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Ravens 2021 Offseason: 8 Bold Predictions

NFL: JAN 11 AFC Divisional Playoff - Titans at Ravens Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens have enjoyed outstanding regular season success since Lamar Jackson relieved Joe Flacco in 2018. However, on the national stage, Jackson’s 30-7 regular season record is often overshadowed by his 1-3 postseason mark. Nevertheless, General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh have suggested that they are content to run it back with the core players and schemes that have earned three straight playoff appearances.

As usual, the club will utilize a combination of short-term and long-term maneuvers designed to provide a contending team for many seasons to come. Eight bold predictions for the Ravens 2021 offseason:

  • Orlando Brown Jr. will not be traded

His intentions to play left tackle have been known for a month but the front office has presumably not received a package enticing enough to trade their Pro Bowl right tackle. Trading prime draft capital before signing Brown to a large contract is a risky proposition for teams that favor a drop back passing offense. With an influx of capable rookie tackles on the horizon in the draft, a worthwhile trade seems unlikely to materialize, meaning Brown will play out the final year of his rookie contract on the right side before the Ravens consider their options next offseason.

  • A veteran center will be signed to a moderate contract

Harbaugh’s post season comments on improving the offensive line have fueled speculation that the club could be in the market for a premier free agent blocker. Yet signing blockers from other organizations to top dollar contracts has not been part of the Ravens traditional blueprint under Harbaugh. Instead, the Ravens have been successful at drafting and developing their homegrown linemen, and supplementing their blocking unit with a value veteran when necessary. With several experienced centers already available, and more cap casualties probable, signing a stabilizing pivot to a bargain contract is the most likely course of action.

  • Bradley Bozeman will receive an early contract extension

Bozeman is one of many early extension candidates from Baltimore’s superlative 2018 draft class. He has started the last 32 games at left guard and his frequent pull blocks have become a staple of coordinator Roman’s power run concepts. Bozeman’s place in the pecking order, as a good not great player at a position the team prioritizes, makes him the most logical option to come to terms on a team-friendly early extension.

  • Lamar Jackson’s contract extension will be put off until 2022

Many franchise quarterbacks have inked long term extensions after their third professional season and Jackson is certainly deserving of a lucrative payday. He is the face of the franchise and the main driving force that has elevated the Ravens to their annual contender status after a down cycle. However, the pandemic related salary cap contraction complicates the issue and Lamar does not employ an agent. Furthermore, his unique skillset that relies on elite athleticism raises questions about his longevity. And perhaps most importantly, even a backloaded extension will further restrict DeCosta’s salary cap flexibility this offseason during a championship window.

  • A wide receiver will be acquired via trade

This franchise has a checkered history with the wide receiver position. Despite most national analysts’ proclamations that adding a legitimate number one receiver is the piece needed to unleash the offense in the postseason, Ravens brass seems reluctant to chase the uppermost impending unrestricted free agents. In fact, DeCosta may not decide to commit the salary necessary to sign one of the second tier free agent wideouts either. While addressing this needy position in the draft is a possibility, the 2021 draft class features a crop of receivers that mostly share similar skillsets as the young players already on the roster. A trade for a proven veteran from a cap strapped team or for a promising young receiver who was drafted-over makes perfect sense.

  • A safety will be drafted within the team’s first three selections

The Ravens were nearly caught shorthanded after dismissing Earl Thomas before the 2020 season. Fortunately, starters Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott were able to stay healthy and provide solid if not spectacular play at safety. Even if the safety duo can remain healthy again in 2021, increased usage of the three-safety dime package would probably help boost the defense’s interception and sack totals. The upcoming draft features several intriguing mid-round safeties that could be the proverbial best player available because other teams routinely reach for premium position talent. DeCosta could opt for a ballhawking safety as early as the first round, especially if the prospect also brings slot coverage insurance behind Tavon Young.

  • A nose tackle will be drafted within the team’s first four selections

Barring an unexpected contract extension, Brandon Williams is set to enter the final year of his 5-year $52.5 million contract in 2021. Although he has never supplied the pass rush contributions that were hoped for, his impact on the team’s run defense and his bloated cap charge caused by a series of contract restructures make it unlikely he will be released. But looking forward, the Ravens will likely aim to grow younger on their defensive line. While the upcoming draft class is painfully lacking in disruptive three-techniques in the Justin Madubuike mold, it does contain more than a handful of burly nose guards. Expect DeCosta to draft a successor who will learn behind Williams for a season before manning the nose in 2022.

  • Matthew Judon will be re-signed

Perhaps the most polarizing Raven in recent memory, Judon’s derision by some in the fanbase for his on-field antics, penalties and spats with media members is counterbalanced by the respect he commands from his teammates and the coaching staff. The team valued him enough to apply the franchise tag last season and he delivered with his second consecutive Pro Bowl season. The outside linebacker position is in flux with the top five performers all set to hit free agency. It would be beneficial to retain their most reliable and versatile edge defender who can anchor the unit by shouldering a three-down workload. The ramifications of the cap contraction might depress his value enough that the benefits of keeping Judon in Baltimore outweigh the cost.