Roster construction is mostly finished across the NFL, but we’ve seen that a key piece can be added after the draft. What position could your team address, and who would you like to see them sign?
The Ravens certainly could benefit by adding a veteran cornerback, but that’s like their third biggest need at the moment. The Ravens must come out of free agency with an edge rusher and wide receiver. The best-case scenario in both spots is probably bringing in two former Browns: Jarvis Landry and Jadeveon Clowney. Remember, this is the best case and not likely the case. The Ravens don’t have a whole lot of cap space, so they’re probably not going to be able to give out two significant contracts at this stage of the game to Landry and Clowney. So I’d focus on Clowney. He’s the only available edge rusher that would move the meter for the Ravens. Yes, they could get contributions from other options, like Justin Houston, Jerry Hughes, Jason Pierre-Paul, Melvin Ingram and others. But Clowney has more upside and is more of a game wrecker at this stage of his career than the others. Clowney has been available before, and the Ravens have shown tepid interest at best. However, if there is ever a time to make a legitimate run at him, this would be it. The Ravens have done a lot of work this offseason to transform their defense, but the job won’t feel complete without more edge help.
The other factor that helps Linderbaum is he was coached by one of the finest offensive line coaches in college football. Ferentz was the Ravens’ first offensive line coach in 1996 and spent three years with the team before going to Iowa. His program has a long track record of producing quality NFL lineman, including three other current centers in James Daniels (Steelers), Austin Blythe (Seahawks) and James Ferentz (Patriots), as well as two current All-Pros in tackle Tristan Wirfs (Buccaneers) and guard Brandon Scherff (Jaguars).
Linderbaum said the Ravens are in shotgun formation more than he was at Iowa, so that will be another change to handle. But Harbaugh said how fast Linderbaum progresses with the mental part of the game will probably be the main factor in whether he starts out the gate.
Linderbaum will have a great mentor in veteran Patrick Mekari, who former Ravens center Bradley Bozeman called a “computer chip” because he “kind of knows everything.” Bozeman said Mekari had his back to help get things fixed on the field.
Trusting film, not stopwatch: Why the Baltimore Ravens believe Kyle Hamilton is a steal - Jamison Hensley
If this had been track, Hamilton would’ve been disqualified for going outside his lane. His penalty for running this way in front of football scouts: a free fall in the NFL draft.
Hamilton’s slower-than expected time of 4.59 seconds ranked 14th among all safeties at the combine and was the slowest of any safety taken in the first round of the last five drafts. It created doubts whether the Notre Dame safety could cover ground at the next level, and it caused the one-time, top-5 prospect to slide to the Ravens at the No. 14 overall pick.
The Ravens, who have a history of trusting what they see on tape over the stopwatch, have no concerns about Hamilton’s speed.
“You look at his game speed [and] what you see on tape. He’s covering ground,” Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz said. “He’s flying up. He’s showing bursts. He’s showing explosiveness and range. Then you look at your grade, your speed grade, and you have a good grade, and it all matches up, and just the 40[-yard dash time] didn’t match up.”
Ravens DL Travis Jones expresses excitement to learn from Calais Campbell - Kevin Oestreicher
“Calais [Campbell], he is a vet,” Jones said in his press conference. ”So, I’m just trying to soak up anything from him, try to pick up some of his practice habits and take things from him that I could apply to my game.”
In terms of mentors, there isn’t much of a better one than Campbell. The 14-year veteran has accumulated 773 tackles, and 93.5 sacks over the course of his NFL playing days. With Jones being a great interior pass rusher already, he should be able to improve in that area tremendously as well as others.
Baltimore is always must-see TV. Not only because it has one of the game’s more electrifying players in quarterback Lamar Jackson, whose ability to do something magical means never taking a bathroom break when the Ravens are on offense, but also because the defense plays the game as it should be played — physically, aggressively, collectively.
NFL playoff predictions for 2022 season: Picking every AFC, NFC division winner and wild card teams - Jason La Canfora
North – Bengals: This was no fluke. This team is loaded and its going to be a problem for a long time. I love with they did to bolster the defense in the draft and what they did to buttress the offensive line in free agency. They return more than enough of last year’s cast, much of which is still just scratching the surface of their prime. They will be a hot ticket for the first time in a long time, too, with The Jungle primed to be a tougher place for opponents to play.
AFC wild cards
Ravens: I came very close to putting the Dolphins here. Miami whacked the Ravens last year and were among the hottest teams in the NFL in the second half of the season. But Baltimore is getting an array of key contributors back from injury, Lamar Jackson will deliver and the defense has nowhere to go but up after last season’s debacle. I don’t see the pass rush bite required to challenge for a title, but they aren’t losing six games in a row again, either.