To understand how 2022 started for the Baltimore Ravens, it’s critical to understand how the 2021 season ended.
The Ravens saw the No. 1 spot in the AFC slip through their fingers after Week 12 of the 2021 season, a one-point loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers where star cornerback Marlon Humphrey joined a long list of players exiting early due to injury. The following week against the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered what ultimately became a season-ending injury, a bone bruise on his foot from taking a sack.
These were two injuries that, in a multitude of season-ending injuries over the course of training camp and the regular season, finally became too great to overcome. The Ravens fell from 8-3 to 8-9, ending the season on a six-game losing streak and plummeting out of playoff contention into fourth place in the AFC North.
Changes were made. The Ravens parted ways with defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, hiring young upstart Mike Macdonald who had joined the Michigan Wolverines for one season after leaving the Ravens as their linebackers coach. The Ravens also released cornerback Tavon Young and tackle Alejandro Villanueva retired. Beloved veterans Jimmy Smith, Brandon Williams and Pernell McPhee weren’t re-signed. It was a minor transition period where the Ravens knew a facelift was in order. The second task following hiring Macdonald? Supply their new coordinator with defensive talent. Enter safety Marcus Williams.
A day after free agency opened and the mega deals were being signed, the Ravens netted a top free agent safety: A center-fielder in Williams, who the Ravens hoped could fill the void left by Hall of Famer Ed Reed. They’ve attempted to do so in previous iterations, signing Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson and Earl Thomas III over the years to various levels of success. But Williams was their guy.
After landing their big-name free agent, it was time to reload the trenches. A pair of signings in defensive tackle Michael Pierce and offensive tackle Morgan Moses look to help pressure opposing quarterbacks and protect theirs, respectively.
Over the next few weeks the Ravens brought back those they believed were a part of the successful first half of the season and kept them competitive down the stretch. Three-time Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard was one of them, and he inked a three-year, $11.25 million deal. Next, was head coach John Harbaugh, who received a three-year extension. Shortly thereafter, inside linebacker Josh Bynes and defensive end Calais Campbell, who was undecided on returning to the game until watching the Super Bowl, were re-signed.
The Ravens’ 2022 NFL Draft
Free agency action began to cool as the 2022 NFL Draft rapidly approached. The Ravens boasted the No. 14 overall pick, and on draft night, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton fell into their lap. It all felt wrapped up for the evening and then a stunning trade by the Ravens brought mixed feelings. The Ravens had traded the 2019 first-round pick, wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and the No. 100 overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for the No. 25 selection. With it, the Ravens further bolstered the offensive line, taking Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.
The draft came and went and the Ravens were the glory of the draft.
ESPN’s Matt Miller:
“In the 2022 draft, the Ravens drafted three of my top 30 players and four in the top 40 overall. Each came at a position of need and represented an incredible value where they were selected … The award-winning class continued on Day 3 with Minnesota offensive tackle Daniel Faalele (No. 58) being selected at No. 110 overall — one of the best values in the entire draft — and filling an immediate need at right tackle. Even in Round 4, selecting a high-upside cornerback in Alabama’s Jalyn Armour-Davis was a steal. In its first six selections, each player drafted by Baltimore was ranked as a top 100 player on my final rankings. That’s how you own a draft class.”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.:
“Talk about a class of value. This is an outstanding haul, even if we don’t consider that Baltimore used all six of its Round 4 picks. Of those fourth-rounders, tackle Daniel Faalele (110) and tight end Isaiah Likely (139) were my favorites. Likely could be a red zone weapon for Lamar Jackson. I also see sixth-rounder Tyler Badie (196) making the team because of his special teams ability. This team did a great job filling needs.” Grade: A
Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr:
“Watching this draft unfold was like falling in love with your favorite characters over the course of a long-running sitcom. Every development warmed the heart. Every pick caused us to raise our hands and wonder why it seemed certain players just sifted through the mud and into their hands.” Grade: A+
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter:
“With their six fourth-round picks (most in a single draft since 1970), the Ravens found a new massive right tackle in Faalele (similar to Orlando Brown), two corners to rebuild their depth, two tight ends (Kolar is a Mark Andrews clone), and Stout, a bit of a surprise pick given Sam Koch is still on the roster. Given the injuries Baltimore suffered at running back last year, getting the nimble and speedy Badie in the sixth round made sense.” Grade: A
Following the draft, the Ravens continued their efforts of restocking the roster. They signed running back Mike Davis, defensive end Brent Urban and cornerback Kyle Fuller. The on-paper excitement drew Ravens fans back in like a swelling wave. Harshly, it crashed on the fans as mid-June saw the tragic passing of two Ravens.
First, a young player, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, 26. It was going to be his fourth NFL season. Then, Ravens fans faced the death of a beloved defensive tackle who helped lead the Ravens to the team’s first Super Bowl victory, Tony “Goose” Siragusa. One of the hardest days in Ravens history befell the franchise and its fans.
We are profoundly saddened by the tragic passing of Jaylon Ferguson. pic.twitter.com/ylBvLEzjer— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 22, 2022
The Ravens took their time to grieve. They then pushed on, as the NFL allows for few pauses. But the Ravens didn’t forget, honoring both Ferguson and Siragusa before their first preseason exhibition.
Ravens honored Jaylon Ferguson and Tony Siragusa before the match. pic.twitter.com/BHEWzzWumK— Hayes Gardner (@HayesGardner) July 16, 2022
Knowing they needed to make roster changes, they brought back in veteran pass rusher Justin Houston, and outside linebacker Steven Means was signed to a contract following his tryout with the Ravens in minicamp.
Now, they look forward to the regular season, one that has them projected to compete once more for the AFC North division title and beyond.