The 2021 offseason has officially arrived even though the new league year doesn’t formally begin until March 17. Due to the loss of revenue that the pandemic caused, the available cap space for teams league-wide has been significantly reduced.
The unrestricted free agent market will be saturated with an abundance of mid-tier veteran players and in the third article of this five-part series, I’ll be breaking down three bargain free agent candidates at one of the Baltimore Ravens’ top positions of need:
The Ravens’ outside linebacker and edge rusher depth chart will undoubtedly look significantly different in 2021 than it did 2020 with five pending free agents at the position. While most are focused on who the team will try to retain, three unrestricted free agents that they could bring in to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks are Carl Lawson, Melvin Ingram, and Justin Houston.
Lawson is the youngest of the bunch at 25-years-old and will be looking for his first second contract after spending the first four years of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He has 20 sacks in 51 career games and has recorded five or more sacks in every season in which he has appeared in a minimum of 12 games.
He doesn’t beat offensive tackles off the edge with speed, but he has powerful hands and uses bullrushes to get them on their heels before using a swim move to gain inside-position to get home for sacks and generate pressures. Lawson also has a high motor that finishes through the whistle and doesn’t stop if he can’t get inside or around blockers.
Ingram has been linked to the Ravens in the past as a potential trade target. Now, the former first-rounder of the Los Angeles Chargers could be had for a much lower price than they would have paid after an injury-plagued 2020 season, in which he didn’t record a single sack in seven games.
He’s only one season removed from making three straight Pro Bowls from 2017-2019 but has yet to record more than seven sacks in three years. In a depressed market, even once highly regarded pass rushers like himself might have to settle for less or sign a one-year deal to prove that he can return to form and cash in big next offseason.
Ingram is an incredible athlete. In addition to being a superb pass rusher, he excels at stopping the run and has even shown the ability to cover running backs and tight ends in space at times during his career.
Houston is the most decorated on this shortlist with 97.5 career sacks in the regular season, which is tied for the 37th most all-time. Even though it’s been half a decade since he made one, he is a four-time Pro Bowler who still an above-average starter and producer.
Even though he isn’t as dominant as he once was during his heyday with the Kansas Chiefs, the 32-year-old can still provide strong veteran leadership as well as consistent pressure off the edge. He has recorded eight or more sacks in each of his last four seasons, including an 11-sack campaign in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2019.
Houston and soon to be former Washington veteran pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan, who isn’t featured on this list but is still just as fearsome, consistent, and well rounded, could be persuaded into signing for less with a Ravens team that many believe is on the precipice of the Super Bowl and could use some additional quality rushers to unseat the Chiefs at the top of the AFC.