You don’t lose a combined 1,185 defensive snaps from Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jihad Ward and expect to simply replace them with incumbents, especially after Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, and Jaylon Ferguson played a total of 1,302 defensive snaps themselves last season. While Bowser and Ferguson — two players in their mid-20s — will likely see increased workloads in 2021, the injury history of the 32-year-old McPhee would make it unwise to push the limits of the 30.6 snaps per game he played last season if you want him to be both available and effective in December and January.
That’s what makes this week’s free-agent visit of Justin Houston so interesting. His remarkable 22-sack campaign with Kansas City back in 2014 is a distant memory and Pro Football Focus tracked Houston’s pressure rate as the lowest of his career last season, but he’s registered eight or more sacks in each of the last four seasons and played in every game for Indianapolis over the last two years. In other words, there are some fair reasons why he’s still available a month after the start of free agency — especially with a lower salary cap — but the 32-year-old is still capable of helping a defense at a reasonable price and in the right situation, especially if you can reduce the 608 snaps he played last year.
Should the Ravens surrender a compensatory pick to sign Justin Houston? - Kevin Oestreicher
.Compensatory picks are important. Baltimore has utilized the strategy of compiling as many of them as possible for years, and it has paid off in multiple ways. Accumulating compensatory picks can help with draft night trades, player acquisitions, and having more swings in a draft to select impact players. However, despite all of the positives that compensatory picks bring, in the Ravens’ current situation, there are a few drawbacks.
Lamar Jackson is currently still on his rookie contract for two more years, including his fifth-year option. After that, Baltimore is going to have to sign him to a lucrative extension, somewhat hindering their ability to sign free agents. While Jackson is still on his rookie contract, the Ravens should be looking to add pieces to the team that can make an impact at positions of need, like Houston. While a fourth-round pick in 2022 would be a fine asset, Houston would bring Baltimore closer to a championship at this point in time, when Jackson still has a relatively low salary.
No. 4 - Baltimore Ravens
We should be plenty hopeful that Marquise Brown can be a good starting receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. The second half of his 2020 season showed good promise once the team stopped using him almost exclusively on vertical routes.
Beyond Brown, this depth chart is a mess after striking out on several veteran receivers. Having Sammy Watkins as your WR2 in 2021 is not a plan. So far, we don’t have much evidence that young guys like Miles Boykin or Devin Duvernay should be penciled in as quality starters. This team signed Dez Bryant in the middle of last season and played him over these guys.
Lamar Jackson is a much better passer over the middle of the field. I’d love to see them land a guy like Rashod Bateman, who is physical, has inside/outside versatility, and can actually get open.
2021 NFL Draft DL Superlatives: Best hands, most athletic, best pass-rushing moves and more - Michael Renner
Williams is our lone defensive tackle representative here. That’s because at 284 pounds, he’s a walking ball of explosiveness. His 1.65 10-yard split at his pro day is a legit time for a defensive end, let alone a defensive tackle. We saw him in an attacking role much more down the stretch this past season, and his grade reflected it. He earned a 90.8 overall grade last season after only a 72.6 in 2019.
Some defenses love players with inside/outside versatility, and no one has shown as well in that regard than Odeyingbo. At 6-foot-5, 276 pounds with absurdly long 35.25-inch arms, that versatility should translate to the next level as well. Over the past two seasons, Odeyingbo earned a 71.6 pass-rushing grade on 266 snaps on the edge and an 84.9 pass-rushing grade on 297 snaps inside the tackles. That kind of even split is very likely to be his role in the NFL.
Kary Vincent Jr, CB, LSU
Teams are always looking for a slot corner, and this should be their guy. Vincent played outside and in the slot, and even some at safety, for the Tigers in his career before opting out last year. But I think his ability to play man coverage will make him an attractive nickel corner. He can fly, too, which will help with the slot coverage. LSU has become known as “DB U” in recent years, and look for Vincent to add to that as a good slot corner at the next level.
Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
He isn’t the biggest corner at 5-10, 190 pounds, but he knows how to play the position. The son of former NFL star corner Asante Samuel, he has the tools to be a good starter on the next level. He battles on every play and has the cover skills and technique needed to become a top cover player. If he were two inches taller, he might be in the conversation as best corner prospect in the draft. As it is, he should be a late first- or early second-round pick.