While the new league year is about two months away, the Baltimore Ravens will first turn their attention towards retaining their own pending unrestricted free agents before focusing on those from other teams.
They have a large contingent of players that were either starters or played key roles in 2021 slated to hit the open market in 2022. General Manager Eric DeCosta won’t be able to keep the band together and will be looking to improve on both sides of the ball.
Here are five pending unrestricted free agents that the Ravens should try and prioritize re-signing.
DE Calais Campbell
The six-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer isn’t sure if he wants to continue his already illustrious playing career. If he decides to come back for a 15th season, though, the Ravens should make a strong push to retain his services for 2022.
Even though his 2021 stats weren’t gaudy and he wasn’t voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time in four years, Campbell was the Ravens’ highest-graded defender and second-highest graded overall player — according to Pro Football Focus.
Highest-graded #Ravens in the 2021 season (min. 425 snaps):— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) January 11, 2022
1️⃣ Mark Andrews, TE- 91.5
2️⃣ Calais Campbell, DI- 80.8
3️⃣ Justin Houston, EDGE- 78.4
4️⃣ Kevin Zeitler, OG- 77.0
5️⃣ Patrick Ricard, FB- 75.2 pic.twitter.com/sXg5Mnke4w
While he only recorded 1.5 sacks, Campbell was still an effective pass rusher with 12 quarterback hits and 16 pressures per Pro Football Reference. He was an elite run defender and was one of the biggest reasons why the Ravens had the stingiest rush defense in 2021. They allowed a league-low 1,436 yards on the ground with the third-fewest yards per carry (3.8). According to PFF, Campbell earned a run defense grade of 77.9, a pass-rush grade of 69.5, and racked up 31 pressures along with 24 stops.
Calais Campbell out here humpin grown men into the shadow realm.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) October 19, 2021
Campbell’s hump has been lethal this year.
Also, Bowser assertively setting the front. pic.twitter.com/BOhrbjyfjx
FB Patrick Ricard
The converted defensive lineman has gone from undrafted gem to making the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years as a fullback. He is a devastating blocker in the running game and has seen his role in the passing game expand each year.
Despite playing a career-low 13 games due to a knee injury that kept him out of four of the last five games of the season, Ricard recorded career-highs in receiving yards (65) and targets (13). He is an integral piece in the Ravens’ current offensive scheme with Greg Roman as the play-caller and designer. Replacing a player of Ricard’s caliber would be easier said than done, so the front office will likely prioritize re-signing him since fullbacks don’t command high salaries. Most teams don’t utilize nor even carry them.
FULLBACK TD ON FOURTH DOWN— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) November 7, 2021
Patrick Ricard pic.twitter.com/jNpCK588S8
C/G Bradley Bozeman
Continuity is key to the cohesion of an offensive line and while the Ravens are in desperate need of an upgrade at the tackle position, retaining one of their top interior players should be a priority this offseason. Bozeman, the 2018 sixth-round pick out of Alabama, made his return to his natural position of center in the final year of his rookie contract and performed well. Along with veteran guard Kevin Zeitler, he was a stabilizing force as the anchor in the middle of the makeshift unit for an offense that finished third in rushing and sixth in total yards.
According to PFF, he was flagged just once, allowed only three sacks and earned an overall grade of 73.3 — which ranked 11th among all centers. He also finished with a pass-blocking grade of 73.8 and a run-blocking grade of 70.8. Bozeman and the team are currently far apart in negotiations for a new deal, per multiple reports. If they can come to an agreement, it would ensure that Lamar Jackson would have one of the top interior linemen in the league opening lanes in the run game and providing him with a clean pocket to throw from.
S Tony Jefferson
The eighth-year veteran’s second stint with the Ravens only lasted four games but he likely earned another contract with the team after playing at a high level on both defense and special teams. His ability to contribute in two phases of the game makes him an ideal replacement for Anthony Levine Sr. as an ace on special teams and safety/dime linebacker hybrid on defense. Jefferson recorded 17 total tackles including one for a loss, a pass deflection, a sack, and a quarterback hit in a four-game audition.
This was such a great play by Tony Jefferson— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) January 3, 2022
He’s played amazing football since coming back to Baltimore pic.twitter.com/0jT3RWFWP5
OLB Justin Houston
The 11-year veteran edge rusher is a future Hall of Famer. Like Campbell, Houston has plenty left in the tank, can still play at a high level, and is chasing the championship glory that has eluded them thus far in their respective careers. He signed a team-friendly deal to join the team at the onset of training camp for what he hoped would be a championship run before injuries derailed the season.
Houston led the team in quarterback hits with 17 and finished third in sacks with 4.5, per Pro Football Reference. According to PFF, he recorded 40 total pressures and six sacks on his way to earning a pass-rush grade of 77.4 and an overall grade of 78.4. He likely won’t command or look for top dollar on the open market but the Ravens might look to lock him up beforehand.