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Ravens News 1/31: Difficult Decisions and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens’ difficult personnel decisions this offseason go beyond Lamar Jackson - Jeff Zrebiec

Devin Duvernay, WR/RS: It may seem odd to include Duvernay, a 2020 third-round pick who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, but his 2023 cap number is $4.5 million. That’s a big number for a guy who will probably be the No. 3 or 4 receiver if the Ravens make the necessary upgrades at the position. Obviously, Duvernay brings value as a returner and the Ravens probably aren’t in a position to subtract offensive playmakers. Perhaps, an extension that lowers his 2023 cap number would make sense.

Gus Edwards, RB: In a perfect world, the Ravens would have a one-two punch in the backfield of J.K. Dobbins and Edwards and both would be fully healthy again. However, Edwards carries a $5.6 million salary-cap hit in 2023, the last year of his contract, and that’s significant for a running back who profiles as a No. 2. Cutting him would create $4.4 million in cap savings. That sum will be hard to ignore for a Ravens team that will need all the cap flexibility it can get. One option could be a one- or two-year extension that lowers his cap number in 2023.

Justin Houston, OLB: Houston hits the open market for a third straight year after a season in which he had 9 1/2 sacks in just 14 games and was one of Baltimore’s most consistent players. Houston turned 34 this month — it’s certainly possible that he decides to retire. If he doesn’t, the Ravens will have to think long and hard about bringing him back. The jury is still out in many ways on young edge rushers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo. Tyus Bowser has never been a major pass-rush threat. The Ravens probably have to prioritize other needs outside edge rushers in the draft and free agency. Houston’s return would make some sense.

NFL Rookies: PFF grades and snap counts for all 32 teams - William Moy

Center Tyler Linderbaum (74.7 grade) played 1,092 snaps and tight end Isaiah Likely (66.4) saw 412 snaps to lead the offensive rookies this season. On defense, safety Kyle Hamilton(82.3), interior defender Travis Jones (62.5) and cornerback Damarion Williams (43.9) combined for just less than 1,100 snaps. Out of 34 centers who logged at least 500 snaps this season, Linderbaum, a Ravens first-round pick, ranked sixth in offensive grade, while Hamilton, another first-round pick, ranked fourth out of the 74 safeties who logged at least 500 snaps this season.

2023 Senior Bowl preview: Burning questions for NFL scouts hitting Mobile - Eric Edholm

Is it a down year at wide receiver?

This year’s Senior Bowl crop of wide receivers offers a snapshot of the WR class as a whole. On the surface, the talent pool doesn’t appear to match up to recent draft offerings.

“We’ve been pretty spoiled, honestly,” an AFC scouting director said. “Past few years have been a wealth of talent there, just one (class) after another. Every year, it felt like that was the strongest or one of the strongest positions. This year, [it’s not at] the same level. Some good ones, but not a great group overall.”

Among the buzziest names coming into the week are SMU’s Rashee Rice, Virginia’s Dontayvion Wicks, Ole Miss’ Jonathan Mingo, Nebraska’s Trey Palmer and Princeton’s Andrei Iosivas.

Rice might be one of the five best prospects in Mobile, steadily progressing over three years with the Mustangs before breaking out in a big way this past season. He has a good combination of size and speed, and great contested-ball skills. Rice should be a Day 2 pick, at worst.

The remaining Senior Bowl receivers profile mainly as Day 2 or Day 3 prospects. There are some really fast options (such as Cincinnati’s Tre Tucker, Houston’s Nathaniel “Tank” Dell, TCU’s Derius Davis and Palmer) and some bigger-bodied talents, including Mingo, Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson and Stanford WR/TE Elijah Higgins.

15 potential Ravens draft targets to watch at the 2023 Senior Bowl - C.J. Doon

Florida offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence

With Ben Powers expected to receive plenty of attention in free agency, the Ravens could be looking for a new starter at left guard. The 6-5, 347-pound Torrence is considered the top guard prospect in the draft and a likely first-round pick after a standout season against Southeastern Conference competition.

Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson

The 6-foot, 214-pound Stevenson was recently projected to land in the first round by the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, which could make him an option for the Ravens at No. 22. He recorded 115 tackles, 24 pass deflections and three interceptions in 46 career games with Georgia and Miami and was named third-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference in 2022.

Stanford cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly

The 6-1, 188-pound Kelly is a potential second-round pick, which could keep him out of the Ravens’ range unless they trade up. The son of former NFL corner Brian Kelly has started each of his four seasons at Stanford, earning second-team All-Pac 12 honors as a junior in 2021.

Auburn edge rusher Derick Hall

Although a bit undersized for his position, the 6-3, 256-pound Hall ranks No. 65 on The Athletic’s consensus big board after recording 19 1/2 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles in three seasons as a starter. As a senior, he was named first-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches, as well as the team’s Defensive Player of the Year.

2023 NFL playoffs: Ranking 12 losing teams’ chances of reaching 2024 Super Bowl, including Bengals, 49ers - Cody Benjamin

5. Ravens

This is mostly predicated on Lamar Jackson returning, of course, and that may well not be a given depending on how contract talks unfold ahead of free agency. Even then, there are concerns: Jackson has not stayed healthy for two straight seasons, and he’s yet to prove himself as a steady passer under the playoff lights. But his sheer electricity, coupled with John Harbaugh’s experience up top and the returning punch of a Roquan Smith-led “D,” suggests they can be a force if they’re at full speed.