben Mason

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Free brokers: Patrick Ricard, Eric Tomlinson

What they want: A working mate for Andrews. There’s little monetary profit to releasing Boyle, who may have one other offseason to strengthen his knee and attempt to regain the shape that made him one of many offense’s most necessary items. Oliver, in the meantime, was stable and stayed wholesome in his first 12 months in Baltimore, ending with 9 catches in 14 video games.

But when the Ravens need one other versatile tight finish to power defenses into heavier packages and off-balance, as they so typically did in 2019, they could search for outdoors assist. Former Raven Hayden Hurst and O.J. Howard, one other former first-round decide headed to free company, are low-cost choices who may thrive in a good end-centric system. Within the draft, Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert and Virginia’s Jelani Woods provide nice measurement for mid-round prospects, whereas Maryland’s Chigoziem Okonkwo has the athleticism to emphasize defenses as an H-back.

If the Ravens can’t afford to re-sign Ricard, who’s indicated he desires to be compensated extra like a good finish than a fullback, Mason’s improvement can be fascinating. However the extra the offense’s passing sport expands, the much less necessary a fullback turns into.

Inside offensive line

Returners: Kevin Zeitler, Ben Powers, Ben Cleveland, Tyre Phillips, Trystan Colon, Jimmy Murray

Free brokers: Bradley Bozeman

What they want: A beginning middle. It most likely gained’t be Bozeman, whose emotional season-ending information convention prompt that, even in January, he knew a breakup was seemingly. The Ravens have in-house choices accessible — Colon hasn’t regarded overmatched in his 274 offensive snaps over the previous two seasons — however returning to Patrick Mekari, who ended final season at proper sort out, would seemingly go away one other place on shaky floor.

If the Ravens aren’t aggressive early in free company, they may very well be left with a handful of undesirable middle choices. Together with Bozeman, the dependable Ben Jones can also be headed to free company. Professional Bowl choice Ryan Jensen, a former Raven, was additionally set to hit the open market earlier than signing a reported three-year, $39 million deal to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brian Allen, who broke out final season with the Los Angeles Rams after an injury-marred 2019 and 2020, may very well be within the Ravens’ vary. In the event that they need to await assist, Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum stays a first-round chance within the draft.

Offensive sort out

Returners: Ronnie Stanley, Patrick Mekari, Ja’Wuan James, Jaryd Jones-Smith

Free brokers: David Sharpe

What they want: A minimum of one potential beginning sort out. DeCosta mentioned on the scouting mix earlier this month that Stanley’s offseason progress from a second straight season-ending ankle damage was encouraging, however there aren’t any certain issues with this group. Stanley has had three operations over the previous 12 months and a half. Mekari could be most helpful as a swing sort out or as an inside starter. James has performed in three video games since 2019 and is coming off an Achilles tendon tear.

At such a premium place, free-agent signings gained’t come low-cost. The Dallas Cowboys’ La’el Collins, a possible commerce goal, has a $10 million wage every of the subsequent three seasons. Trent Brown, who wouldn’t value the Ravens a compensatory decide, may fetch an analogous price ticket on the open market. Morgan Moses and Joseph Noteboom are coming off sturdy seasons. Eric Fisher and Riley Reiff have stable observe information (and up to date damage worries).

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Within the draft, the Ravens have been linked to Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning at No. 14 total. Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, if he falls outdoors the highest 10, can be one other enticing choice. Tulsa’s Tyler Smith and Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele are highly effective Day 2 prospects who may begin before later.

Defensive position

Returners: Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Isaiah Mack, Aaron Crawford, Xavier Kelly, Kahlil McKenzie

Free brokers: Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Justin Ellis

What they want: Quite a bit. Madubuike has proven dominant flashes, and Washington developed right into a stable rotational piece final 12 months. However Campbell, Williams and Ellis mixed for 1,447 defensive snaps final season, with all three getting between 35% and 57% of the Ravens’ taking part in time. They have been the primary line of protection for a run-stopping unit that completed fourth within the NFL in effectivity, in line with Soccer Outsiders.

DeCosta mentioned staff officers had pegged this offseason as one once they would “have to seek out some extra younger guys.” That doesn’t imply the Ravens gained’t attempt to re-sign the 35-year-old Campbell — he was one of many NFL’s higher-rated inside linemen, in line with Professional Soccer Focus, and usually drew double groups — however Williams’ seemingly exit after 9 years in Baltimore would go away an enormous gap at nostril sort out.

D.J. Jones, Linval Joseph and Sebastian Joseph-Day, all stable run stoppers, profile as viable free-agent replacements. After his breakout scouting mix efficiency, Georgia’s Jordan Davis has additionally emerged as a preferred first-round decide in mock drafts.

