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Ravens News 5/29: Haloti returns, four downs and more

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Green Bay Packers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Haloti Ngata Returning to Retire as a Raven - Ryan Mink

The mountainous defensive tackle will return to Baltimore Wednesday to officially retire as a Raven, bringing the career of one of the team’s all-time great defenders full circle.

A first-round pick (No. 12 overall) in 2006, Ngata was an immediate starter and impact player. A freakish athlete standing in at 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, Ngata made the most of his unique talent.

While Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, as well as the more brash Terrell Suggs, got much of the glory in the Ravens defense, Ngata quietly did a lot of the dirty work while still making splash plays of his own. From 2006-2018, Ngata is the NFL’s only defensive tackle to record at least 30 sacks and five interceptions.

The NFL Players Returning From Injury Who Could Swing the 2019 Season - Danny Kelly

FS Earl Thomas, Ravens

Thomas, who held out during the preseason in hopes of getting the security a long-term deal would provide, didn’t bother hiding his frustration with his soon-to-be-former team. The broken leg ended his season, and effectively ended his tenure with Seattle. Now, after getting the big-money extension that he wanted from Baltimore, Thomas has a chance to get back onto the field and make Seattle regret their decision. Even at 30 years old, a healthy Thomas remains one of the best free safeties in the game, combining speed, instincts, and ball skills with a tenacious playing style. He’s a more-than-capable replacement for the recently departed Eric Weddle in the middle of the Ravens defense.

Four Downs: AFC North - Rivers McCown

Baltimore Ravens

Biggest Need: Edge rusher

After letting Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith leave in free agency, the Ravens could only walk away with one stab at the edge rusher apple in the draft: Jaylon Ferguson. Ferguson is the career leader in FBS sacks, but fell to the third round on subpar measureables, so he’s kind of an eye-of-the-beholder prospect.

(Ed. Note: You may have noticed that Ferguson was inexplicably left out of the SackSEER article this year. Oops. Ferguson is projected for 16.0 sacks through Year 5 with a SackSEER rating of 65.8 percent. His college production is balanced by a pro day 3-cone reported at over 8 seconds.)

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Antoine Wesley out of Texas Tech is a wideout with true win-in-traffic skills who might be best utilized in a Lamar Jackson offense, and the depth chart at Baltimore wideout is nothing if not a vacuum.

Don’t Read Too Much Into Lamar Jackson’s Practices - John Eisenberg

But more importantly, practice isn’t the place for Jackson to unleash the skills that make him so unique and valuable.

His eye-popping speed. His elusiveness. The creativity and instincts that make him so dangerous when a play breaks downs.

A year ago, weeks after the Ravens drafted Jackson, he stood next to Joe Flacco in passing drills during OTAs. It was impossible not to compare, and also impossible not to see that Flacco, who had been in the NFL for a decade, had the stronger arm and was far more polished. There wasn’t going to be a quarterback controversy. Flacco, one of the purest throwers you’ll ever see, had rendered it a no-contest situation.

In the end, though, Jackson was more successful than Flacco at steering the Ravens to victory in 2018.