With 20 players set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason, the Ravens’ roster will inevitably have a different look on both sides of the ball next season. This is especially true considering they also have 10 draft picks under their belt to use in April.
There are a number of returning players who aren’t full-time starters but could make a significant impact with expanded roles in 2022. Here’s a look at a few of them.
WR Devin Duvernay
Devin Duvernay was one of the best return men on special teams in the league in 2021. He led the NFL in punt return average. He was promptly rewarded with a Pro Bowl nod and first-team All-Pro selection. As a wide receiver, he didn’t make the second-year leap some were hoping for — but there’s still reason for optimism ahead of 2022.
Duvernay appeared in all 16 games and drew seven starts. His role in the offense, though, was never greater than being the third or fourth pass-catching option on the field. Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown dominated the target share. Sammy Watkins was the clear No. 3 early in the season before Rashod Bateman emerged in the second half of the year.
Bateman is an easy candidate for someone who deserves a bigger role in 2022. However, it’s pretty much set-in-stone that he will have one. For Duvernay, the premise is much more unclear.
Duvernay saw 19 more targets in 2021 than he did in 2020. He caught 13 more passes but only accumulated 71 more receiving yards. He saw a 20-yard decrease in rushing production, also. His lack of increase in production, though, does not mean there were not signs of promise and upside.
Duvernay showed a broadened catch radius at times at times and continued to be an explosive yards-after-catch threat with the ball in his hands. With more usage, he can do a lot of good things for the Ravens’ offense. He’s a big play waiting to happen.
Sammy Watkins’ potential departure in free agency would open the door for Duvernay to settle in as the No. 3 wide receiver behind Brown and Bateman and fourth overall option in the passing game.
DT Broderick Washington
It’s no secret that the Ravens’ defensive line could look much different next year. Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell are both unrestricted free agents and the latter may potentially retire. Veteran Justin Ellis is also a free agent, too.
In all likelihood, at least one — if not two — of this trio will not return in 2022. If Williams or Campbell especially are not back, that opens the door for substantial playing time. Justin Madubuike figures to step into a starting role and the Ravens will likely draft and/or add defensive lineman in free agency, also.
Broderick Washington was drafted just a couple of rounds after Madubuike in 2019. He hasn’t made a ton of noise over the past two seasons but showed a bit of promise in extended snaps down the stretch last year. From Week 12 on, he played at least 16 defensive snaps in all but one game and saw 40+ snaps twice. In an ugly loss versus the Bengals in Week 16, Washington was a bright spot on defense. He played a career-high 48 snaps and recorded a tackle for loss, QB hit and sack.
Washington flashed some surprising pass-rushing upside in that game that suggests he could be more than just a traditional run-stuffer. In an expanded rotational and spot-starter role, Washington could be an effective player for Mike Macdonald’s defense in 2022.
Because of the question marks at the position group, the opportunity for more playing time should be there for the taking.
Ravens in a 4-3 here.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 15, 2021
Broderick Washington delivers a SHOT to Baker after coming off in low gear against a run look.
Used the long arm then arm over on the inside track.
Baker is probably still feeling this one. Hit stick. pic.twitter.com/mxofxwYj4m
FS Geno Stone
Geno Stone was the Ravens’ final draft selection in 2020. As a seventh-round pick, expectations for Stone weren’t very high but many believed he was a draft-day steal at the time. He spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad before being released and eventually re-acquired by the Ravens.
In 2021, he finally settled in as a roster regular. Stone appeared in just one game through Week 8 but saw his playing time increase as the season progress. He saw double-digit snaps in every game after Week 10 and played a combined 133 snaps over the final three games of the year.
As the Ravens continued to lose defensive backs to injuries, they essentially had no choice but to throw backups like Stone into the fire, so to speak. Fortunately, Stone held up quite well and built some momentum for himself to close out the season.
In his first career start against the Packers in Week 15, Stone played 100% of defensive snaps and was one of the team’s leading tacklers. In the season finale versus Pittsburgh, Stone made a timely interception while also recording a pass breakup. He flashed good ball skills and coverage range, which were two of his main calling cards coming out of college.
DeShon Elliott, the team’s starting free safety the past two seasons, is an unrestricted free agent and Anthony Levine Sr. is now retired. The Ravens will certainly look to add a player or two to this position group to join Stone, Brandon Stephens, and potentially Tony Jefferson II — should the team bring him back.
Regardless of what they do, there will be snaps to be had. It would be nice to see Stone get a chance to build off his strong finish in 2021 and become an impact defensive piece, not just a special teams contributor.