The Baltimore Ravens pass rush, specifically off the edge, is one of the biggest question marks for the team heading into training camp and one of the few weaknesses on the roster that many pundits point to and lament over. After letting both Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue walk in free agency, the Ravens have been rumored to be in the veteran edge rusher market since they signed elsewhere in March and even following the draft where they picked a pair of rookies at the position.
The rumors proved to be somewhat true when they signed veteran edge defender Chris Smith to a one-year deal on Monday. However, he’s most likely just a training camp signing to help round out the position in practice and field a competitive defense during the preseason unless a path to roster spot unexpectedly becomes available due to injury.
Another avenue they could explore to address the position immediately or at some point during the first half of the season is via trade. On Sunday, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Arizona Cardinals star pass rusher Chandler Jones wants out of town citing frustrations over his current contract.
All-Pro pass rusher Chandler Jones requested a trade from the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, per sources. Jones has been unhappy with his contract and future with the team. Cardinals don’t want to trade him and expect him to report to camp. But certainly a situation to watch.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) July 25, 2021
The two-time All-Pro had his 2020 season cut short due to an injury he suffered in Week 5 but recorded five consecutive seasons of double-digit sacks before getting hurt. His 97 career sacks since entering the league in 2012 as a first-round pick out of Syracuse is the most of any active player even though he missed the majority of last season.
Even though he has been dominant and productive year in and year out for over half a decade, he is constantly underrated. Jones has all the physical tools, athletic traits, and savvy mastery of applying pressure to be a perfect RUSH outside linebacker for the Ravens and could even kick inside to five-technique/defensive end in sub-packages.
The Ravens appear to be content with going pass rush by committee heading into 2021 or are at least are willing to give their in-house guys a chance to prove they can get the job done. However, acquiring a player of Jones’ caliber would give them the one proven prominent or flat out dominant presence on the edge that they have been accustomed to having for every year of the franchise’s history.
As indicated in Fowler’s report, the Cardinals have no intentions of obliging Jones’ request at this time but that could change if their season doesn’t get off to a great start or goes complete off the rails before the midseason trade deadline. Last season the Ravens acquired Ngakoue via trade just before the deadline in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick.
While Ngakoue didn’t get their pass rush back into the same groove it was in during the first half of the season when they faced more quarterbacks that like to hold onto the ball, he played well and defended the run better than expected at times.
If the Cardinals get ravaged by the injury bug at premium positions early on the year, it could set the table for yet another coup of a deal by Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta. He’s been able to trade for Pro Bowl defenders at half their yearly salary in each of the two previous seasons.
DeCosta was able to acquire cornerback Marcus Peters midway through the 2019 season from the Los Angeles Rams for a 2020 fifth rounder and he went on to earn All-Pro honors with his incredible play down the stretch. If the current edge rushers on the roster aren’t performing up to snuff towards the end of October, he won’t be afraid to make a bold move for a prominent player at the right reduced price.
Since Jones is set to enter the final year of his current contract, the Ravens would only have to pay a portion of his 2021 salary if they traded for him. How much will ultimately depend on when they pull the trigger, however, I highly doubt it will be anytime soon.