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The case for and against retaining Ravens’ key offensive free agents

AFC Championship - Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

Following a gut-wrenching defeat in the AFC championship game, the focus will now shift to the offseason for the Baltimore Ravens. Albeit much sooner than everyone hoped, the Ravens will have many questions to answers in the coming weeks and months.

One of the most important items will be free agency, where the Ravens are set to have more than 20 incumbent players potentially hit the open market. Which of their free agents the Ravens prioritize re-signing over others will be crucial in determining what the team looks like moving forward.

Below are some of the team’s most notable upcoming free agents on the offensive side of the ball and we’ll make the case for and the case against retaining each of them.

Baltimore Ravens v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

RG Kevin Zeitler

The case for: Zeitler has been a stalwart for the Ravens’ offensive line since signing with the team three years ago. He’s played a steady, borderline elite level at times as both a pass protector and run blocker. This season, Zeitler was finally rewarded with a long overdue Pro Bowl selection as an alternate replacement.

Zeitler’s consistency has been paramount as the Ravens have had some turnover at other positions on the offensive line. That may be the case again this offseason with question marks at offensive tackle and the left guard spot. In tandem with Tyler Linderbaum at center, Zeitler gives the Ravens a rock-solid presence on the interior of the front five.

While Zeitler will be 34 years old in March, the veteran has shown little signs of slowing down significantly. Offensive guard is a position where players usually age well and can sustain solid play into their later years.

The case against: While Zeitler’s age has not been a notable factor to-date, he did show some signs of slowing down this past season with a few uncharacteristic poor performances — particularly earlier in the year. Interior offensive lineman do age better than many positions but a drop-off in play in your mid-30s is never out of the question.

Now fresh off a Pro Bowl nod, Zeitler will still likely not come awfully cheap on the open market. While he’s been vocal about wanting to remain with the Ravens, another team will likely be able to offer him more money.

The Ravens may seek to get younger at the position and do some have some potential in-house replacements. They could also use the draft as an option to acquire a new offensive guard.

AFC Championship - Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

The case for: Beckham was the Ravens’ biggest high-profile free agent signing last offseason. He was everything the team could have hoped for as a locker room presence and veteran leader in a young wide receiver room. The former All-Pro was a seamless fit with the team and community.

Beckham overcame some early injury issues and suited up for 14 games, playing 465 offensive snaps (50%). His box score statistics don’t jump off the page, as he reeled in 35 of 64 targets for 537 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Beckham did, though, have some noteworthy individual moments and catches.

Nis number wasn’t called a ton but when it was, Beckham had some key grabs on third downs. He was a reliable chain-mover and also showcased big-play ability still, as he averaged a career-high 16.1 yards per reception. As a veteran with playmaking skills and sure hands, Beckham still brings value to the table.

The case against: For what he brought to the table as a veteran and locker room presence, Beckham’s production did not align with the high salary the Ravens gave him in free agency. While he wound up finishing second on the team in receiving yards, his role in the passing attack on a week-to-week basis was inconsistent.

Beckham had a nice stretch in the middle of the season with a few touchdown grabs and long-yardage games. Outside of that, he consistently only made a marginal impact. Granted Lamar Jackson usually spread the ball around fairly evenly, him and Beckham never seemed to develop the true on-field rapport and connection many expected.

Beckham closed out the regular season with just four catches over his final three appearances. Then, in two postseason performances, Beckham was still a minimal factor. He was targeted just once in the wildcard round and caught three of his six targets in the divisional round for 22 receiving yards.

With age and injury history still a lingering concern, the Ravens might be able to replace Beckham’s production from this past season internally and externally combined at a fraction of the cost.

AFC Championship - Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

RB Gus Edwards

The case for: After missing the entire 2021 season and suiting up in just nine games last year, Edwards made a full 17 appearances in 2023. He saw his highest amount of carries (198) and offensive snaps (470) in a single campaign to-date.

Once J.K. Dobbins suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1, Edwards immediately assumed a larger role in the backfield. He wasn’t featured in a workhorse role as the Ravens utilized Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell throughout the year. However, the “Gus Bus” was still unquestionably the team’s go-to player in short-yardage and red zone situations.

Edwards was a scoring machine, finding the end zone 13 times on the season. He had a five-game scoring streak in the middle of the season with nine touchdowns over that span. That was easily his career-best mark, along with rushing yards (810), first downs (49), broken tackles (12), receptions (12), and receiving yards (180).

The case against: While he posted his highest statistical marks in several categories, Edwards’ had by far his least efficient season. After previously averaging 5.0 yards per carry (YPC) or better through his first four seasons, that marked dropped to 4.1 YPC in 2023.

There were six regular season games where Edwards’ YPC was less than four. He didn’t have quite the same consistent positive yardage-gaining impact as in year’s past despite playing in a new-look offense with improved playmakers around him.

The Ravens seemed reluctant to ever give Edwards a super heavy workload even when he ran the ball well. Mitchell cut into his snaps as he emerged in the middle of the season and then Hill took on a larger role down the stretch after the former suffered a torn ACL injury.

Edwards’ skillset as a downhill, short-yardage runner could likely be mostly replaced at a cheaper cost.

Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images

WR Nelson Agholor

The case for: Agholor signed a one-year deal prior to Beckham last offseason. He wound up catching the same number of passes (35) despite seeing 19 less targets. Agholor largely exceeded expectations as a complimentary pass-catcher in the Ravens’ offense.

The former first-round pick didn’t make a ton of big downfield plays but caught the fourth-most touchdowns on the team with four. His scoring mark was the best of his career since 2020 but played far less snaps in a lesser role last year than he did then.

While his stats overall don’t jump off the page, Agholor developed a solid chemistry with Jackson and seemed to earn his trust as the season progressed. Agholor had a touchdown against the Houston Texans in the playoffs and a game-long 39 yard reception in the divisional round a week later.

In four games where he received 5+ targets, Agholor caught all but two passes and had two performances with 60 or more yards.

The case against: While he met or exceeded the bar that was set for him entering the season, Agholor didn’t make a consistent impact throughout the season. In eight of 17 games, the veteran wideout posted less than 20 receiving yards. In three of those, Agholor was blanked in the stat sheet.

Like Beckham or Edwards, Agholor’s production was minimal enough to where it can likely be replicated from a combined effort of returning receiving options or those not yet on the roster yet.

Other free agents not listed:

  • OG John Simpson
  • RB J.K. Dobbins
  • RB Dalvin Cook