After a quiet two weeks in free company, the Ravens went again to checking containers final weekend.
They wanted a veteran inside linebacker, in order that they re-signed starter Josh Bynes to a one-year deal Friday. They wanted an impression defensive lineman, in order that they re-signed starter Calais Campbell to a two-year deal Saturday. And since they want much more assist elsewhere — and since they’ve 10 NFL draft picks to amass it — basic supervisor Eric DeCosta and Ravens officers went proper again to learning prospects and finalizing their large board.
With the draft simply two weeks away, the Ravens are near realizing not solely what roster holes to fill but in addition which prospects to focus on. Some positions, after all, require extra assist than others. Right here’s how the Ravens’ wants stack up, from least pressing to most pressing.
The Ravens have a Professional Bowl participant in Lamar Jackson and a more-than-competent backup in Tyler Huntley. Coach John Harbaugh didn’t even hassle with any draft trickery throughout his look final week on “The Wealthy Eisen Present,” saying the Ravens received’t be drafting a quarterback within the first spherical. In the event that they needed to search out Jackson’s eventual substitute this yr, that’s the place they’d have to begin.
10. Broad receiver
Ravens director of participant personnel Joe Hortiz joked with reporters after the group’s predraft information convention final week that one subject had gone conspicuously unremarked upon: large receivers. However the Ravens, for the primary time in years, don’t must discover a starting-level prospect within the draft. Former first-round picks Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Rashod Bateman impressed final season, and there’s stable depth behind them.
If the Ravens do goal a large receiver, dimension ought to be a precedence. Of the place’s more than likely contributors, solely the 6-foot-1 Bateman and 6-4 Miles Boykin are taller than 6 ft. If Boykin is launched or traded in a cost-cutting transfer this offseason, the Ravens would lose their finest perimeter blocker — an missed asset in an offense as run-centric as coordinator Greg Roman’s.
The Ravens ended lots of hypothesis about their potential security upgrades after they signed Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70 million contract final month. Williams ought to be a seamless slot in first-year coordinator Mike Macdonald’s protection. His arrival not solely provides the group a middle discipline ball hawk but in addition permits Chuck Clark to play extra usually as a field security and amplifies Brandon Stephens’ versatility.
Now, would the Ravens go on Notre Dame star Kyle Hamilton if he fell to No. 14 within the draft? Perhaps not, but it surely is dependent upon who else is offered. And with Geno Stone, Ar’Darius Washington and Tony Jefferson all below contract, there’s a stable core in place behind the Ravens’ high three safeties.
8. Tight finish
New Ravens tight ends coach George Godsey is entering into a fairly good gig. Mark Andrews led all NFL tight ends in receiving final yr. Patrick Ricard is coming off a 3rd straight Professional Bowl honor and his most well-rounded season but. Josh Oliver made it via his first yr in Baltimore wholesome. Nick Boyle has the offseason to get his surgically repaired left knee again to sport form.
But when accidents get in the best way once more — Boyle performed in simply 5 video games final season, and Ricard missed 4 of the Ravens’ remaining 5 losses — Roman won’t have the personnel to play the type of smashmouth fashion he desires. And except Oliver takes a step ahead, the Ravens may enter 2022 with only one dynamic downfield goal on the place.
7. Inside offensive line
With a handful of stable, younger choices at left guard and Patrick Mekari anticipated to return to middle, the Ravens ought to enter offseason exercises on comparatively stable floor right here. Kevin Zeitler is coming off a robust season at proper guard. The battle on the left facet will characteristic three latest mid-round draft picks: Ben Cleveland, Ben Powers and Tyre Phillips. And behind Mekari is Trystan Colon, a stable backup middle.
Nonetheless, including a flexible Day Two or Day Three inside lineman would make sense; Hortiz mentioned final week that the Ravens have had the prospect to work out guards at middle throughout the predraft course of. If the group can discover a potential beginning middle later within the draft, Mekari may step in because the Ravens’ swing sort out. Contemplating the group’s damage state of affairs out large, he could be much more helpful there than within the center.
6. Operating again
There won’t be an even bigger gulf within the NFL between what the Ravens have at working again now and what they might have by the center of the season. Transfer Week 1 as much as Might, and Ty’Son Williams could be beginning once more, backed up by a mixture of unproven younger gamers and well-traveled veterans. Transfer Week 1 again to October, and J.Ok. Dobbins and Gus Edwards might be absolutely recovered from knee surgical procedure, each able to return to their spectacular 2020 kind.
