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Best of the Rest: Remaining Free Agent EDGE fits for the Ravens

There is still talent to be had and deals to be made for edge rushers now that the free agency frenzy has subsided.

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The new league year officially opened up last week and less than a full week into unrestricted free agency, the open market has been picked clean of the top tier talent. However, now that the frenzy has subsided, there are still veteran players at some of the Baltimore Ravens’ positions of need that are available and could be had on affordable deals.

Below is a list of players that fit the Ravens or could at least come in to provide depth and fill a defined role at edge rusher, where they lost their top two players to conference rivals in the initial wave of free agency.

Melvin Ingram – 2020 team: Los Angeles Chargers, 2020 stats: 10 total tackles, and 5 QB hits

Wild Card Round - San Diego Chargers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The three-time Pro Bowler was limited to just seven games by injures last season and didn’t record a sack in any of them. However, when healthy, he is a disruptive force capable of setting a strong edge against the run and impacting the passing game both in coverage as well as rushing the quarterback.

He is an underrated athlete who plays deceptively well in space. Even though he didn’t record a sack last season, he did haul an interception and batted down two passes. He’s never recorded more than 10.5 sacks in a single season since coming into the league as a first-round pick out of South Carolina in 2012.

While he hasn’t consistently put-up double-digit sacks in his career, he has proven that he is capable of it and is a more complete edge defender than the majority of the players who routinely post 10-plus sack seasons.

Ingram reminds me of Ravens’ all-time sack leader and future Hall of Famer, Terrell Suggs. During the second half of Suggs’ career, post his 2011 DPOY season when injuries began to slow him down a bit, he was still viewed as one of the best all-around outside linebackers. Given his down year in 2020 and the market for pass rushers over 30 years old isn’t robust right now, he could likely be signed on a team-friendly deal.

Ryan Kerrigan – 2020 team: Washington Football Team, 2020 stats: 5.5 sacks, 5 TFLs, and 6 QB hits

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The four-time Pro Bowler has been a model of consistency throughout his entire career since being drafted 16th overall out of Purdue in the first round of the 2011 draft. His durability and productivity are his most alluring traits. He has only missed four games in his entire 10-year career, has never recorded less than 5.5 sacks in a single season, and has recorded double-digit sacks four times including three years of 13 or more.

Kerrigan had a lesser role in his final year with Washington as he took a back seat to 2019 first rounder Montez Sweat and 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young. Despite making just one start and playing a career-low 38 percent of their defensive snaps, he was still productive and a great mentor to both Young and Sweat.

The Ravens have been linked to Kerrigan in offseason and midseason trade rumors the past few years. Now they wouldn’t have to give up any draft capital for him if he is signed following the compensatory pick formula impact deadline.

He likely still wouldn’t return to full-time starter status with the Ravens since they brought back Pernell McPhee and still have Jaylon Ferguson at RUSH outside linebacker as well. However, even with those guys in the mix and the expected arrival of a rookie edge rusher or two, Kerrigan can still be a part of a more regular rotation in Baltimore where they value and utilize seasoned veterans in their front seven.

The 32-year-old has only made the playoffs three times in his decade-long career and has never advanced past the wildcard round. The Ravens have made the postseason in each of the last three years and have made it to the divisional round in the last two. He’d have the best opportunity to contend for a championship that he’s ever had if he comes to Baltimore.

Justin Houston – 2020 team: Indianapolis Colts, 2020 stats: 8 sacks, 8 TFLs, and 12 QB hits

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The four-time Pro Bowler isn’t the same seemingly unstoppable beast he was in his heyday with the Kansas City Chiefs but has been consistently productive since bouncing back from a 2016 knee injury. He recorded 19 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three safeties over the past two seasons with the Colts.

Houston is still capable of handling a decent-sized workload in terms of percentage of snaps but could be kept fresh in a rotation or as a situational pass rusher who doesn’t have to play the run as much on early downs. He could come in on passing downs and either relive McPhee on the edge or allow him to move inside to set up a stunt or twist.

Like Kerrigan, he is also 32-years old, came into the league in 2011, and has yet to win a championship. He was with the Chiefs during Patrick Mahomes MVP winning campaign in 2018 but just missed their Super Bowl winning season the following year.

If signed, he’d have a chance to both contend for a title and face his former team for the second time since departing in free agency when the Ravens play Kansas City in Baltimore for a second straight season this fall.

Carlos Dunlap – 2020 team: Seattle Seahawks, 2020 stats: 6 sacks, 8 TFLs, and 18 QB hits

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The Ravens are very familiar with the 32-year old former two-time Pro Bowler dating back his time terrorizing their quarterbacks as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals before getting traded to the Seahawks midway through last season. He had only recorded one sack with Bengals in a diminished role to start the 2020 season but after getting traded, he provided juice to the Seahawks’ previously underwhelming pass rush and recorded five sacks in eight games.

Prior to the start of free agency, the Ravens had reportedly expressed interest in Dunlap and even though no visits have been scheduled or contracts discussed, that interest could still be alive and well.

At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds he doesn’t exactly fit the physical archetype of the prototypical edge rusher in their hybrid 3-4 defense, but they value production and versatility over preferred measurables.

Defensive Coordinator Don Wink Martindale likes to have flexibility in his defensive front so that he can concoct creative and deceptive ways to scheme up pressure as well as disguise coverage. While Dunlap would primarily be used on the edge if signed, he could be moved inside in sub-packages in obvious passing situations as a five-technique/defensive end.

Jadeveon Clowney – 2020 team: Tennessee Titans, 2020 stats: 4 TFLs and 6 QB hits

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The former first overall pick has been linked to the Ravens for the past couple of offseasons but after two injury-riddled and unproductive seasons as a pass rusher, they might finally be able to afford him on a low-risk-high-reward deal.

He has yet to realize his full potential or live up to the immense hype he had entering the league out of South Carolina in 2014. When healthy he is an elite run defender with overrated pass-rush upside.

Clowney is a great edge setter and even though he doesn’t record a lot of sacks, he can still be a disruptive force in the opposing backfield that can generate pressure, sniff out screens and blowout up reverses and sweeps. Injuries have limited him to 23 of 35 possible games including the playoffs during his time with the Seahawks and Titans combined.

He only played in eight contests with Tennessee last year before landing on injured reserve with a season-ending knee injury and didn’t record a single sack. His lack of production and availability might scare away the Ravens in a normal year. However, it just might be the perfect recipe for a cheap one-year prove-it deal that could pay off major dividends if he can stay in the field this fall.

He could potentially net them a high compensatory pick in 2023 if he plays at a high level and breaks the bank elsewhere next offseason. Clowney is still recovering from the surgery to repair his knee and likely won’t sign a deal with the Ravens or anyone until he can pass a physical.

Olivier Vernon – 2020 team: Cleveland Browns, 2020 stats: 9 sacks, 12 TFLs, and 16 QB hits

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Last year, the nine-year veteran and one-time Pro Bowler bounced back from an injury-riddled 2019 season. He was having a great 2020 campaign, where he came up two sacks shy of tying his previous career-high, before suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in the regular-season finale.

Vernon played well against the Ravens during his time with the Browns, notching three sacks in the three games he was active for, including a two-sack performance in the Monday Night thriller this past season. He is a powerful rusher who is strong at the point of attack and possesses violent hands.

He won’t be healthy enough to pass a physical anytime soon considering he suffered his injury in early January so he’ll likely sit on the open market past the comp pick impact deadline. That means that the Ravens could potentially sign the 30-year-old for relatively cheap after they attempt to address their pass rush in the draft.