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Ravens News 8/2: Patience Rewarded and more

NFL: DEC 09 Ravens at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Justin Houston free agency: Former Colts All-Pro agrees to terms with Ravens, per report - Patrik Walker

Justin Houston has found himself a new NFL home. As free agency rolled along — past OTAs and minicamp and into training camps firing up around the league — Houston remained unsigned as he waited for the right situation and offer to come along. He found both with the Baltimore Ravens, reportedly agreeing to join the team on a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. And it appears it was more about the situation than the offer itself, with Houston reportedly turning down significantly more money from other teams to play in Baltimore.

Houston wants a chance to contend for a championship in 2021, and he believes the Ravens give him the best chance to do so. He visited the club in May but left without signing a deal. Two months later, he’s readying to suit up for John Harbaugh.

The addition works well for the Ravens’ odds of success in 2021. A team that was listed as having a 50.2 percent chance of winning the AFC North and an 81.3 percent chance of making the playoffs — per CBS Sports stats analyst Stephen Oh — now sees their chances of winning the division buoy to 65.3 percent and their playoff odds move north to 83.2 percent. Their chances of winning the Super Bowl also jumped 1.5 points — from 9.1 to 10.6 percent.

It took 3 months, but the Ravens and Justin Houston find compromise. How Eric DeCosta’s patience was rewarded - Jeff Zrebiec

The Ravens don’t have much space left to make other moves of reasonable significance. In a way, though, the addition of Houston, who immediately becomes the team’s most accomplished edge rusher, hypothetically fills the last major need on the team’s offseason list.

There was an unsettled edge rush picture after Judon, Ngakoue and Jihad Ward departed in free agency, but what the Ravens now have after extending Tyus Bowser, re-signing Pernell McPhee, drafting Oweh and Hayes and bringing aboard Houston is a diverse and relatively deep outside linebacker group that should give blitz-happy defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale other options in his never-ending quest to disrupt quarterbacks.

There are still a few other areas where the Ravens could probably use additional depth. There is uncertainty about who will be the No. 3 safety although Martindale believes third-round rookie Brandon Stephens will be a contributor sooner rather than later. They don’t have a definitive third tight end, but trade acquisition Josh Oliver looks the part if he’s able to hold up physically. The swing offensive tackle role could become a major issue and nothing we’ve seen so far from veterans Andre Smith and Michael Schofield through the first week of training camp has been especially reassuring.

The combined salary cap numbers of McPhee, Bowser, Houston, Ferguson, Oweh and Hayes are right around $10 million. Ngakoue alone will occupy $13 million of the Las Vegas Raiders’ salary cap this year. The Ravens’ front office has clearly shown in recent seasons that it believes it is much wiser to spend money on its secondary than its pass rush.

Practice Report: 10 Observations From Stadium Practice - Clifton Brown

Wide receivers ruled the evening, and first-round pick Rashod Bateman had one of the night’s highlights when he beat All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey on a deep corner route for a touchdown.

“Marlon’s done a good job making me better,” Bateman said. “That’s just the competition that we’ve got going this training camp. I love it.”

Duvernay set the tone early for the wide receivers, making a 30-yard reception while working against Peters. There’s little question that Duvernay and Proche are two young receivers benefitting from the reps they’re getting during a more normal 2021.

Second-year defensive tackle Justin Madubuike barged into the backfield to stymie a running play, continuing to make his presence felt.

Inside linebacker Malik Harrison had a nice interception against Huntley during seven-on-seven drills.

Ravens training camp observations on the state of the offense, rookie progress and more - Mike Preston

Rookie outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes have gotten some attention with their play so far. Hayes, out of Notre Dame, is much more polished and might be able to contribute sooner than Oweh, who needs to improve his technique. Both players, though, come off the ball well and have shown good speed on the perimeter.

Even though Jackson can’t attend practices, Roman said the team is in communication with him so he isn’t missing a lot of classroom time. Harbaugh downplayed the starting quarterback’s absence recently, but practices with a cast that includes several new receivers are extremely valuable. The timing between a quarterback and his receivers is the bread and butter of every passing game.

Another tackle to keep an eye on, this one on defense, is second-year player Broderick Washington. The 2020 fifth-round pick is much more explosive than a year ago, and that probably comes with a year in the weight room under the team’s strength and conditioning program.

Ravens Shifting Young Players in Secondary - Todd Karpovich

Baltimore drafted Brandon Stephens in the third round of this year’s draft as a cornerback. However, Stephens has taken reps at safety over the early days of training camp.

“He’s a smart kid, and I really, really like him. I think he’s going to be a great football player for us,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “As all the rookies are, they’re a little quiet right now, because in essence, when you’re a rookie football player – if you want to think back to high school or college, some of you– it’s like the freshman going into the senior’s class.

Nigel Warrior, an undrafted player from Tennessee in his second year, has a nose for the ball and is gaining the confidence of coaches.

“Well, that’s his strength – he has position flexibility,” Martindale said. “We know he can play safety; now we’re going to see where he’s at corner-wise, and he’s done a nice job. He’s done a nice job, and he’s had some good battles with some good receivers. So, it’s going to be fun to watch.