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Ravens News 1/26: Double Down and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens Should Double Down on Who They Already Are - John Eisenberg

They’re facing a long list of decisions, starting with the selection of a new defensive coordinator, and obviously, they need to make more good choices than bad while navigating free agency, the draft, coaching and tactical changes, contract extensions, etc.

But a guiding principle throughout the season of decision-making should be that the choices help the Ravens double down on who they already are.

That’s how they can rejoin the grand spectacle of playoff theater. Not by reinventing themselves, becoming something they aren’t, just because they didn’t make it this season. Just do a better job of what they’re already doing, which produced quite a record of success until 2021.

What are they already doing? Exactly who are the Ravens?

It’s no secret. They’re a team that relies on Lamar Jackson to be a difference-maker; a team that is hard-hitting on both sides of the ball, aggressive and forceful on defense, able to pound you with a ground game, always a threat to beat you with a great kicker.

They’re a bit of a unicorn, but if any single lesson was there for the gleaning this past weekend, it’s this: Whatever works for you can work in January if you do it well.

Ravens have work to do close the gap with Chiefs, Bills and Bengals in the AFC - Mike Preston

If the Ravens had made the playoffs, they would have been a one-and-done reject like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were blown out by the Chiefs in the wild-card round. Among other things, the Bengals, Chiefs and Bills played at a faster pace with much more intensity and speed than the Ravens. To me, that shows Baltimore might be in for a bit of a rebuild, and general manager Eric DeCosta must have a good offseason in free agency and April’s NFL draft.

The Ravens have few players who could have started on the defensive front sevens of Buffalo, Kansas City and Cincinnati, and they certainly couldn’t match the speed, play-making ability or offensive schemes of those teams.

They are good enough to win 10, 11, possibly 12 games a year, but they can’t go deep into the postseason.

The Ravens will still be able to compete, and they will stick with their formula for success because they’ve invested a lot of money and time into the run-dominated offense of coordinator Greg Roman.

The Ravens probably have another offseason to figure it out. On Friday, coach John Harbaugh announced the team had fired defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. When coordinators start to leave losing teams, fingers are getting pointed.

To borrow an old NFL saying, that means it is time for the next man up. In this situation, it’s Roman, and then Harbaugh.

News, notes and opinions: Add John Harbaugh’s contract to list of Ravens’ offseason questions - Jeff Zrebiec

Harbaugh just completed his 14th season at the helm of the Ravens. He’s had a winning record in 10 of them. He’s widely considered one of the top coaches in the league.

Still, there has to be some organizational-wide frustration with how this season ended. If there is a criticism of Harbaugh, it’s that the Ravens have won just two playoff games in nine seasons since taking Super Bowl XLVII after the 2012 regular season.

Not every roster move has great implications, especially at this time of year when the Ravens have 90 spots at their disposal. When the Ravens re-signed fullback/tight end Ben Mason, a fifth-round pick last year who was cut before the season, to a reserve/future deal on Friday, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are committed to letting pending free agent fullback Patrick Ricard walk this offseason. However, that’s certainly how it could play out. From the sounds of it, there’s a sizable gap between Ricard and the Ravens. There will have to be quite a bit of compromise on both sides to get a deal worked out.

Players I’d put on retirement watch for the Ravens: Alejandro Villanueva, Pernell McPhee, Calais Campbell, Jimmy Smith and Anthony Levine Sr. I’m not saying all five will, but I think it certainly will be a strong consideration. And at least with two of them, the sense I’ve gotten is they are pretty far down the road on a decision.

Regrading the 2020 NFL Draft - Trevor Sikkema

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Round 1 (28): LB Patrick Queen, LSU

Round 2 (55): RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

Round 3 (71): DI Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M

Round 3 (92): WR Devin Duvernay, Texas

Round 3 (98): LB Malik Harrison, Ohio State

Round 3 (106): IOL Tyre Phillips, Mississippi State

Round 4 (143): IOL Ben Bredeson, Michigan

Round 5 (170): DI Broderick Washington, Texas Tech

Round 6 (201): WR James Proche, SMU

Round 7 (219): S Geno Stone, Iowa

Then: B

Now: B-

I don’t want to be too hard on this class, as Dobbins would likely be carrying this group as a big-time difference-maker if he didn’t get hurt this season. However, Queen and Harrison both struggled for the second straight season, and Duvernay isn’t a consistently playmaker in a WR room where he has the opportunity. I’m holding out hope Dobbins can get back to form and carry this class, but the majority still needs to be better.

2022 NFL Free Agency Rankings: Safeties

1. MARCUS WILLIAMS

PFF Free Agency Rank: 8

2021 Snaps: 1,037

2021 PFF grade: 80.1 (7th of 94)

Projected contract: 4 yrs — $16.13m avg/yr

2. JESSIE BATES III

PFF Free Agency Rank: 11

2021 Snaps: 1,082

2021 PFF grade: 64.3 (47th of 94)

Projected contract: 1 yrs — $12.91m avg/yr

5. QUANDRE DIGGS

PFF Free Agency Rank: 52

2021 Snaps: 1,230

2021 PFF grade: 71.6 (24th of 94)

Projected contract: 3 yrs — $8m avg/yr

12. DESHON ELLIOTT

PFF Free Agency Rank: 136

2021 Snaps: 305

2021 PFF grade: 65.6 (N/A)