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Ravens News 2/6: Step Up Candidates

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AFC Divisional Playoffs - Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images

One offseason move for each AFC team: Bengals must keep Tee Higgins; time for Texans to spend

Kevin Patra, NFL.com

Baltimore Ravens

Keep DT Justin Madubuike in town.

The Ravens have a host of key defenders heading for free agency, including Jadeveon Clowney, Patrick Queen and Geno Stone, but retaining Madubuike — who just finished the final season of his rookie contract — is key if Baltimore’s defense is to avoid a major dip in 2024. The 26-year-old led the Ravens (and all NFL defensive tackles) with 13 sacks, but it wasn’t just about the QB takedowns. Madubuike also pushed the pocket (logging 64 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats), caused havoc and ate up double-teams, allowing linebackers free runs to make plays.

With top-paid DTs like Quinnen Williams and Jeffery Simmons recently landing contracts worth more than $90 million, the Ravens could use the franchise tag (projected to be roughly $20 million, per Over the Cap) as a placeholder to ensure Madubuike doesn’t leave Baltimore in 2024. Retaining the DT could mean losing a player like Queen, but that’s the cost of doing business.

Ranking Ravens’ top unrestricted free agents: Will Jadeveon Clowney, OBJ return?

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

4. Jadeveon Clowney, OLB

The Ravens signed Clowney to a one-year, $2.5 million deal halfway through training camp last year. It proved to be one of the biggest free-agent bargains in the NFL. Playing for his fifth team, the 30-year-old tied a career high with 9.5 sacks, played in every game and was a force against the run. Baltimore proved to be the perfect fit for Clowney, who was looking to resurrect his career. He said he’d love to return, but he certainly earned a far bigger payday than he got this past season. In past offseasons, the Ravens have avoided spending big bucks on the outside linebacker position.

6. Ronald Darby, CB

Another under-the-radar free-agent signing by DeCosta that worked out in a big way, Darby started seven games for the Ravens and more than held his own. The 30-year-old stepped in for Marlon Humphrey, who battled injuries all season, and there was no dropoff in the secondary. Coming off a knee injury, Darby played on a one-year, $1.7 million contract. His asking price figures to be higher this offseason.

8. Odell Beckham Jr., WR

For all the fanfare of this signing, which cost the Ravens $15 million, Beckham put up modest numbers with 35 catches for 565 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. That doesn’t mean it was a bad signing. His addition got Jackson’s attention at a time when the quarterback was at a contract impasse with the Ravens. Beckham also was a great influence on the locker room and made some plays. However, he’s 31 and has battled physical challenges. If he’s back, it would probably be on a much smaller deal. You could hardly blame Beckham, though, if he was looking to join an offense where he’d get more than 4.6 targets per game.

2024 NFL Free Agency: Potential landing spots for top running backs and tight ends

Brad Spielberger, PFF

31. RB DERRICK HENRY, TENNESSEE TITANS

Potential landing spot(s): Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings

The Baltimore Ravens were believed to be a top suitor of Henry’s at this year’s trade deadline, and he now comes available without them needing to give up any draft capital. Zone read with Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry would be absolutely diabolical for defenses to stop, and Henry could push for a ring on the back nine of his career, much like Odell Beckham Jr. did with Baltimore this past season.

104. RB D’ANDRE SWIFT, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Potential landing spot(s): Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants

The Ravens probably did their homework on Swift when they took J.K. Dobbins about 20 picks later in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and now Dobbins and Gus Edwards are free agents while upshot rookie Keaton Mitchell is recovering from a gruesome knee injury sustained late in the season.

The Ravens have big roster changes ahead. Here’s who can step up in 2024.

Kyle Goon, The Baltimore Banner

Waiting in the wings

Since he was drafted, inside linebacker Trenton Simpson was quickly penciled in as the presumptive replacement for Patrick Queen, cleats that now seem even larger to fill than last spring. DeCosta suggesting Queen will have the chance to test free agency felt like an acknowledgement that the Ravens don’t actually have the cap space to bring him back. Simpson didn’t have a huge role this season, but in the last regular season game against the Steelers, he played well — notably earning attaboys from even Queen himself. While we have yet to see how Zach Orr will change this defense, you can bet the former inside linebackers coach will continue to put a ton of responsibility on that position group. If Simpson gets the nod to start next year, he’ll have to be ready for a whole lot more on his plate.

On the offensive line, there’s a few candidates, but it seems apropos to remind folks about a seventh-round draft pick who was almost a footnote last spring: former USC lineman Andrew Vorhees. After suffering an ACL tear in the predraft process, Vorhees fell from a possible second-day pick to the Ravens, who traded back in the draft to get him. He was a longtime starter for the Trojans and his scouting profile reflects a fundamentally sound blocker. There are big questions at guard, with Kevin Zeitler up in the air and John Simpson (who had a solid season) not necessarily a lock as the long-term answer. We haven’t heard much about Vorhees in the last year, but it will be interesting to see if the 2023 draft pick might be able to make a splash in camp.

2024 NFL mock draft (Version 2.0): Two-round projections entering Super Bowl week

C.J. Doon, The Baltimore Sun

30. Ravens: Darius Robinson, DL/EDGE, Missouri

With several pending free agents on defense, including Justin Madubuike, Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, the Ravens need plenty of help to reach the heights of their league-best unit under Macdonald. The Athletic’s draft guru Dane Brugler labeled Robinson a player the Ravens would love because of his size, skill set and versatility. At 6-5 and 295 pounds, he’s an imposing presence who can hold the edge against the run and also rush the passer from the interior. A standout week at the Senior Bowl has pushed him into the first-round conversation.

62. Ravens: Kiran Amegadjie, OT, Yale