Depending on who you ask, you either love what the Baltimore Ravens have done in free agency (which is spend close to $60 million dollars on Brandon Williams, Tony Jefferson, and Brandon Carr) or you hate it because of the lack of signings on offense minus Danny Woodhead. On defense, the Ravens have filled the safety and cornerback positions with Jefferson and Carr, and I'm sure general manager Ozzie Newsome will focus on adding to the secondary come draft day, but there is one position on the defensive side of the football he hasn't yet addressed, the pass-rush.
Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith, Matthew Judon, and Elvis Dumervil combined for 16 sacks in 2016. Eight of those were from Suggs, with four by the rookie Judon. Dumervil totaled just three sacks, which led to his eventual release a few weeks ago, and Smith regressed by notching only one sack during his sophomore season. That's not going to work if the team is going to make a run at the postseason in 2017. Unfortunately, when it comes to free agency, there isn't much left on the market that can help in that department. With the likes of Connor Barwin, Datone Jones, and Jabaal Sheard no longer available, all that's left are rotational players that could produce, but are also older options.
Let's take a look at some of the remaining options if Newsome decides to go shopping for a pass-rusher:
The Ravens 2nd round pick in 2009 was infamously part of the exodus of players who departed the team after their Super Bowl XLVII victory. Who could blame him? Kruger had a good 2011 season and followed it up with a productive 2012, notching 9 sacks during the regular season, and then added 4.5 sacks during the playoffs en route to the team’s second championship win. He was all set to become a free agent and he cashed in by signing a 5-year, $40 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.
In Cleveland he was assigned to be something that he really wasn't in Baltimore, an every down player. While Kruger put up 11 sacks in 2014, he would only get 6.5 sacks total in 2013 and 2015. Kruger was released by the Browns before the start of the 2016 season and played for New Orleans Saints last year. Now, Kruger is a free agent and has joined a long list of Ravens who didn't pan out after leaving.
However, not only did Kruger have his best success in Dean Pees system, he played well when coming in on third down opposite Terrell Suggs. What many outside Baltimore forget about Kruger's 2012 season is that Suggs missed the first six games with a torn Achilles, leaving Kruger to start in his place, recording one sack as a starter. It wasn't until Suggs returned Kruger ramped it up. Kruger could be valuable to Baltimore by returning to a place where he is most comfortable and is only asked to be a perennial third down pass rusher lining up opposite of Suggs once again.
The future Hall of Famer turned 37 last month and while father time is undefeated, he is still wreaking havoc among opposing quarterbacks. Reportedly, he wants to come back for a 16th season. Freeney signed with the Atlanta Falcons last season, helping them win the NFC Championship. Freeney contributed to only three sacks on the season and got one more on old rival Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.
Freeney is also a great locker room leader, in Baltimore he would certainty add to the nucleus of Joe Flacco, Eric Weddle, Marshal Yanda, and Terrell Suggs. Freeney would be very valuable in helping guys like Judon and Za'Darius Smith develop, which is something Freeney did in Atlanta and with the Arizona Cardinals. As a matter of fact, Vic Beasley, Jr, the guy who lead the league in sacks in 2016, gave Freeney credit for his development.
Back in 2015, the Ravens made a big mistake opting for Jason Babin over Freeney after Suggs tore his Achilles. Freeney signed with the Cardinals and helped them to the NFC Championship game, while Babin only lasted a month with the team. The Ravens want to get back to the postseason, and it always helps to have a still solid veteran on defense getting after the quarterback. Especially someone who has a lot of knowledge and experience like Dwight Freeney.
Long was selected with the number two overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and would become a big contributor for the first six seasons of his career with the then St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately, his next two seasons in St. Louis wouldn't be so promising as he only recorded four sacks in total from 2014-2015.
Long was released and signed by the Patriots last season, notching four sacks and playing all over New England's defensive line. At the age of 31 (turning 32 in few days), Long would still be a valuable asset to the Ravens pass-rush and along the rest of the defensive line. The problem however, is that Long wants to be an every down player again like he was in St. Louis.
Long's market will be interesting to watch because it's doubtful a team will sign him to be an every down player at this point. Ozzie Newsome could then snatch him up at the right price to be the situational type player that he was in New England and help out the teams pass-rush. Being one of those under the radar kind of signings Newsome is well known for.
These names obviously don't light the world on fire and neither do the other pass-rushers that are available, including Trent Cole and Mario Williams. However, they could add value to the team and contribute. Someone like Dwight Freeney should be seriously considered by the Ravens. Then again, Newsome did state that the door isn't closed on a potential Elvis Dumervil return. With Dumervil being a full year removed from his Achilles injury that hindered him throughout last season, it might not be a bad idea to bring him back.
The Ravens can add to the secondary as much as the want, but you win championships on defense by getting after the quarterback. That is something the Ravens have struggled to do for the last two seasons now. With quarterbacks like Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Carr, and Andrew Luck in the AFC, the pass-rush must be addressed if the Ravens want to not only get to the playoffs, but make a deep run. If the Ravens don't find someone in free agency, the first or second round of the 2017 NFL Draft will have to do.
Are there any remaining free agent pass-rushers on the market you would like to see the Ravens sign?