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Ravens News 1/21: Offseason Examinations and more

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Divisional Round - Baltimore Ravens v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

John Harbaugh defends Baltimore Ravens’ run-heavy offense - Jamison Hensley

“The reason why I’m strong on this is because it goes back to the same criticism we’ve heard the last three years about not being the type of an offense or the type of a quarterback that some people want to see,” Harbaugh said during his 45-minute, end-of-season news conference. “They’re just going to have to live with it because Lamar Jackson has won a lot of football games here and our offense has won us a lot of football games here and we’re not apologizing for that for one second.”

The Ravens finished last in the NFL in passing for the first time since 2003. Harbaugh explained the lack of passing yards is the result of building “the best run offense in the history of football the last two years” and the fact that Baltimore has attempted an NFL-low 406 passes.

“If we could bring in an Anquan Boldin in here, let’s do it,” Harbaugh said. “Can we afford it? That’s the details we have to figure out. I think a big, physical receiver would be awesome for us.”

John Harbaugh Defends Ravens’ Passing Scheme From Critics - Ryan Mink

“All of our drop-back passes, yeah we’re not going to be as complex as a Pittsburgh or a team that throws the ball 40-50 times a game because we don’t throw the ball as much as they do. I think that just stands to reason,” Harbaugh said.

“We build the passing game around our players and our talent, and around our quarterback, and around our running backs, and around our offensive line, to suit our players to play winning football and score points.”

Harbaugh acknowledged the Ravens can get better in the passing game. Middle-of-the-pack efficiency is not where Baltimore wants to be – in anything.

“We’re going to improve it, no question about it. We’re going to work to be more precise, more efficient, be better at what we do. That’s what we have to do is be better at it,” Harbaugh said.

Regrading the 2019 NFL Draft - Anthony Treash

25. BALTIMORE RAVENS: WR MARQUISE BROWN

Brown hasn’t quite been a top-tier performer, nor has he been remotely close to the level as Day 2 selections A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Terry McLaurin, but he hasn’t been terrible, either. Among 42 first-round wide receivers to garner more than 100 targets in their first two NFL seasons, Brown comes in at 20th in receiving grade. He’s obviously not winning very many battles in tight coverage given his size, but Hollywood has been a quality vertical threat for Baltimore. Since 2019, including postseason play, Brown is tied for seventh in the NFL in deep receptions in which he created separation from his coverage defender (16).

REGRADE: AVERAGE

Five Things Ravens Will Examine This Offseason - Clifton Brown

Which free-agent outside linebackers return?

Outside linebackers Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee are all set to become unrestricted free agents. Judon and Ngakoue are Pro Bowl players, Bowser improved each season, and McPhee had a strong season and is a team leader. Keeping all of them is improbable and losing all four would be a huge hit to the defense.

The Ravens placed the franchise tag on Judon last year and could do it again. He has become a core player on the defense, used in a variety of ways in Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale’s schemes.

“He’s meant a lot to this defense,” Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “I think he’s been a big voice to the defense, for sure. [He’s] one of our top leaders. Hopefully, we can figure it out, and he can stay with us.”

Ngakoue has been a proven pass rusher in the NFL, although he only produced three sacks in 11 games with Baltimore after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Ngakoue played just 20 snaps against the Bills on Saturday night.

Bowser had two sacks and three interceptions this season. The only Ravens outside linebacker with experience that’s under contract for next year is rising third-year linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, who was a healthy scratch in both playoff games.

Baltimore Ravens pending free agents: Breaking the list into groups - Aaron Kasinitz

Potential big earners

EDGE Yannick Ngakoue

EDGE Matthew Judon

Ngakoue (No. 6) and Judon (No. 34) were the only two Ravens to make ESPN’s list of the Top 50 potential free agents this offseason. While Ngakoue has one Pro Bowl on his resume, Judon’s made the AFC roster each of the past two seasons.

They’re different types of edge rushers — Ngakoue has more explosiveness as a pass-rush specialist and Judon carries greater versatility — but they sit in similar situation as a productive players at a highly-valued position who must navigate the unknowns of the open market in a year when many teams are bracing for a salary cap squeeze.

So could either player return to Baltimore? It’s a possibility.

The Ravens have just one returning edge rusher under contract next season: Jaylon Ferguson, who was a healthy scratch for both playoff games. In the past, Baltimore has let talented pass rushers leave in free agency because other teams were willing to pay top dollar for those players.

This year, the Ravens will risk leaving their depth chart bare if they don’t re-sign Ngakoue, Judon, Bowser or McPhee before free agency begins. But the front office is famously disciplined — or stubborn, depending on the viewpoint — and history suggests Baltimore won’t overpay for an edge rusher, no matter what the roster looks like.