After a disappointing 8-9 campaign, the Baltimore Ravens are looking to bounce back with a thunderous offseason. There are a handful of positions that the team should look to hit hard in both free agency and the NFL Draft. Here are three of the most important needs for the Ravens heading into a critical 2022 season, the final year of Lamar Jackson’s rookie deal.
All contract values are from Spotrac.
This is the easiest hole to fill as the Ravens could retain Bradley Bozeman this offseason. The former sixth-round pick played left guard for more than 1,000 snaps in 2019 and 2020 before sliding to center in his fourth season. He held up his end of the bargain, earning grades in the 70s as a run blocker and pass blocker.
However, Bozeman is a free agent and could have a more lucrative option elsewhere. The Ravens should look to re-sign the Alabama alum as the team’s top priority in free agency. He brings a solid floor to the position, and he had a slew of elite pass-blocking performances to end the season. Considering that the Ravens will likely have new tackles, they should emphasize continuity on the interior with Bozeman, Ben Cleveland, and Kevin Zeitler.
Interior Defensive Line
The Ravens’ two most expensive free agents entering the offseason are both on the interior of the defense. Calais Campbell earned $12.5 million in 2021 while Brandon Williams earned $10.5 million. Campbell continued to be effective despite missing time while Williams was poor for much of the season. Among players who played 200 snaps, Campbell was Baltimore’s highest-graded player (80.8). Meanwhile, Brandon Williams was third-worst in this department.
Campbell’s age complicates matters as he is already 35. He is still an impactful player, but he could explore retirement as a possibility. Williams, 32, could also be heading in that direction, but he has likely played his final snaps as a Raven. In-house, the Ravens should re-sign Campbell on a short-term deal while letting Williams walk or retire.
The Ravens can address their defensive line woes with a bevy of draft picks. Perhaps the best strategy would be to throw many picks at the defensive line to increase the odds of hitting on a star while improving depth. Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington are young options on the inside, but depth should be a key tenet of Baltimore’s decision-making this offseason.
Among teams who are serious threats to make the playoffs, Baltimore’s free safety spot might be the most under-the-radar requirement. The Ravens have had a rich history of superstar free safeties, but they have failed to replace Earl Thomas after 2019. While DeShon Elliott is a solid player, he is a natural strong safety being forced to play free safety. Chuck Clark is a superior option at strong safety, but he also does not have the skillset to play as a free safety.
The “solution” for a chunk of the 2021 season was the disaster known as Brandon Stephens. Stephens was a collegiate running back and cornerback, so his transition to free safety was rough. He split time at the safety positions (according to PFF), but his grading was generally poor. Stephens did trend up near the end of the season, but he is still a project at the position.
At the very least, the Ravens need to look for better options. The pipe dream is Marcus Williams, but he is unlikely to leave New Orleans. The second pipe dream is Kyle Hamilton. While Hamilton is not exactly a pure free safety, he has the athletic profile to fill any role in the secondary. The Notre Dame prospect is the next evolution of the Isaiah Simmons and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah kind of playmakers that can be put anywhere from middle linebacker to boundary cornerback and be an impact. Hamilton is a slam-dunk top-five pick, however. At the same time, Baltimore owns the 14th overall pick.
Two names to watch are Lewis Cine and Daxton Hill in the draft. They may not be the pick at No.14, but the Ravens have the draft capital to spring into action and bring one of them in the late first or early second. Hill has a cornerback background (with John Harbaugh’s brother), and he is the younger brother of Ravens draft pick Justice Hill. Cine turned in a huge College Football Playoff performance with Georgia, and he brings swagger reminiscent of Ed Reed with his playstyle. He can thump and play free safety, two attributes that are often mutually exclusive (like Thomas).
No matter what positions the Ravens decide to attack, they are loaded with draft capital. They could deploy a series of trades, or they could look to make a splash and trade up in the draft.
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