The Baltimore Ravens team needs are relatively small, even coming off a relatively disappointing 11-5 season in 2020. They were widely expected to compete for a Super Bowl, but a slew of injuries, a COVID outbreak, and a series of one-possession losses forced the Ravens to a 6-5 start. Lamar Jackson regained his MVP form, and the Ravens won out and even knocked off the Titans in a playoff game. However, they ran into a superior Bills team, stopping the playoff run in its tracks. There are several Baltimore Ravens team needs that need to be addressed this offseason if they want to regain their footing as a Super Bowl contender.
Baltimore Ravens Team Needs: Wide Receiver
It has been well-documented that the Ravens need a wide receiver. In 2019, the Ravens posted the 319th-most wide receive receiving yards of the decade. Only the 2011 Jaguars had fewer.
While some of the lack of production stems from Baltimore’s run-heavy offense, Baltimore has generally lacked consistent playmakers on the outside. Marquise Brown is the best receiver on the team, but he would be better suited as a secondary piece in a passing attack. He is also widely inconsistent. He had a strong finish to the season, either scoring or getting 87 receiving yards in the last eight games (including playoffs), but he had just 55 total yards in November.
Beyond Brown, Baltimore has a pair of 2020 draft picks who could garner more workload moving forward. Devin Duvernay and James Proche were often returners rather than receivers. Proche was targeted twice all season (with one being a pick-six), and Duvernay hauled in just 20 passes. They are near duplicates of the quick, slot receiver with good hands. Duvernay is a step faster, and Proche has slightly better hands. However, they occupy the same role, and it seems only one could stick as Baltimore’s slot receiver.
Willie Snead and Dez Bryant are free agents, and it seems only Bryant will be coming back. Snead will vacate the slot for Duvernay or Proche, and Bryant should only return as a veteran presence, not a playmaker.
This leaves Baltimore is a position that they must go after a star wide receiver. There are several on the market including Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, and Chris Godwin. It seems unlikely that all three get franchise tagged, but one or two might leave the market with the franchise tag. Beyond the free agents, Baltimore could swing a deal for a star wide receiver like the 2020 Bills (Stefon Diggs) or 2020 Cardinals (DeAndre Hopkins) did.
The NFL draft is generally a viable option, but Baltimore is competing now, and most receivers picked as late as Baltimore’s selection (No. 27) are not instant No. 1 wide receivers. This is first on the list for a reason, as it is THE main item on the Baltimore Ravens team needs list.
Baltimore Ravens Team Needs: Tight End
The need is alleviated slightly with the return of Nick Boyle, but Baltimore’s three tight end sets in 2019 were devastating. In the 2020 offseason, Baltimore traded Hayden Hurst for a pick that became J.K. Dobbins. While Dobbins will likely be a future back for the next few seasons in Baltimore, the loss of Hurst compromised some of the blocking for that devastating run game.
Mark Andrews has improved as a blocker, and Boyle is one of the best blockers in the NFL. Additionally, Pat Ricard served as the No. 2 tight end in Boyle’s absence. However, the peak of the Ravens rushing attack comes when Ricard is in at fullback and there are three legitimate tight ends. With the athleticism of Jackson and Dobbins, the option would be unguardable with nine competent run blockers.
A player like Hurst would be an ideal fit as he is a good receiver and good blocker. Hurst was athletic enough to punish defenses while also physical enough to clear the way for the record-breaking rushing attack of 2019.
The Ravens will likely address tight end in the draft. While a blue-chip prospect like Kyle Pitts or Pat Freiermuth could be game-breaking talents within the Baltimore system, expect the Ravens to pull the trigger on Day 3 of the draft.
Baltimore Ravens Team Needs: Offensive Line
Orlando Brown‘s declaration that he is a left tackle has thrown a wrench into the Baltimore Ravens team needs.
Unless Brown quietly returns to his abode at right tackle or if All-Pro Ronnie Stanley heads to right tackle, Brown will almost certainly be traded during the offseason. The Ravens already have three question marks on the interior of the offensive line, and Brown’s potential exodus could give the Ravens a troublesome line.
Even in a perfect world that Stanley returns to 100% health, the Ravens would need to plug gaps all over the line. Bradley Bozeman is a league-average option at left guard, and he is likely to return. Three players took snaps at center, and two of them are major reasons why the Ravens lost games. Patrick Mekari and Matt Skura took turns with inconsistent snapping. Skura had several bad snaps in Baltimore’s loss against the Patriots while Mekari was generally solid until a 1.3 PFF pass-blocking grade against the Bills in the playoffs.
Trystan Colon-Castillo, an undrafted center, played 133 snaps on the season, and he played at a league-average level.
At right guard, Ben Powers took the majority of snaps, and he was generally solid. Mekari had over 200 snaps at right guard as well, but the liability was Tyre Phillips. He was a mediocre pass-blocker at right guard, but problems arose in run-blocking. In the six games at right guard, Phillips graded no better than 55.6 in run-blocking. Ouch.
Right tackle would theoretically be Brown, but he wants to be paid like a left tackle. Brown’s replacements were a generally bad mix of rookies and inconsistent veterans. The aforementioned Mekari and Phillips took snaps at right tackle and did not set the world on fire. D.J. Fluker was originally brought in at guard, but he lost the job in camp. He played 580 snaps at right tackle, generally run-blocking well, but he allowed 28 pressures in just 281 pass-blocking reps at right tackle.
A perfect offensive line for the Ravens in 2020 seems to be Stanley, Bozeman, Colon-Castillo, a draft pick, and Brown. While Brown could be a valuable trade piece as he has been named a Pro Bowler at both tackle spots now, the trade would likely leave the Ravens with a liability at right tackle.
Baltimore Ravens Team Needs: Pass Rush
Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon are both free agents. It seems unlikely that Baltimore pays both or lets both go, so it seems there will be one on the team plus a gaping hole. The problem arises when neither of them are worth their respective contract demands. Judon could ask for up to 20 million dollars per year. While Judon is a generally competent run defender, his pass-rushing leaves something to be desired. He has three straight seasons with more than 40 pressures, but many of his pressures are not a result of him beating good pass-blocking, it is scheme-aided.
Ngakoue is an abysmal run defender, but he is slightly more consistent as a pass rusher in terms of creating pressure. The raw pressure numbers favor Judon slightly, but Ngakoue can occasionally get pressure against real NFL tackles while Judon often needs to be unblocked. Sure, the Judon pressures may be larger in number, but he is not going above and beyond what he is asked to do.
Addressing the Baltimore Ravens Team Needs
To address the Baltimore Ravens team needs, the Ravens need a tri-pronged approach. First, they need to clear out players that are not in future plans (including Ngakoue, Judon, and any offensive linemen deemed unfit to be a Raven). Second, Baltimore needs to be strong in free agency in their pursuit of a star-caliber wide receiver and/or a productive pass rusher. Third, Baltimore needs a comprehensive draft strategy to fill in the gaps they missed in free agency while stocking young talent across the roster.
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