The Baltimore Ravens are traditionally stout in the trenches on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense. This year has been no exception, as their defensive line has been integral to their top-ranked pass rush. It features multiple players having career seasons as pocket-collapsing bulldozers.
Fourth-year defensive tackle Justin Madubuike leads the team and all interior defensive linemen in sacks with a career-high 9.5. Eighth-year veteran nose tackle Michael Pierce and second-year defensive tackle Travis Jones are having strong seasons as well.
However, the Ravens’ run defense has been springing an uncharacteristically high volume of leaks over the last month. They have allowed an average of 117.75 yards per game in the last four weeks, have given up the 14th most rushing yards through 11 games, and are yielding the sixth-most yards per rush (4.3).
Poor tackling at all three levels has led to them giving up some big runs and additional yards after contact. However, their defensive line hasn’t been doing their best in clogging up gaps and keeping offensive linemen off their linebackers.
Their long-awaited bye in Week 13 could be all the unit needs to reset and refresh themselves for the second-half stretch. However, this is the point of the season when legitimate contenders add a veteran to bolster their defensive line depth. Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles double-dipped in the veteran free-agent market and made their run defense sturdy enough to make a Super Bowl run.
Here is a trio of well-established veterans whom the Ravens could add to spell some of their current players as they look to make a deep playoff run.
The 12th-year veteran is a former Pro Bowler who can both stuff the run and contribute as an interior pass rusher. He spent last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and started in 12 games including the playoffs. Hicks finished his 11th season with 25 total tackles including three for a loss, four quarterback hits, four pass deflections, and a sack.
According to a report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler last Wednesday, Hicks has been in communication with “multiple teams and interest remains high”, however, the 34-year-old has been noncommittal on whether he even wants to play this season.
Free agent defensive tackle Akiem Hicks has had discussions with multiple teams and interest remains high, but he has not made a decision whether to play this season, per source.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) November 15, 2023
The five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro was one of the two established veterans who signed with the Eagles in mid-November last year and was a key rotational piece on a deep defensive line that helped them return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2017 season. In 11 games including the playoffs, he recorded 12 total tackles, five quarterback hits, and two halves of a sack.
This move might be the most likely to actually come to fruition because according to Suh himself on an appearance on Sky Sports NFL, the Ravens reached out to him in October and expressed interest.
️ "Last week it was the Ravens that spoke to me, they seem to be interested and played great today! You never know."— Sky Sports NFL (@SkySportsNFL) October 23, 2023
As his time with Sky Sports comes to an end, @NdamukongSuh is plotting his return to the league over the second half of the season. pic.twitter.com/OUmoOCTgq6
“Last week it was the Ravens that spoke to me, they seem to be interested,” Suh said. “It’s got to be a team that’s in the mix and you want to play with great athletes.”
He went on to list several Ravens defenders that he admires such as outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy and insider linebacker Roqaun Smith, as well as praise franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson, calling him “amazing.” Suh has suited up for three different teams that reached the Super Bowl in his first 13 years in the league and was on the 2020 Buccaneers team that ultimately prevailed.
The 10th-year veteran spent three years with the Ravens from 2019-2021 where he appeared in 34 games, made eight starts and helped their run defense perform at their typically stingy level during that time. Known more as a run-stuffer than a pass rusher, he recorded the first full sack of his career last season with the New York Giants where he appeared in all 17 games and made four starts.
BIG JELLY with the sack— New York Giants (@Giants) December 4, 2022
: FOX pic.twitter.com/g0E2EfifhG
Ellis finished the year with 22 total tackles including two for a loss and a quarterback hit. He spent the 2023 training camp with the Atlanta Falcons before being waived in late August and hasn’t drummed up much interest since. ‘Jelly’ would be the most inexpensive yet familiar option on this shortlist.