The 2022 season has ended; we won’t get Ravens football for another eight months. Now that the season has ended, there’s no time to take a break. It’s time to jump into full 2023 go mode. Draft breakdowns, free agency, coaching changes and a big decision regarding a certain No. 8 all need to take place. Let's recap and see where things stand around the organization.
This season was difficult to swallow. After last year's injury debacle, many hoped the Ravens would see the other side of the coin. Unfortunately, lady luck had other plans. Within four weeks, the Ravens lost their week one starting left tackle, a top three cornerback and their number one wide receiver went down with an injury. Rashod Bateman would make an appearance before going on the IR for the rest of the season.
The back half of the year was especially tough. Once Lamar Jackson went down in Week 13, the season was never the same. Though there was hope he would return from what was initially advertised as a 1-3 week PCL sprain, his knee was too unstable to play the rest of the season. Even still, with backup quarterbacks, they locked in a playoff appearance two weeks before the season finale. Part of securing that spot was due to the acquisition of inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Ravens traded for at the deadline and then managed to lock in for five more seasons with a $100 million extension.
The season ended on a bit of a sour note, as the Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals a second week in a row in the Wild Card round. Though considered a heavy underdog, the Ravens showed out at the beginning of the game, keeping it close all the way to the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the end of the game was a summary of the majority of the Ravens’ season. Failed red zone offense, poor play calling, and a lack of talent at wide receiver failed the team who had a chance to take the lead and possibly steal a road playoff game.
The Coaching Staff
There’s going to be a lot of focus on this in the coming weeks. For around two years now, fans and the media have practically begged the Ravens to move on from offensive coordinator Greg Roman. They were granted that quickly, the Thursday following their playoff loss.
Statement from Head Coach John Harbaugh on Greg Roman. pic.twitter.com/itERSCJP81— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 19, 2023
The question now is where the Ravens head from there. Do they stay with their normal, run-first, style offense? Stay within the Harbaugh tree and find somebody John knows well? Or do they spread their wings, search off their beaten path and go in a new direction? Find somebody that can help lift the passing game that’s been near the bottom of the league multiple years in a row? A young mind, who may have new ways to expand the offense? Or perhaps, more simply, hire from within? James Urban and Tee Martin are names that have been mentioned multiple times. This decision could help shape the decision of another key component regarding the future of this franchise. San Francisco's passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik has been a hot name following Roman’s release.
There were other questions, middling and few, being asked about John Harbaughs tenor with Baltimore. Following a joint press conference on Thursday with both Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta, John seems a pretty safe bet to stay.
Also worth mentioning, Mike Macdonald had an excellent season in his first year as the new defensive coordinator. The Raven’s are going to hope to retain Macdonald for a long time.
Reviewing the Roster
The QB Room
The Ravens currently have one quarterback on the roster for 2023. Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option is over and no extension was ever reached. While the Ravens should have enough cap space to franchise tag him, doing so seems a last resort. They need cap space to rebuild their wide receiver core, add some quality cornerback options and add edge depth as their main priorities behind the quarterback.
Here's a look at which teams have the most cap space heading into 2023 pic.twitter.com/9HDh1lgb9X— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 12, 2023
An extension is an obvious solution but far from guaranteed. A tag and trade seem likely. An underrated option could be to use the non-exclusive tag to be able to see Lamar’s market to then match offers he receives for an extension or allow him to leave for automatic two first-round picks from the team that signs him. Either way, expect this debacle to be over before the draft arrives.
Beyond that of the franchise, the backup position may need to be addressed. Fan-favorite Tyler Huntley is not under contract and will be a restricted free agent. It’s hard to see the Ravens letting him walk away with all the Lamar Jackson controversy and how well he’s played the backup role here. especially after the performance in the playoff game, fumble aside. Anthony Brown will be in his second year and performed with highs and lows in his only start Week 18.
It might be worth taking a look at signal callers in the draft process. If the Ravens do in fact trade Lamar or use the non-exclusive tag and get first-round picks back, expect the Ravens to draft one of the top guys in the draft, perhaps Bryce Young or CJ Stroud. The thing worth noting the most is last year, owner Steve Bisciotti said how much having quarterback issues sucked. The Baltimore Ravens will do whatever needed to have the guy, Lamar or not.
