Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
Justin Madubuike, DL
Why extension makes sense: The Ravens believe the 25-year-old is an ascending player and his production has gone up each year. If Madubuike improves on last season’s 5 1/2-sack, 42-tackle, three-pass breakup campaign, he’s probably going to be a very popular and expensive free-agent target in March. A third-round pick in 2020, Madubuike has embraced the organization’s culture with his work ethic and competitiveness. The only member of the team’s projected interior defensive line rotation who is signed through 2023 is second-year nose tackle Travis Jones, so getting Madubuike signed long term would prevent a total makeover at the position next offseason.
Why it may not: Interior defensive line contracts are soaring. There are already 14 different interior defensive linemen making $17 million or more per year. If Madubuike is looking to join that group — and to be clear, nothing has been made public about his asking price — the Ravens have to be convinced he’s ready to reach another level as a disruptive playmaker. Madubuike is an effective player, but there are still plenty of games where he blends in more than he stands out. The Ravens’ interior defensive line expenditures have yielded mixed results in recent years, so there could be some hesitation to spend significant money on a player whose career high in sacks is 5 1/2.
The bottom line: Baltimore has always been a team that prioritizes building in the trenches and likes to take care of players it drafted and developed. Madubuike is on a nice progression. If he is interested in staying and the two sides can find common ground on the terms, it makes a ton of sense to get this deal done before the start of the season.
Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner
It also laid bare the risks of investing in a running back like Dobbins. A second-round pick in 2020, the former Ohio State star led all NFL running backs in yards per carry as a rookie, only to miss the 2021 season after tearing the ACL, LCL and meniscus in his left knee, along with his hamstring, in a preseason game.
Dobbins didn’t appear in a game last season until late September. When he finally returned, he wasn’t the same. He looked hobbled, tentative, less explosive. After finishing with 0.35 expected points added per carry in 2020 — a stratospheric rate of efficiency usually reserved for All-Pro quarterbacks — Dobbins averaged 0.00 EPA per rush in his first stretch of games last season, according to TruMedia. (EPA accounts for situational factors such as down, distance and field position.) The Ravens’ running game was generally worse off whenever he was involved, and sometimes significantly so.
Few running backs down the stretch were better. From Week 14 through the wild-card round, Dobbins ranked sixth among qualifying running backs in success rate on carries (45.6%) and sixth in first downs per rush (28.1%). He ranked fourth in EPA per carry (0.19). He ranked first in yards before contact per carry (3.49, far ahead of runner-up Aaron Jones’ 2.61) and seventh in yards after contact per carry, too (3.47).
Ranking rookie wide receivers by who will be most productive in 2023: Chargers’ Quentin Johnston tops list
Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports
We have not seen Lamar Jackson lead a truly high-powered passing offense since he entered the NFL. Yes, his 36 touchdown tosses in his spectacular MVP campaign led the NFL, his 3,127 yards through the air that season ranked 22nd in football and his 7.8 yards per attempt was 13th in the league.
But I’m trusting that because Baltimore invested in Jackson and smartly doubled down by picking who, to me, was the most well-rounded wideout in the 2023 class in the first round, Flowers will be a focal point of the offense this season. The only downside to Flowers is his stature. He’s 5-foot-9 and 180ish pounds and has a tiny catch radius. Everything else you want from a No. 1 wideout in today’s NFL, Flowers does exceptionally well. And that completeness to his game will keep defenses honest and without the ability to zero in on one aspect of him or the Ravens aerial offense under new coordinator Todd Monken. Solid debut for the former Boston College star.
Connor Orr, Sports Illustrated
Tyus Bowser, outside linebacker
Tyus Bowser doesn’t necessarily pop on graded sites like Pro Football Focus, nor is a high of seven sacks in Baltimore something to write home about (until you consider the sheer depth of pass rushers the Ravens have at their disposal). Still, what’s cool about Bowser is how good of a system player he can be. The totality of his knowledge, his coverage reps, the smoothness with which he can stunt inside and create pressure; the library of smart plays that he’s made is vast. When you ask around about Bowser, the words you get are “special” and “selfless.”
Jim Wyman, PFF
With all the attention going to Sauce Gardner, Hamilton quietly put together a dominant rookie year of his own, as he led all safeties in PFF grade at 87.6. In fact, Hamilton had at least an 83.0 PFF grade in all four major grading categories. He had an 87.7 run defense grade, 85.7 as a pass-rusher and 83.0 in coverage, giving him about as well-rounded a rookie season as we’ve ever seen. Williams, on the other hand, is coming off his lowest-ranked PFF grade season since 2018, and he still graded amongst the top 20 safeties in the league with a 73.9 PFF grade.