clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What should the Ravens do at OLB?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

With free agency less than a month away now, it remains a mystery how the Ravens plan to handle their dilemma at outside linebacker. Only one player is currently under contract at the position for Baltimore, Jaylon Ferguson, who is entering his third season. Both Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue are expected to land sizable contracts somewhere, while former second-round pick Tyus Bowser and veterans Pernell McPhee and Jihad Ward are also slated to hit the open market.

With limited cap space and other needs to fill, how should the Ravens approach edge rusher this offseason? In this article, I will go over some of the paths that general manager Eric DeCosta could take.

2020 OLB stats

Player Games Played Sacks Tackles TFL QB Hits Forced Fumbles
Player Games Played Sacks Tackles TFL QB Hits Forced Fumbles
Matthew Judon 14 6 50 9 21 0
Yannick Ngakoue 15 8 23 7 11 4
Tyus Bowser 16 2 34 4 14 0
Pernell McPhee 15 3 34 3 15 0
Jihad Ward 10 3 16 4 8 0
Stats taken from pro-football-reference.com
  • The franchise tag

One option, albeit one that seems unlikely, is to use the franchise tag on one of the two big free agents, Judon or Ngakoue. Baltimore used the franchise tag on Judon last offseason to keep him in town for the 2020 season. Ngakoue has yet to receive a second contract either after being tagged by the Jaguars and then traded to the Vikings before once again being traded to the Ravens during the season. Baltimore parted with a 2021 third-round pick to acquire Ngakoue, which may affect how they view keeping him long-term. With only a little over $18 million in cap space currently, according to overthecap.com, it would be extremely difficult to devote the majority of that to just one player.

Using the tag on either Judon or Ngakoue would leave the Ravens with still only two edge rushers, however, so work would still need to be done to fill out the position group.

  • A long-term deal with one of the big two free agents

Instead of using the franchise tag on the big free agents, Baltimore could instead reach a long-term deal with either Judon or Ngakoue. Spotrac.com currently has Judon with a market value of four years for $62,454,663 with an average annual salary of $15.6 million and Ngakoue at four years for $62,351,880 with an average annual salary of $15.5 million. The Ravens could structure either contract to have less of a cap hit in the first year. However, as with using the franchise tag on either player, signing one of Judon or Ngakoue to a long-term deal would still leave Baltimore with only two OLBs.

  • A mix of cheaper options

Another option for the Ravens to explore instead of re-signing either Judon or Ngakoue is to sign a mix of cheaper options to fill out the depth chart. Bowser is an intriguing option that Baltimore should heavily consider if the price is right. It’s unclear what Bowser is expected to make on the open market, but it will certainly be less than both Judon and Ngakoue. Bowser, a second-round pick in 2017, came on strong in his fourth season. Bowser’s excellent coverage ability and ability to rush the passer make him an ideal fit for defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s system.

Alongside Bowser, the Ravens could also re-sign either or both Pernell McPhee and Jihad Ward to fill out the depth chart with several solid players at the position.

  • Signing someone else in free agency

Instead of choosing to re-sign any of the aforementioned players, DeCosta could instead decide to bring in new faces to address the need. Some of the notable free agent edge rushers that could potentially play OLB in a 3-4 system include Shaquil Barrett, Leonard Floyd, Bud Dupree, Jadeveon Clowney, Haason Reddick, Carl Lawson, Justin Houston, Markus Golden, Ryan Kerrigan, Melvin Ingram, Aldon Smith, Romeo Okwara, and Olivier Vernon. J.J. Watt is the biggest name available, but he would likely play defensive end in Baltimore’s defense.

Regardless of the route Baltimore takes in free agency, DeCosta needs to address the need in the draft at some point as well. Some of the top edge rushers in this year's class include Miami’s Gregory Rousseau, Michigan’s Kwity Paye, Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Texas’ Joseph Ossai, Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham Jr., Miami’s Jaelan Phillips, Washington’s Joe Tryon, and Miami’s Quincy Roche.