On paper, the Ravens aren’t any better than they were when their 2022 season ended with a 24-17 wild-card loss to the Bengals. In fact, they might be worse. Their wide receiver depth chart is concerning, to put it mildly. The picture isn’t much prettier at cornerback. Depth is needed along the interior of the offensive and defensive lines, and the Ravens could really use a high-impact outside linebacker, too. But none of those holes are as glaring, or as potentially damaging, as the question mark at quarterback.
Team officials insist that they were prepared for this reality as they waited out the Jackson situation. This was also widely regarded as a weak free-agent class, and the Ravens have never been a team that’s been especially free-wheeling during the first week of free agency. DeCosta and his predecessor, Ozzie Newsome, who is still a trusted voice in the front office, have traditionally found quality players at good prices in the second week of free agency and beyond. Nobody should be surprised if they do it again.
But it’s anyone’s guess how much money the Ravens even have available. They ended last week with just $7.5 million of salary-cap space. According to Over The Cap, only five teams had less. There are a number of things Baltimore could do to create more cap space, and it’ll likely need to explore those avenues to make any major signings. However, it is currently operating like a team that is making decisions with the idea that it may have to match an offer sheet for Jackson.
With Marcus Peters still available, the Ravens visiting with free agent Rock Ya-Sin, 26, was an interesting development. Pro Football Focus graded him 50th among qualified cornerbacks with Las Vegas last season and 29th with Indianapolis in 2021. He was traded for former Raven and Terp Yannick Ngakoue last spring.
Justice Hill had a rock-solid 2022, but his re-signing was a little surprising considering Baltimore’s limited cap resources. Perhaps Todd Monken envisions a larger offensive role for Hill, but the Ravens do love their standout special-teams players. Running back still remains a Day 3 target for next month’s draft.
Bringing back Geno Stone was a good move after the Chuck Clark trade. That DeCosta used void years to make his one-year deal work spoke to the need for quality depth behind Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton. Stone played over 300 snaps on special teams too.
Retired special-teams captain and defensive back Anthony Levine will be joining the Tennessee Titans as an assistant special teams coach, according to The Athletic. Best wishes to Levine, who’s on the short list of individuals to have played 10 seasons as a Raven.
Biggest needs for all 32 NFL teams after free agency - Trevor Sikkema
BALTIMORE RAVENS: CB, WR
We won’t put a quarterback on this list because Lamar Jackson still occupies that spot for now. The Ravens haven’t yet signed anyone who wasn’t already on their roster, so their post-free agency needs look similar to their pre-free agency needs. They need another reliable receiver with Rashod Bateman. And with Marcus Peters not under contract, they need a starting-caliber cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey.
CINCINNATI BENGALS: TE, CB, S
Signing Orlando Brown Jr. to play left tackle was a major move by the Bengals. Losing Hayden Hurst signals a tight end being on the board for them with one of their first few picks of the draft. And a secondary pick, whether at safety to mitigate losing Jessie Bates IIIor at outside cornerback to bolster the rotation with Chidobe Awuzie and Cam Taylor-Britt, could also be high on their priority list.
CLEVELAND BROWNS: DL, WR
The Browns’ defensive line has to get stronger on the interior. The Dalvin Tomlinson, Trysten Hill and Maurice Hurst additions were needed, but Cleveland could continue to target the position in the draft. On the back end, Juan Thornhill was a good signing, as well. They also have to get a new receiver (or two) into their rotation from last year. Amari Cooper cannot carry this group alone.
Free agency is an inefficient market for teams. With no franchise tags or fixed salaries, it’s one of the few instances where an NFL player has the majority of the leverage in negotiations. On top of that, the top players are rarely the ones who make it to free agency. Teams don’t let those guys leave the building without a fight, so the ones who do are usually there for a reason—whether it’s a limited skill set, health concerns, or age. Combine the inflated prices and flawed products, and you understand why many teams are increasingly leaning toward trades to improve their rosters rather than splurging on free agents.
If a team is looking to add a true star to its roster, it better be willing to make a trade. And that’s due, in part, to a new era of player movement.
This shift hasn’t just been caused by the players, though. Cash-strapped teams are more willing to swap disgruntled stars for draft capital. And smart, competitive teams have recognized this and acted accordingly. If you put together a list of the best team builders in the sport, it would be littered with wheeler-dealer types. More conservative front offices that were once celebrated for their restraint are now feeling the heat for not going for it.
NFL Draft 2023: Top 10 CB Big Board - Ryan Fowler
A meteoric rise at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine has seen Brents go from the middle of day two to as high as CB1 on three teams’ draft boards that I’ve spoken to. The longest corner in the class with ridiculous 34-inch arms, Brents has your ideal makeup of a zone corner, but don’t be shocked when a team aligns him in pres- man at times to overwhelm opposing wideouts despite his average lateral agility. His ceiling is as lofty as any corner in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
7. Deonte Banks, Maryland
A glider in space, Banks’ athletic profile matched with his elite technicality will present a team with a high-level aerial stalwart from day one. It starts in the lower half for corners, and Banks’ ability to explode out of breaks, shuffle to re-route targets, and utilize his hands intelligently inside the contact window is impressive. He’ll succeed in either man or zone.