Former Baltimore Orioles general manager Dan Duquette often shared his team building philosophy— “grow the arms, buy the bats.” Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta seemingly has taken a similar approach. The Ravens have bought major defensive players over the last few years. Those names include Marcus Williams, Roquan Smith, Marcus Peters, Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell, among others. While they’ve also drafted players like Kyle Hamilton, Odafe Oweh and Patrick Queen with first round picks, they’ve shown a propensity to buy defensive talent and pay a premium.
The Ravens have attempted to build their offense, for quite some time, through the draft. Baltimore hasn’t leapt for big money free agent receivers like Corey Davis or Kenny Golladay, nor big money offensive linemen like Joe Thuney or Corey Linsley. The Ravens did offer Juju Smith-Schuster a one-year deal and have brought in the occasional third or fourth contract veteran like Kevin Zeitler, Morgan Moses and Sammy Watkins, even Mike Wallace and Michael Crabtree a few years ago. The Ravens have overwhelmingly decided to try to grow their offense in house.
The two big money second contract extensions the Ravens have dished out offensively are Mark Andrews and Ronnie Stanley, who received deals totaling over $100 million guaranteed. Both were drafted by the Ravens. Baltimore dealt Marquise Brown essentially in exchange for Tyler Linderbaum, Orlando Brown Jr. in what contributed to them drafting Rashod Bateman, retained former undrafted free agent Gus Edwards to a contract extension while drafting fellow running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Ravens also entered the 2022 season relying on third year receiver Devin Duvernay to be their third receiving option behind Bateman and Andrews. Of course, the Ravens also drafted Lamar Jackson, trading up to the final pick of the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft, allowing them five years of team control, which Jackson is currently in the final year of.
The Ravens offensive vision, after agreeing to trade away Brown Jr. and Brown, relied upon Jackson, Andrews, Bateman, Dobbins and Edwards as the primary skill players, while putting together a veteran offensive line. With Stanley, Dobbins and Edwards recovering from major injuries, while Bateman, Duvernay and Jackson suffered injury throughout the season, Baltimore never got to see a game with their entire group of key players put together. Perhaps the closest they got was Dobbins, Bateman, Jackson, Andrews and Duvernay getting through an entire game together, which occurred in Week 3 against the New England Patriots. Baltimore put up 37 points, the most New England has allowed this season, against a defense that currently ranks third in DVOA.
A week later, Bateman injured his foot before Stanley could make his season debut. A week later, Dobbins suffered an injury that resulted in a clean-up procedure that forced him to miss two months. A week later, Edwards made his season debut as Bateman’s injury turned worse and needed season ending surgery. Duvernay and Jackson would eventually suffer injuries that would require each to miss at least a month, as things stand.
For the second straight season, the Ravens offense is incomplete, missing a wealth of talent that the team built around. The Ravens have scored only 59 points, a putrid 11.8 points per game, since Jackson suffered a knee injury in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos in Week 13.
There are many questions and narratives around Jackson’s recovery timeline. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine much reason for urgency in throwing Jackson back out to battle. The Ravens might’ve been able to scrap together one home playoff game, likely against the Cincinnati Bengals, who they would’ve had to beat a second time in order to play them a third. History tells us that the 3-0 sweep is uncommon anyway, but that would be the Ravens best case scenario if Jackson returned as early as possibly imagined. While reps are valuable, if there’s anything that Lamar Jackson gains physically from continuing to rest, it’s worthwhile.
Considering Jackson will be without two of his top three targets envisioned heading into this season, the Ravens chances in the postseason are limited as is. With Jackson headed into a franchise tag scenario this off-season, the Ravens will collect all of their options and examine which is best for their future. It’s a shame that for the second straight season, we won’t get to see Eric DeCosta’s plan for success ever be healthy enough to unfold, let alone play one game together.