Parts of Baltimore Ravens’ offseason plan come into focus as they start making moves: 3 thoughts - Aaron Kasinitz
The Ravens take a liking to a different kind of defensive lineman
So the Ravens were hampered by inflexibility in the defensive front last season. When Williams and Pierce were on the field together, Baltimore’s run defense was stout, but it struggled to bother quarterbacks without blitzing. When one or both of those tackles came to the sideline, opponents often gashed the Ravens with a power running game.
Baltimore didn’t have defensive linemen on the roster who could stay on the field and shine in any situation — and that wound up costing the team when it ran into the Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs. Tennessee’s commitment to the ground game and use of the play-action pass burned the Ravens.
So Decosta went to work to address the issue.
Campbell and Brockers are exactly the style of defensive lineman the Ravens needed last season, the kind of multifaceted players who can combat a balanced offense. Campbell’s averaged 10.5 sacks per season over the past three years and Brockers has 23 career sacks on his resume. Yet both players are considered high-caliber run defenders.
That means Baltimore might have more success rushing the passer without blitzing next season and should have improved versatile up front — a trait defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale covets.
Williams remains on the roster, but it’s close to a foregone conclusion Pierce will sign elsewhere. It’s all part of the Ravens’ effort to alter the complexion of their defensive line, and DeCosta went to great lengths to accomplish that goal quickly.
Ward, 25, whose extension was first reported by The Athletic, signed with the Ravens in early October last season, shortly after being released by the Indianapolis Colts. The former second-round draft pick became an important piece in the defense’s front seven, helping to set the edge against the run, moving inside on obvious passing downs and occasionally dropping into coverage.
Ellis signed a one-year extension, according to the NFL Network. Released by the Oakland Raiders in early October, he joined the Ravens in mid-November after defensive tackle Michael Pierce suffered an ankle injury.
Foot and knee injuries hampered the 6-foot-2, 350-pound Ellis in Oakland, which took him in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft. But he graded out well in run defense last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Ravens are very sneakily acquiring a solid amount of high draft capital. After shipping off tight end Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons for a second round pick and a fifth rounder, Baltimore now has five selections in the first three rounds. So not only do the Ravens trade away a player who was unhappy with his role on the roster, but they also continue to gain more top-tier draft picks to give themselves tremendous flexibility at the 2020 NFL Draft.
Then there are the Ravens, who acquired defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers.
Campbell comes from Jacksonville via trade for the scant price of a fifth-round pick. And Brockers was signed out of free agency from the Los Angeles Rams for $30 million over three years. Campbell is a five-time Pro Bowler, with 31.5 sacks in three years with Jacksonville. Brockers is good against the run and had eight sacks over the last three years.
Brockers will also offset the potential loss of Michael Pierce and could help a run defense that allowed 4.4 yards per carry (20th in the NFL).
According to Yahoo.com, Baltimore’s defense also only generated four sacks from its defensive line last season and needed to blitz more than any team in football (54.4% of the time).
Those two should be a good mix with pass rusher Matthew Judon (9.5 sacks a year ago) if he stays on his current franchise tag.