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Ravens News 3/22: Right Players, Right Time and more

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens Have to Stay Aggressive in Loaded AFC - Ryan Mink

The Ravens don’t seem to be reacting as much as they have been executing a free-agency plan. But there’s no doubt that Baltimore knows what it’s up against.

The Bengals, Bills and Chiefs all looked like premier threats to challenge for the conference crown in 2022. Now add the Broncos, Browns, Chargers and Raiders to the list. Heck, even the Jaguars have gotten better through their spending spree. They probably think they’re this year’s version of last year’s Bengals.

Asked last week about the Ravens’ atypically aggressive start to free agency, DeCosta said, “I think we’re known as a team that likes to chase the comp picks, but every single season presents different challenges – other teams, players available, your roster, the salary cap, draft capital, various things.”

Notice that “other teams” was the first item on the list. The Ravens had a chance to get a premier, young player at a position of need. It was the “right player at the right time,” DeCosta said.

The time is now, because the last thing the Ravens want is for the rest of the AFC contenders to pass them by.

Ravens, Pro Bowl FB Patrick Ricard agree to 3-year extension - Jonas Shaffer

Ricard, a Pro Bowl selection each of the past three seasons, is expected to be one of the highest-paid fullbacks in the NFL, though contract details were not immediately available. As he entered free agency, Ricard had signaled on social media that he expected a deal more in line with those of tight ends, casting doubt on his future in Baltimore.

He’ll instead return for a sixth season with the Ravens and a fourth under offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who favors heavier personnel packages and values run blockers.

Ricard is one of the NFL’s most punishing lead blockers, earning a “Pancake Pat” nickname from quarterback Lamar Jackson. But with tight end Nick Boyle sidelined by knee injuries for much of the past two seasons, he’s also developed in pass protection and as a receiver.

Ricard’s mere presence seemed to juice the Ravens’ play-action-heavy passing offense. Over the team’s first nine games last season, before injuries and inconsistency struck, Jackson averaged 9.7 yards per pass attempt and had a 101.4 passer rating in Ricard-reliant two-back formations, according to Sports Info Solutions.

Ranking all 32 NFL teams by 2022 free agency moves: Buccaneers, Chargers among big offseason winners - Cody Benjamin

10. Baltimore Ravens

Key additions: OT Morgan Moses (Jets), DT Michael Pierce (Vikings), S Marcus Williams (Saints); key re-signings: FB Patrick Ricard

Like the Chiefs, they only swung a few times, but they connected. Moses, Pierce and Williams are all rock-solid starters for areas of need. The latter, in particular, should reinvigorate a healthier secondary.

Calais Campbell Predictions: Will the Ravens, Raiders, or Cowboys sign Campbell during free agency? - Tommy Garrett

Baltimore Ravens

Campbell has made it clear how badly he wants to win a Super Bowl before he retires and how much he values the culture of the Ravens’ organization.

“I love the Ravens. I feel very comfortable there,” Campbell said recently, per Josina Anderson of USA Today. “At the same time, I’m going to explore what’s out there. We are going through the normal free agency process..”

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta has stated he wants Campbell back with the organization in 2022.

“I have a lot of admiration for Calais as a person and as a player and as a leader. I’m hopeful that we can bring him back. We’d love to bring him back. He’s a guy that plays winning football and he does as much for the team and the organization in the building as he does on the field. I have a lot of respect for him.”

As Week 2 of free agency begins, the Ravens still have needs and quality options to fill them - Jeff Zrebiec

General manager Eric DeCosta secured arguably the top playmaking safety available in Marcus Williams, a durable and dependable right tackle in Morgan Moses, and an interior space-eater in Michael Pierce. None of their four free agents to find new teams last week were players they appeared determined to keep.

Carlos Dunlap, OLB: Dunlap deserves mention, just like other well-over 30-year-old available pass rushers, a group that includes Jerry Hughes, Melvin Ingram, Ryan Kerrigan and Whitney Mercilus. If the Ravens are just looking for a veteran pass-rushing presence capable of maybe finishing with eight sacks if everything goes right, they have a plethora of options. Dunlap had 8 1/2 sacks last year and he played well against the Ravens during his time with Cincinnati Bengals.

J.C. Tretter, C: The 31-year-old started every game but one over the previous five seasons before he was released by the Browns last week in a move that created just over $8 million of salary cap space. Tretter, the president of the NFL Players Association, has never made a Pro Bowl, but he’s been a solid performer throughout his career. He also has experience playing alongside Ravens right guard Kevin Zeitler. If the Ravens don’t believe Patrick Mekari or Trystan Colon are starting-caliber centers or they don’t want to depend on the draft to find the successor to Bradley Bozeman, Tretter is the best center available in free agency.