clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Offseason positional preview: Defensive line

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens are a team known for winning in the trenches, and this is typically exemplified by their perennially strong defensive line. In 2018, they fielded another top unit at this spot, with stalwarts such as Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce again anchoring them en route to the #1 overall defensive ranking.

Strong roster churn at this position is usually a mark of a good front office, and Baltimore is almost always able to find starting caliber players on the scrap heap to man their D-Line. That’s without mentioning the fact that their blue chippers such as Pierce and Williams were undrafted and a mid round pick respectively.

There are questions that remain though; Williams hasn’t quite performed up to the high salary he was rewarded, and Pierce is set to be a restricted free agent. Beyond those two, are other unknowns as well.

Let’s take a look at how this group projects forward into 2019:

Current depth chart:

• DT: Chris Wormley (2019 cap hit: $960,660), Patrick Ricard (2019 cap hit: $647,168)

• NT: Brandon Williams (2019 cap hit: $14,170,000), Michael Pierce (RFA)

• DE: Brent Urban (UFA), Zach Sieler (2019 cap hit = $590,170)

Offseason outlook:

This is an intriguing unit thanks to the abundance of promising cheap talent, though the albatross that is Williams’ contract is pretty stark. It’s hard to argue he’s’ been terrible since signing it, but his 2018 PFF grade of 76.2 is good for “above average” on their scale, something that will really need to improve for a 14 million dollar a year figure.

Williams is still a nice player, he just doesn’t seem built to stop the typical modern NFL offense. That is, he’ll need to become a better pass rusher in 2019, or his contract will really stand out as a bad investment for the franchise.

Speaking of investments, it stands to reason the front office will make a significant one in Pierce this offseason. He’s been a disruptive force along the line since arriving three years ago, and that was again true in 2018.

His PFF outlook was much more positive than Williams’, clocking a 91.0 which is good for #5 overall D-Lineman and a “high quality” watermark. While he didn’t have a sack and his tackle totals were actually a bit down, those in advanced metrics seemed to love his tape; don’t be surprised to see Eric DeCosta bring him back for a premium if another team makes an RFA offer.

The other starters (Urban and Wormley) both graded above average per PFF and contributed to a D-Line that ranked as the fifth best in the league via Football Outsiders’ metrics. As a result, the UFA Urban may be worth re-signing for the right price, though confidence in the front office to find a good replacement should be high if they don’t go that route.

Ultimately, this was once again a nice season for the big uglies on D for Baltimore. Hopefully they can retain Pierce and continue to optimize the position under a new general manager.

Let us know how you see the defensive line shaking out.