Following a 2021 campaign derailed by injuries, the Baltimore Ravens enter the 2022 offseason searching for solutions that will propel them past the divisional round of the playoffs in a loaded AFC conference. General Manager Eric DeCosta is armed with 10 draft picks and more than $15 million of salary cap space to construct a championship caliber roster.
Baltimore Beatdown staff’s complete offseason plans:
The Ravens have traditionally used free agency to fill pressing positional needs and DeCosta should continue to do so this offseason. But with a roster that could lose up to eight starters, identifying which positions are needs and which are wants can be difficult.
Based on the results of last season, injury risk of the players under contract and attrition, offensive tackle is clearly the top need and should be prioritized accordingly with a proven, above average veteran addition via trade or signing. After acquiring an offensive tackle such as La’el Collins, Trent Brown or Morgan Moses, DeCosta should have enough salary cap flexibility to add either one more difference maker or several role players.
Judging by the success of top heavy rosters in recent postseasons, he is better off allocating the remaining cap space for one premier performer. The positions that would be most beneficial to the Ravens after solidifying offensive tackle are free safety and center. Top candidates at free safety include Marcus Williams and Tyrann Mathieu while center features familiar names Ryan Jensen and Bradley Bozeman.
If DeCosta is able to bolster the offensive line and ink a ballhawking safety in free agency, he can enter the draft with the flexibility to utilize a limited best player available approach. The draft class boasts three bluechip offensive tackles, six impact pass rushers and five lockdown defensive backs, all would be excellent selections at #14 overall. DeCosta can take advantage of the draft class’ depth by selecting more blockers, pass rushers and coverage specialists with his three Day 2 picks. Once these crucial elements have been fortified, DeCosta will be free to use his arsenal of Day 3 picks to add luxury pieces such as third running back, third tight end, upside wide receiver, developmental guard and inside linebacker.
Baltimore has resisted the urge to go ‘all-in’ and therefore do not have the resources to build a perfectly complete and well rounded depth chart. They must build their roster efficiently by eschewing talent that impacts the game in the areas that matter least. Analytics show that run defense is not a wise place to invest significant resources. DeCosta himself noted this truth during his press conference at the Combine. The Ravens should aim to improve the two important metrics that trended in the wrong direction last season - turnover differential and explosive play differential - by stubbornly targeting the offensive line and pass defense.
If the Ravens are proactive in the draft and free agency, and adjust their payroll structure to allow a couple additional difference makers in lieu of veteran depth, DeCosta can add the few pieces required to breakthrough in the postseason.
— Vasilis Lericos
As it stands, the Ravens’ greatest needs appear to be the trenches. The defensive line was filled with veteran talent, and now two of those guys, Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams, are pending free agents. On offensive line there is more uncertainty as Ronnie Stanley heals from consecutive season-ending ankle surgeries, along with Bradley Bozeman all but gone as he finds a hefty contract elsewhere. Other areas with absences that aren’t so needy but would be great ways to improve are at outside linebacker and cornerback.
With that in mind, I see the Ravens attempting to re-sign Campbell as a priority. Even after 14 seasons in the NFL, he’s a difference-maker and played a great season. Unfortunately, I don’t see his partner, Williams, returning. Unless Williams will agree to a deal at $1 million or less, they simply don’t have the money. He’s valued at $778k according to overthecap.com, but it’s still an area I’d much rather see addressed in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.
With Tavon Young being cut by the Ravens, I’m under the impression the Ravens are close with Anthony Averett, but he could very well leave if the money is there from other teams and a more defined starting role, though slot corner and outside could be more open as they rotate Marlon Humphrey around due to his skills in the slot.
I find it unlikely the Ravens go and pursue a center through free agency. They’ll be wanting a possible third-round compensatory pick for Bozeman’s departure and signing a different center to a similarly expensive deal would negate the comp pick and be expensive. If they go and make a splash, which I’m hoping they do, I see Tyrann Mathieu as the guy. It feels like they’re itching to get a dynamic playmaker in the backfield and he’s the exact guy I’d expect them to land. The money is there for them to sign him, and they wouldn’t be as disappointed losing a comp pick for a center fielder with his talents.
In the draft, I’m expecting it to be heavy on the heavies. All signs point to them landing Trevor Penning, Charles Cross or Tyler Linderbaum in round one. I favor the tackles, as it improves right tackle and allows for competition between Patrick Mekari and Trystan Colon at center, along with a possible center drafted in the later rounds. In the second round look for edge rusher Drake Jackson, or if they don’t land a safety in free agency, Lewis Cine. Both are solid prospects who will contribute day one.
— Kyle Barber
The Ravens’ offseason approach should center around upgrading their two biggest weaknesses from last season, while fortifying other important areas on the roster where additional depth and talent is needed. Eric DeCosta and the team’s brain trust need to prioritize adding to premier positions, like offensive tackle and free safety, rather than use valuable cap space and high draft capital on backup running backs, linebackers and tight ends. Fortunately, the Ravens’ biggest needs coincide with positional value.