Exterior linebacker

Returners: Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, Jaylon Ferguson, Daelin Hayes

Free brokers: Justin Houston, Pernell McPhee

What they want: One other influence cross rusher. The Ravens completed within the backside 10 in stress price final season, in line with Professional Soccer Reference. Now they’ll seemingly have to enhance with out Houston, who was unfortunate to complete with solely 4 ½ sacks in 2021, and with each Bowser (Achilles tendon) and Oweh (shoulder) getting back from offseason operations.

Signing a top-tier outdoors linebacker would go away the Ravens pressed for cap house. Wish to make the contract math work for an influence edge defender like Haason Reddick (23 ½ sacks since 2020)? Construction a multiyear deal that back-loads his wage. Within the draft, nonetheless, the Ravens ought to have a handful of first-round candidates to think about, together with Michigan’s David Ojabo, Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II, Purdue’s George Karlaftis and Georgia’s Travon Walker, who can even kick inside.

Inside linebacker

Returners: Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, Kristian Welch

Free brokers: Josh Bynes, L.J. Fort, Chris Board, Otaro Alaka

What they want: A working mate for Queen. Bynes and Fort emerged as reliable veterans over the previous two years, however they’re each 32 and shouldn’t value a lot. Queen fared higher at weak-side linebacker after transferring over from the center final season, suggesting that the previous first-round decide would fare higher with a cerebral thumper subsequent to him. Harrison took a step again in a making an attempt 2021, and Board, a particular groups standout, has been used solely situationally.

The Ravens may very well be tempted to focus on the place early within the draft — Georgia’s Nakobe Dean and Utah’s Devin Lloyd are first-round skills — however all eyes this week can be on Bobby Wagner, an eight-time Professional Bowl choice with the Seattle Seahawks and up to date wage cap casualty. Like De’Vondre Campbell and Foyesade Oluokun, two different high free-agent linebackers, Wagner may not value greater than $10 million yearly. However the Ravens must weigh their worth relative to extra urgent wants.

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Cornerback

Returners: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Kevon Seymour, Iman Marshall, Robert Jackson, Kevin Toliver II

Free brokers: Anthony Averett, Tavon Younger, Jimmy Smith, Chris Westry, Khalil Dorsey

What they want: A nickelback and renewed depth. Younger’s launch means the Ravens must work out who’s entering into the slot subsequent season: Humphrey? Brandon Stephens? A rookie or free-agent signing? A mix of choices? They’ll want good solutions. Based on Sports activities Data Options, the Ravens allowed 9.2 yards per goal to fit receivers final season, the NFL’s second-worst price.

Averett’s market may very well be fascinating. After a powerful 2021, he appeared headed for a large second contract elsewhere. However he’s been largely excluded from media lists of the highest cornerbacks accessible, behind even potential Ravens targets like Rasul Douglas and Kyle Fuller. If Averett’s comfy taking part in behind Humphrey and Peters on a reasonable multiyear deal, he may very well be a dark-horse re-signing candidate.

Underneath coordinator Mike Macdonald, the Ravens will seemingly play extra zone coverages, which may broaden their pool of potential cornerback targets. But when Averett, Younger and Smith all go away, the staff will want appreciable assist at a place the place even the often sturdy Peters and Humphrey are minor query marks. Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. have lockdown potential, although Gardner will seemingly be a top-10 decide, and Stingley’s damage historical past raises some pink flags.

Security

Returners: Chuck Clark, Brandon Stephens, Tony Jefferson, Geno Stone, Ar’Darius Washington

Free brokers: DeShon Elliott

What they want: A middle-field playmaker. Clark and Elliott, when wholesome, fashioned a stable security pairing. Stephens ended his rookie season on a excessive be aware, stringing collectively a handful of spectacular performances, although his function in Macdonald’s protection is unclear. Jefferson, Stone and Washington ought to provide stable depth.

But when the Ravens need to play with the schematic flexibility that Michigan did underneath Macdonald, they’ll want a ball hawk with the vary to deal with single-high-safety alignments. Tyrann Mathieu can be a pure match, however his price ticket will seemingly exceed the Ravens’ funds. Marcus Maye’s Achilles tendon damage and off-field conduct may push the Ravens away. Quandre Diggs (10 interceptions since 2020) may very well be a pleasant different.

Elliott’s damage historical past will scare off some groups, however he was a beloved teammate in Baltimore who may discover his approach again to the Ravens if he’s not snatched up within the first wave of free company.

Specialists

Returners: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Nick Moore

Free brokers: None

What they want: Not a lot, actually. The Ravens completed final season with the NFL’s greatest particular groups unit, in line with Soccer Outsiders, and Tucker, Koch and Moore have been an enormous motive why. If San Diego State’s Matt Araiza remains to be on the board within the sixth spherical, although, the Ravens could be tempted to take the prospect referred to as the “Punt God.”

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