The Ravens should negotiate that uncertainty within the coming weeks. They’re reportedly considering free agent Melvin Gordon, a two-time Professional Bowl choice who averaged 4.5 yards per carry final season for the Denver Broncos. And DeCosta mentioned on the group’s predraft information convention that, contemplating the Ravens’ run-heavy tendencies, they’d “definitely strike” if the “proper man” falls to them within the draft. It’s laborious to think about group officers utilizing a premium choose on the place, but it surely’s simply as laborious to think about them standing pat this month.
5. Inside linebacker
With Bynes re-signed and Patrick Queen returning for his third season as a starter, the Ravens have their high two inside linebackers again in Baltimore. However they’ll want extra assist, particularly as they plan for the longer term.
Chris Board’s one-year cope with the Detroit Lions and Malik Harrison’s cross-training at outdoors linebacker has left Kristian Welch, primarily a particular groups contributor, because the Ravens’ solely different full-time inside linebacker. Even when the 32-year-old Bynes can recapture his 2021 kind, the Ravens should begin wanting quickly for a possible substitute. They may add a rookie within the draft, probably as early as Day Two, or discover low-cost free-agent assist out there after it.
4. Defensive position
Defensive ends Campbell and Justin Madubuike and nostril sort out Michael Pierce make up a stable beginning entrance. It’s in all probability higher than the Ravens’ entrance from their 2021 season opener, when Brandon Williams began at nostril sort out in opposition to the Las Vegas Raiders.
However the group’s limitations are apparent. Campbell is coming off a 1 1/2-sack season, Madubuike has proven solely flashes of his pass-rush potential, and Pierce was not often requested to strain the pocket throughout his first stint in Baltimore. Elsewhere on the depth chart, Derek Wolfe is recovering from offseason hip surgical procedure, and Broderick Washington remains to be higher recognized for stuffing the run. In a league the place everybody desires their very own Aaron Donald, the Ravens should discover their very own younger, disruptive inside presence. Campbell and Wolfe’s unsure futures ought to solely hasten the Ravens’ search.
3. Offensive sort out
Morgan Moses’ arrival in Baltimore hasn’t stored mock drafts from linking the Ravens to sort out prospects like Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning or Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, but it surely has modified the narrative at No. 14. The Ravens, lastly, now have at the very least one wholesome beginning sort out. If their encouraging updates on Ronnie Stanley’s ankle and Ja’Wuan James’ Achilles tendon proceed into the summer season, they might have at the very least two or three.
Nonetheless, backup plans are crucial. Requested final week concerning the entrance workplace’s outlook on Stanley’s future because it prepares for the draft, DeCosta mentioned the Ravens “attempt to shield ourselves as finest as we will.” In any case that Jackson endured final season, and with Mekari maybe entrenched at middle, that would imply spending a Day One or Day Two choose on a left sort out.
A yr in the past, the Ravens had possibly the NFL’s finest cornerback state of affairs. And now? “I feel we’re positively involved,” DeCosta mentioned final week. Of the group’s full-time corners, solely rehabilitating stars Marlon Humphrey (pectoral) and Marcus Peters (knee) have began at the very least three video games over the earlier two seasons. “However once more, till they arrive again,” DeCosta added, “it’s query marks.”
Stephens can line up wherever within the secondary, and Humphrey’s expertise within the slot is an asset. However after a disastrous season of go protection, the Ravens nonetheless want to search out at the very least yet one more beginning nook earlier than coaching camp opens. They may double-dip within the draft, rebuilding the depth that accidents depleted final yr, and nonetheless be looking out for extra assist in the next wave of free company. There are simply too many good passing assaults across the league, and too many query marks in Baltimore, for the Ravens to play it secure.
1. Edge rusher
In a great world for the Ravens, Odafe Oweh would enter coaching camp absolutely wholesome after offseason shoulder surgical procedure, whereas Tyus Bowser can be cleared by the season opener, having recovered from his Achilles tendon tear in simply 9 months. For veteran backup, they’d have Daelin Hayes, lastly wholesome after an injury-marred rookie season, and Jaylon Ferguson, seeking to bounce again after a largely nameless third yr.
So, sure, the Ravens’ edge rushers will want some damage luck. They’ll want some self-improvement. Most of all, although, after ending twenty eighth in sack charge and twenty fourth in strain charge final season, in line with Professional Soccer Reference, they are going to want some new pass-rush juice. Za’Darius Smith would’ve helped, however the Ravens’ deal for him fell via within the first wave of free company. The highest edge rushers nonetheless out there, together with Jadeveon Clowney and Justin Houston, are solely short-term options. That places super strain on the Ravens to search out an impression participant with one in all their first three picks within the draft.