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Ravens News 2/16: Plan of Action and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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Ravens

2021 record: 8-9

No team was mauled by injuries in 2021 more than the Ravens, who lost one starter after another to the war of attrition. Lamar Jackson needs to be smarter at QB, but he might be playing for a new deal in 2022. Alongside a healthier line and skill group, not to mention with his own arm and legs rested up, he feels primed to re-stake a claim on the AFC North with the Steelers entering uncharted waters post-Ben Roethlisberger. The defense will be in transition, but John Harbaugh can be trusted to right the ship.

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12. Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson’s looming contract situation stands as the biggest subplot around the Ravens as the offseason begins. The quarterback is set to enter the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, which means it’s time to do business. Baltimore needs to lock up the former MVP to a long-term pact, then act aggressively to improve a subpar offensive line through free agency and the draft. Jackson was sacked a career-high 38 times and spent the season’s final weeks on the sideline with an ankle injury. Protect your best player.

2022 NFL Free Agency Preview: Players to target, plans of action, potential cuts and team needs for all 32 NFL teams - Anthony Treash

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Projected Cap Space: $8.7M (19th)

Notable Free Agents: DI Calais Campbell, Edge Justin Houston, WR Sammy Watkins, C Bradley Bozeman, S DeShon Elliott, CB Anthony Averett, LB L.J. Fort

Potential Cuts: None

Team Needs: CB, S, DL

Injuries made the Baltimore secondary look worse than it should have been, but the unit still has room to improve. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters will man two cornerback spots, and safety Chuck Clark has played decently in his versatile role, but the rest of the pack is skating on thin ice. A cornerback in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the cards, but the team could also pursue a defensive back in free agency. One such player is safety Justin Reid, who is coming off a couple of underwhelming years in Houston. Reid was a top-15 graded safety in 2018 and in 2019. Going to Mike Macdonald’s defense in Baltimore could help resurrect that past play, and the Ravens could get him for a fair price in free agency.

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14. David Ojabo, edge, Michigan (6-5, 255)

An athletic rusher with a long, nimble frame, Ojabo has the balanced feet and hip flexibility developed from years of basketball and soccer training to work tight spaces and grease the edge as a pass rusher. His defensive role shouldn’t be restricted to only rushing the passer, but he needs to improve his functional strength and body positioning to make plays in the run game. Ojabo is admittedly “still learning” various aspects of football, but he is naturally explosive with the upfield burst and stride length to overwhelm tackles with arc speed. He projects as a subpackage rusher as a rookie with Pro Bowl potential down the road.

15. Jermaine Johnson, edge, Florida State (6-4, 259)

Johnson went to Mobile as the top defensive player on the roster and left the same way, dominating throughout the week. The Georgia transfer bet on himself and became the alpha of the Seminoles’ defensive line in 2021, leading the ACC in tackles for loss (18.0) and sacks (12.0). Johnson has the length, agility and active hands that lead to disruption as both a pass rusher and run defender and projects as an every-down NFL starter.

21. George Karlaftis, edge, Purdue (6-4, 268)

Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Karlaftis moved to the United States and adopted football as his go-to sport, finishing his college career with 30.5 tackles for loss over 27 games. His hands are not only physical and violent, but they’re well timed and strategic to get the offense off schedule. You wish his arms were longer and he had more twitch in his movements, but Karlaftis has NFL power, effort and hand work to break down the rhythm of blockers.

Ravens seven-round mock draft (Version 1.0): Finding help for the offensive line and secondary - Jonas Shaffer

First round (No. 14 overall): Washington CB Trent McDuffie

In the AFC, the Ravens have to contend with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. In the division, they have to face Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ elite wide receiver trio twice a year through at least 2023. With Marlon Humphrey coming off a disappointing 2021 and Marcus Peters entering the final year of his contract, it’s not a bad idea to invest in another high-end cornerback. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound McDuffie, a three-year starter at Washington, is considered a low-risk pick at a vital position. He tackles well, impresses in press coverage and allowed a passer rating of 49.7 over his final two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.

Fourth round (No. 107): Illinois S Kerby Joseph

After an anonymous first three years at Illinois, where he bounced around from position to position, Joseph broke out at safety last season. He had five interceptions in 12 games and allowed just nine catches on 19 targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns, according to PFF, earning first-team All-Big Ten Conference honors. With a strong showing in Senior Bowl practices, the buzz grew even louder. The big question for the 6-0, 200-pound Joseph — and for the Ravens, who need a ballhawk in the back end — is whether he’s fast enough to make plays as a deep-lying safety.