Way-too-early NFL power rankings: 2023 Ravens enter important offseason with plenty of work to do - C.J. Doon
How 2022 ended: 10-7, AFC wild-card-round loss
Unit rankings: No. 12 offense, No. 7 defense
Notable free agents: QB Lamar Jackson, CB Marcus Peters, OLB Justin Houston, G Ben Powers, OLB Jason Pierre-Paul, WR Demarcus Robinson, WR Sammy Watkins, TE Josh Oliver, RB Kenyan Drake, RB Justice Hill, DE Brent Urban, CB Kyle Fuller
Until the Ravens reach a resolution with Jackson — whether it’s the franchise tag, a long-term contract extension or a trade — it’s impossible to predict what the team might look like in 2023. Assuming Jackson does return, the roster is well-positioned to make a playoff run. While the potential departures of Peters, Houston and Powers would leave big holes to fill, the Ravens have some promising replacements already on the roster and the ability to find upgrades in the draft and free agency. Nothing about the offseason is going to be easy — including the seemingly endless search for a star wide receiver — but there’s a path for the Ravens to come out of it looking like a title contender.
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7) Baltimore Ravens
If the Baltimore Ravens retain Lamar Jackson (which should be a no-brainer) and the talented passer remains healthy in 2023, they will compete in the AFC. Baltimore has struggled with injuries all around the roster over the past two seasons. Their luck keeping receivers healthy has been non-existent, and they haven’t done the best job adding talent to the position, either.
Still, the Ravens will compete nonetheless. Mike Macdonald’s defense rounded into form after a few weeks, and there’s no reason to believe it’ll get worse with a healthy David Ojabo returning to the lineup.
If there was ever an offseason to invest in the backup quarterback position, this would be it. Certainly, the Ravens have more important priorities, none bigger than trying to find a compromise on a long-term extension with Jackson. The wide receiver room needs to be rebuilt and a lack of quality depth at cornerback is problematic.
The Ravens only have five projected 2023 draft picks and are going to find themselves awfully tight against the cap if they carry Jackson on the franchise tag this season. In other words, DeCosta won’t have a whole lot of assets at his disposal to fill the team’s most pressing needs and a quality backup quarterback might be pretty low on the list.
The Ravens will need a contingency plan in place. They need to be adequately prepared for Week 1, whether Jackson is on the field or not.
There figure to be a number of veteran quarterbacks with extensive starting experience on the market, too. A guy such as Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t signing somewhere to be an insurance policy. He’ll almost certainly be someone’s starter in 2023. Pending free agents Daniel Jones and Geno Smith probably aren’t hitting the open market, either.
However, guys such as Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton and Cooper Rush all could be available. So, too, could Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, Mike White, Taylor Heinicke, Gardner Minshew and Drew Lock. Perhaps, not all of those guys are upgrades over Huntley or the best fits for the type of offense the Ravens want to run. But there are still enough options where the Ravens should be able to find a good fit.
I can’t believe anyone in the stratosphere of the Baltimore Ravens could possibly watch that game and think to themselves, “You see, this is why we have to move on from Lamar Jackson.”
And yet the opinion still exists that the Ravens’ best path to competing in the AFC is to sign up for a scenario where they’re definitively worse at the quarterback position. It’s madness. And even remembering that the Chiefs have still somehow been vulnerable at times when Mahomes has been hurt or their offensive line has been in shambles, the list of quarterbacks waiting to pounce in the AFC for the foreseeable future also includes Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence.
Remember when Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers created a “golden age” of AFC quarterbacks? It’s quite possible this group is … better. And in an era when playing defense is drastically more difficult because the NFL has bent rules toward offense.
Hell, there were 73 points scored in the Super Bowl and yet one of the biggest storylines is how well the Chiefs’ defense played in the second half.
And yet, somewhere, a Ravens fan woke up on Feb. 13 and thought to themselves “get some draft picks and Derek Carr and give it a shot.” I’m keenly aware of the debate about fully guaranteed money, but what we witnessed in the Super Bowl only fortified my belief that even if fully guaranteed isn’t the most desirable scenario, it has to be more desirable than “not having a quarterback.” How can you possibly know that you’re going to have to take down the man that might well be the best quarterback to ever play the game and think that the better answer is, “Well, maybe we could find a good quarterback too?”
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Baltimore Ravens +3500 (T-10th-shortest odds)
I’m not sure this offseason is going to be a fun one for Ravens fans. Lamar Jackson wants a contract that mirrors Deshaun Watson, and probably won’t get it. The exclusive franchise tag is likely, and I’ve already made a prediction that things get messy. HOWEVER, when the dust settles, maybe the Ravens return to being a really good football team.
We all know Jackson is a perennial MVP contender when healthy, and that his defense has some young talent, plus a legitimate stud at linebacker in Roquan Smith. There are some holes to fill, sure, but this defense was a top-10 unit in 2022.
No offense to Greg Roman, but maybe with his departure comes a shift in offensive identity. Maybe this is the offseason where the Ravens score a legitimate No. 1 wideout and become even more explosive.