After offensive tackle and free safety, other priorities include adding defensive line talent and reinforcements at cornerback and edge rusher. While the Ravens have several “needs” on the docket, they are in good position to stock up. With increasing cap space and a bevy of draft picks to utilize, they have the flexibility to add high-level talent across the board.
In free agency, the Ravens should aim to should aim to spend big on one of the top available free safeties like Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Williams or Marcus Maye. The 2022 draft class doesn’t seem as rich at this position as others, like offensive tackle, especially in the top-half of the first round — where the Ravens are set to pick. The Ravens will not find a safety in the draft as good as any of these free agents. Additionally, I would like to see them add a veteran offensive tackle (e.g., La’el Collins, Cam Robinson) for more insurance and add at least one available edge rusher or defensive lineman. Otherwise, shifting focus to one of the top two available centers, Ryan Jensen or Bradley Bozeman, could also be a good use of cap space.
Assuming they hold on to the No. 14 overall pick, offensive tackle or a front-seven prospect are good positions to target. If a tackle prospect like Charles Cross or Trevor Penning falls to the Ravens, that would be a good pick. If not, then the Ravens could take the best available defensive lineman or edge rusher between Travon Walker, Jermaine Johnson II, David Ojabo, Devonte Wyatt, etc. Depending on how the board falls, I think they may potentially be able to trade back and get one of these players. Or, trade back and take a cornerback prospect, like Derek Stingley Jr. or Trent McDuffie.
Regardless, I think at least two of the Ravens’ first three picks should be used to take an offensive tackle, defensive line/edge rusher and defensive back. They should double-dip on at least two of these positions in the remainder of the draft. The Ravens do not need to use an early-round pick on a inside linebacker or offensive guard. In conjunction with free agency, the draft strategy needs to be adding premier talent at premier positions.
The AFC is shaping up to be a gauntlet next season and this offseason is of utmost importance for the Ravens. They need acquire several impact difference-makers to keep pace in the conference arms race and re-establish their place in the AFC hierarchy.
— Frank Platko
It’s hard to determine which side of the trenches is a greater need for the Ravens this offseason. On the offensive line, Baltimore needs to find a starting right tackle, an insurance policy at left tackle, and a new center if Bradley Bozeman does not re-sign with the team. Patrick Mekari is an option for either right tackle or center, but his ideal role would be as the team’s sixth offensive lineman — able to fill in at almost any position along the line.
Meanwhile, on the defensive line, both Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams are set to hit free agency next week while Derek Wolfe is coming off a back injury that ended his 2021 season before it even began. It will take both free agency and the draft to attempt to plug these massive holes. Re-signing Campbell should be near the top of General Manager Eric DeCosta’s list. It is true that the Ravens need to get much younger along the defensive line — and they will have the chance to in the draft — but Campbell is a valuable player that can help bridge the transition to a new generation of defensive linemen in Baltimore.
As for other moves I would like to see the Ravens make in free agency, a true free safety is probably at the top of my list. The safety market will be littered with options this year, including players such as Marcus Williams, Marcus Maye, Justin Reid, and Tyrann Mathieu. Baltimore’s defense has sorely needed a playmaking safety on the backend.
In the draft, I would be happy with the best player available among offensive tackle, cornerback, and edge rusher with the No. 14 overall pick. Finding a nose tackle replacement for Brandon Williams should be a priority in the draft and player like Travis Jones would be a great pick in the second round. Baltimore needs to leave the draft with restocked depth on both sides of the trenches and at cornerback.
— Dustin Cox
The Ravens will enter the new league year with several needs but no gaping holes on either side of the ball. The offensive and defensive trenches need to be a focus this offseason and General Manager Eric DeCosta has said as much. With some but not an abundance of salary cap space to work with baring the extension of MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens should be strategic and judicious about how they spend in free agency.
The market will be flush with players at almost all of their positions of need but so is the draft, so I’d like to see them make a splash at free safety where they need not only a playmaker but a veteran presence as well. A player like Tyrann Mathieu makes all the sense in the world and has been dubbed a perfect fit for their defense and culture. Other players like Marcus Williams, Marcus Maye and Quandre Diggs would also fill the need at the position since at No. 14 overall, the Ravens will be out of range to select consensus top safety prospect Kyle Hamilton and would be reaching by taking any other prospect at the position unless they traded back.
They also need to get younger and deeper on the defensive line, deeper at both offensive tackle and cornerback and fill the massive void at right tackle that was left when they traded Orlando Brown Jr to the Chiefs. If all the top tackle prospects get snatched up before their turn on the clock, selecting the best player available at defensive tackle, edge rusher or cornerback makes the most sense and grabbing a behemoth like Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele in the second round would be ideal.
There will be some veteran tackles on the open market that they could bring in for depth but at least they have a versatile lineman like Patrick Mekari, who they can plug and play anywhere, under contract. I’d also like to see Calais Campbell brought back as well as long as it is at a reasonable price. He was their highest graded defender last year according to PFF, can still play at very high level and is a strong veteran presence on and off the field.
— Joshua Reed