As the draft approaches in just a few weeks, the Baltimore Ravens and other teams around the league are shifting their focus away from free agents to prospects. However, there’s still plenty of time for the Ravens to sign or re-sign players on the market before or after the draft.
Despite making several acquisitions over the past few weeks, the Ravens are still faced with numerous needs to fill on their roster. One of the biggest, to some maybe the most pressing, is upgrading at the edge rusher position. It’s an area where the team is currently very thin on paper with only four players under contract, two of which underwent offseason surgeries in Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser.
Bowser’s case in particular is especially noteworthy. Because of the nature of his injury, a torn Achilles, it’s difficult to say for sure that he will be ready to play come Week 1 this September. Even if he is, there’s no telling if he’d immediately be ready to presume the workload he did this past season.
Daelin Hayes and Jaylon Ferguson are the other two remaining edge defenders in the mix. Hayes missed practically the entire 2021 season due to injury. He’s an ideal backup to Bowser as a SAM linebacker but is still unproven. Ferguson has yet to establish himself as a regular contributor through three career seasons.
Justin Houston and Pernell McPhee are unrestricted free agents. The latter could be heading for retirement, and there’s been no clear indication that Houston returning to the Ravens is a strong possibility. So, it goes without saying that the Ravens need reinforcements at the position.
The draft is a good avenue for this, but it’d be worthwhile for the Ravens to add a proven veteran to replace the experience they’d be losing in Houston and McPhee. Said player also needs to be able to relied upon for consistent snaps and production. Could Melvin Ingram be an ideal fit?
The Ravens expressed interest in signing Ingram last offseason before he ultimately joined the Pittsburgh Steelers on a one-year deal. In a surprising turn of events, he requested a trade from Pittsburgh in the middle of the season. The Steelers granted his request and dealt him to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Ingram, who turns 33 years old later this month, is on the back nine of his career. 2021 was statistically one his worst seasons since his rookie and sophomore years. He recorded 25 combined tackles and just a handful of sacks in 15 games. He started only one game for the Steelers but started six of his nine games in Kansas City.
The numbers don’t tell the whole story, though, as he still proved plenty effective. His 22 pressures and 11 quarterback hits were only one shy of what he posted in these categories in the 2019 season. He finished the year with an overall PFF grade of 79.0 and, for the eighth straight season, had a pass-rush grade exceeding 70.0. For these reasons, Ingram ranked No. 18 in PFF’s list of the Top 200 free agents this offseason — ahead of a number of players and other edge rushers who have already been signed.
Because of his age and recent injury history, Ingram is best-suited for a complimentary pass-rushing role. He’s definitely not going to take on 600+ defensive snaps anymore like he did from 2015-2019. The Ravens wouldn’t need him to in Baltimore. They just need a reliable body who can produce in spurts and provide consistent edge play, like Houston did for much of last season.
They’re likely to draft an outside linebacker early who will factor into the rotation from the get-go, giving them a solid young trio with Bowser and Oweh. A veteran like Ingram can factor into 300-500 defensive snaps in a supporting role, which is a scenario where he could make a significant impact.
Ingram isn’t the only remaining edge rusher available. Houston is still out there, as are guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Carlos Dunlap. Ingram, though, may be the best fit considering what he can offer and what he’d likely cost. He’s definitely a stopgap more so than a long-term investment, but Ravens likely aren’t giving a multi-year deal to any of the edge rushers still on the market.
They attempted to do this with Za’Darius Smith — and we know how that story ultimately played out. So, the Ravens now have to pivot, and signing a player such as Ingram could be a sufficient consolation plan.
Should the Ravens sign Melvin Ingram?
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