“I think without a QB that you believe in, life sucks as an NFL owner and a fan base.”— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) March 30, 2022
Steve Bisciotti on Lamar Jackson’s “unique” negotiations, Deshaun Watson’s guaranteed contract, Kirk Cousins’ short-term approach and the possibility of a $60M salary.https://t.co/il206XFAQ1
The RB Room
The running back will likely be one of the top five rooms that need to be addressed. Though he had some harsh but fair words for his usage after the playoff loss, J.K. Dobbins remains on the roster, hopefully with no trade request looming. While the start of his season was slow, his return from his midseason surgery resurged confidence in his skill and he should no doubt be the Raven's bell cow next season.
Beyond J.K., Gus Edwards will also be on the roster along with fullback Patrick Ricard is under contract as well. Backs Justice Hill and Kenyan Drake will be free agents.
While Drake could be moved on from we can’t discount the possibility of Hill returning. A special teamer who’s a third down specialist, Hill finally showed his ability this year, filling in when needed with injury. After losing 2022 sixth-round pick Tyler Badie, the Ravens will need to sign and/or draft a body or two.
The TE Room
Besides some internal moves, this will be a quiet offseason for the tight ends. With Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, and Charlie Kolar, adding bodies outside of training camp isn’t to be expected. The questions will lie with Nick Boyle and Josh Oliver. Boyle hardly saw the field this past season and was cut and moved to the practice squad. Oliver came on nicely as the third-string tight end.
Are they going to pick between resigning Boyle and Oliver for a possible fourth tight end? Part of this decision will likely be influenced by whoever is the offensive coordinator, whether Roman stays or new blood comes in. Don’t expect much if any additions to this room outside of bodies to take reps in camp.
The WR Room
The never-ending quest. It seems fans can never have anything nice for long when it comes to the wide receivers. 2021 felt like a breath of fresh air. Three wide receivers that had been previous first-round picks. It never came to fruition though. It felt rare when we got to see Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins all on the field at the same time. This season was supposed to be the culmination of that. Hollywood and Bateman, the two Ferraris on the field together with a healthy Lamar and a good offensive line. That never came to be with the trade of Brown to Arizona.
Of course, the Ravens put all their apples for the wide receiver room into Bateman so of course he ends up hurt for more than half the season. 2023 remains to see what will happen. Bateman is now dealing with a Lisfranc, something that could stick with him, and possibly hinder him, for the remainder of his career. Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace will also be returning as well.
The question, once again, will be how the Ravens help Lamar and supplement the wide receiver room. The draft? They’re only locked for one pick in the top 75 right now and wide receiver isn’t the only desperate need. Free agency? This year’s market lacks real top-end talent, meaning the middle tier where the Ravens would normally find their signings will likely get overpaid as teams try to get players to sign. Trade talks surrounding DeAndre Hopkins are certainly interesting and he’s a player the Ravens have coveted for a while, a trend that seems to end well (see trading for Marcus Peter, Yannick Ngakue, and Roquan Smith).
Resigning Demarcus Robinson should be one of the first moves made. This room is a 1A/B priority for this off-season. They can’t go another year, especially one that may be Lamar’s last, with a low-ranked wide receiver core. The ideal end goal could be trading for Hopkins, resigning Robinson, and adding a mid-tier guy such as Allen Lazard, DJ Chark, Jakobi Meyers, Parris Campbell, etc. while still keeping their first-round pick.
The OL Room
Offensive lines are one of the hardest positions to keep continuity from season to season. Keeping the same five starters in the same 5 positions takes careful planning and a whole lot of luck. As of right now, the Ravens are in pretty good shape here. Four out of the five starters from 2022 are slated to return in 2023; Ronnie Stanley, Tyler Linderbaum, Kevin Zeitler, and Morgan Moses. Only left guard Ben Powers is a free agent.
Beyond the starters, 2022 draft pick Daniel Faalele also returns, probably looking to challenge Moses and begin his tenure as the future franchise right tackle, the reason he was drafted. Patrick Mekari and Ben Cleveland are also under contract and could compete to fill at left guard if the Ravens don’t want to resign Powers. The offensive line is a priority for signings every offseason, but for the Ravens, it should hopefully just be looking for depth rather than starters for once.
The DL Room
This is an intriguing spot. Many pieces are returning: Calais Campbell, Michael Pierce, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington and Travis Jones. That being said, Campbell is expected to retire. If Campbell somehow doesn’t retire, this room doesn’t need much. Madibuike, Washington and Jones should lead the rotation as all young guys on their rookie contracts.
.@CalaisCampbell on his future: pic.twitter.com/WlQi6qOulm— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 16, 2023
Grabbing at least one more guy to pair with Pierce as depth makes sense, but they probably need two or more. Using one of the five draft picks they have seems less likely due to the mass youth at the position and limited draft capital but never discount the possibility. Look out for older veterans to round out this room such as Sheldon Rankins, Da’Ron Payne, Hassan Ridgeway, or maybe even a splash in a leader such as Javon Hargrave.
The Edge Room
This room so far is high-risk, high-reward. With the exit of Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul, the only major bodies on the roster for 2023 as of now are Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, and David Ojabo. While the Ravens know what to expect from Bowser, Oweh and Ojabo are major question marks. After flashing his rookie year, Oweh had a bit of disappointment his sophomore season, ending with three sacks. He had his best game of the season in the playoffs, finishing with 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss. Ojabo sat out most of the season, seeing few snaps near the end but flashed with a strip sack in the last game.
It’s very likely the Ravens ride with this group. Resigning Justin Houston is a big possibility after his comments after the playoff loss. He lead the team in sacks this year with 9.5 so he clearly still has the juice.
Ravens OLB Justin Houston, a pending free agent, said he’d like to keep playing. He enjoyed playing in Baltimore, especially.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) January 16, 2023
He had a lot of fun on this defense this season. pic.twitter.com/o03LvCDz7S
They also have control over Daelin Hayes. The Ravens will look to keep this room up to five bodies most likely, so expect either a draft pick or another vet. Names of interest could include Carlos Dunlap, Rasheem Green or Melvin Ingram.
The LB Room
The Ravens have already made what could be their biggest splash of the offseason, outside of whatever could happen with Lamar Jackson and the quarterback room. The five-year extension of Roquan Smith is a huge addition for a team that still has 2 more years of control over Patrick Queen and for Mike Macdonald's 2-high prevalent looks that relies on high inside linebacker play. Depth there includes Queen’s draft mate Malik Harrison and UDFA linebacker from 2022 Josh Ross.
Besides a surprise trade of Queen (see Marquise Brown 2022), I expect little or no movement here. I see no reason why Queen would request a trade as his play only improved with Smith’s addition unless he wants to go to a team to be the lead backer. Queen’s comments after the loss make me think he’s hungry to stay with this team and fight come next season.
"Let this motivate us and come out next season swinging." pic.twitter.com/PDKoDdPIqY— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 16, 2023
The CB Room
Besides the quarterback situation and the obvious need for wide receivers, the Ravens' biggest need is cornerback. With Marcus Peters' contract expiring and his decline in play, the Ravens need a high-end corner to play every snap across from Humphrey. Brandon Stephens’ play was rather uninspiring for the majority of this season and the two rookies, Damarion Williams and Jalyn Armour-Davis were often healthy scratches throughout the season. Depth would also be nice. Unfortunately, Kyle Fuller was hurt in week 1 after looking good for the first game.
Bringing back Fuller for depth on a vet minimum is a no-brainer for me, anything more and I’m out. The questions lie with Marcus Peters. I’m not sure his play is up to standard at this point to be taking 85% of snaps at this point. A team-friendly deal to be third on the depth chart would be nice, but if Peters is looking for a deal, the Ravens would be wise to move on.
GM Eric DeCosta on the corner position: pic.twitter.com/SVwDYdEYzj— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 19, 2023
The free agent market is pretty scattered. James Bradberry is the top corner right now and will get paid handsomely, whether by the Eagles or somebody else. There are a lot of guys on the other side of 30 such as Peters, Bradley Roby, Johnathan Jones, and Troy Hill. A team-friendly deal for one of those guys would be nice. The other side is a lot of younger guys who haven’t proven to be high on the depth chart guys; Cameron Sutton, Greedy Williams, and Anthony Averett. Emmanuel Mosley is intriguing but will also probably get paid very well.
The draft is an interesting spot for the position. With the Ravens holding pick No. 22, options should be plentiful in the first round. Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter Jr, Cam Smith, Kelee Ringo, Clark Phillips, and Devon Witherspoon are just a couple of the names that are possible first-round talents that could fall to the Ravens. Any of those guys are players that could step in and immediately be the second cornerback across from Humphrey for the next couple of years.
The S Room
This is possibly one of the most stable positions for years to come on the roster. Beyond having Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton locked up for the next four years, they also have Chuck Clark for one more year. Depth is all that needs to be looked for here and it should be pretty easy. Bringing back Geno Stone as a restricted free agent is a must as he filled in nicely when Marcus Williams went down in the middle of the season. If the Ravens choose to look elsewhere, a reunion with DeShon Elliot or Tony Jefferson could also work.
Chuck Clark discusses his future: pic.twitter.com/Cj9tZAuNC0— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 16, 2023
The Lay Down
For the first time in a while, the Ravens seem a little behind the 8 ball (pun intended) regarding the draft. They only have five picks after using a second and fifth-rounder to acquire Roquan Smith; their own first (22), third, fourth and sixth and the Patriots fifth from the Shaun Wade trade in 2021. As previously noted, their biggest needs outside of quarterback are going to be redesigning the wide receiver room, a starting cornerback and depth, and running back and edge depth. Other possibilities include offensive line and defensive line depth. Luckily, after a giant 11-pick draft in 2022, only having five picks shouldn’t send the Ravens into a panic.
First Round Talent
All eyes for the city of Baltimore will be on that first-round pick and should be focused on the cornerback and wide receiver positions. While my ideal way of handling the team this offseason would be building a great receiver room filled with tier-2 guys to give Lamar a ton of targets and drafting a high-end corner, the possibility of a first-round pick at wide receiver is certainly possible. Currently, Quentin Johnston and Jordan Addison are largely regarded as the top two guys, projected to go top 15 in the draft. Outside of one of those two guys falling, other first-round options could include Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Josh Downs, Kayshon Boutte, and Jalin Hyatt.
The Sad Truth
Unfortunately, as painful as it is, the fact that Lamar may not be the starter in 2023 is a very real thing. With the Raven's projected cap space around $41 million and the franchise tag for a quarterback estimated to be around $45 million, the Ravens can’t even fit Lamar on the tag as of right now. While they probably can make enough moves to clear space to fit him on, they have to have money to be able to make other moves and sign a draft class. Therefore the options are limited. Hopefully, they sign him to an extension, somehow someway.
But if not, he will probably not be on the team. If he’s not on this team, it means they have received compensation for him, either through a tag and trade or being rewarded two first-round picks from the non-exclusive tag. Therefore, there's a chance they could have the Ravens could have multiple first-round picks and one of those could be a very high first round pick in 2022, top 10 or 15 high. Drafting a new first-round quarterback is not out of the question and should be looked at. The consensus #1 guy right now seems to be Bryce Young, though betting odds have risen for Will Levis to be picked first overall. There are rumors that CJ Stroud could return to Ohio State but he is also a possibility with fascinating tools.
Hopefully, none of this should matter as Lamar stays a Raven for life. That being said, until that extension is signed for Lamar, expect draft talk involving quarterbacks.
The offseason is pivotal. Possibly the most pivotal this franchise has ever had. Unlike the Joe Flacco 2013 offseason, Lamar doesn’t have a Super Bowl to force the Ravens' hand. There are decisions to be made, ones that could impact how this franchise is run for the next decade or more. From the franchise QB to coaching changes. Everything should be handled with care.
While I’m no football mastermind, this has been on my mind for weeks, months even. In my humble opinion, there’s a very simple blueprint. Executing it will be the hard part. The first step is signing Lamar long-term. Yes, he’s been hurt the last two years and only has one playoff win. It doesn’t matter. We’ve seen how bad this offense was without him. He is the driving force behind this team. They win that playoff Bengals game if he starts and makes two or three Lamar-esque plays.
Beyond that, giving Lamar a veteran core with multiple options to go to is necessary. The Ravens tried for three years to give him young talent and it hasn’t worked. It’s time to give him a star and supplement it with quality veterans. Trading for Hopkins, resigning Demarcus Robinson, and one more free agent should pair well with Bateman and Duvernay. Then they need a guy to pair with Marlon Humphrey on the back end.
January 17, 2023
It was said at the beginning. This offseason is one of the most pivotal in organization history, possibly the most. Whatever the Ravens decide to do, they have to do it with a full belief in what they are doing and buy in, 100% confidence.