Within the lead as much as the beginning of free company on March 17 and Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29, we’ll be taking a position-by-position take a look at all 32 NFL groups with a concentrate on the beginning spots which have query marks heading into subsequent season. Right here, we’ll preview the Baltimore Ravens offseason as they try and get again on prime of the AFC North in 2021.
Issues didn’t come fairly as simply for the Ravens this previous season as they did in 2019 once they lit the league on fireplace en path to a 14-2 document. Lamar Jackson and firm did decide issues up over the again half of the season — profitable a playoff sport for the primary time since 2014 — however they’ll have their sights set increased subsequent 12 months.
That effort begins with bettering the offensive line and passing sport over the following a number of months. Baltimore should additionally determine what to do with a number of upcoming free brokers alongside its entrance seven on protection.
Projected cap house (Over the Cap): $18,203,773 (thirteenth in NFL)
Picks in 2021 NFL Draft: 27, 58, 122, 152, 186
Projected 2021 offense
Willie Snead IV, the Ravens’ No. 2 vast receiver in 2020, is ready to be a free agent. As of now, Miles Boykin could be the man filling that position subsequent 12 months, however Baltimore will possible attempt to improve on the place following simply 32 receptions in two years from the previous third-round decide regardless of little competitors.
Baltimore’s offensive line is the large query mark on offense, although. Ronnie Stanley is seemingly the one offensive lineman the Ravens can really feel 100% safe about simply two seasons after boasting among the best offensive traces in the whole league. Orlando Brown Jr. has expressed his want to play left sort out, requesting a commerce final week. That opens up a beginning spot at proper sort out. Bradley Bozeman ought to get the beginning at left guard once more after an improved third season, however heart and proper guard stay much less sure.
Heart appears the likeliest inside place to see a brand new starter, as starter Matt Skura (49.1 PFF grade in 2020) struggled this previous season. Patrick Mekari took over for Skura and performed moderately effectively (62.4 PFF grade), however Mekari delivered his worst efficiency of the season, by far, in Baltimore’s playoff loss to Buffalo. He earned a mere 1.3 pass-blocking grade within the sport. There’s a likelihood Bozeman — who performed heart at Alabama — may slide over from left guard.
As issues stand proper now, 2019 fourth-round decide Ben Powers could be the staff’s beginning proper guard after taking on that job in Week 11, however that might be one other place the place the Ravens look to enhance. Powers earned a 57.2 general grade on the 12 months, and like Mekari, he delivered one in every of his worst performances of the 12 months within the Ravens’ postseason loss to the Payments.
What’s the larger precedence: Offensive line or including extra expertise at receiver?
Baltimore having an offense in contrast to some other staff within the NFL provides an additional layer to this query. For many different groups with a roster make-up just like the Ravens’, I might say including a real X receiver could be the highest precedence. Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown are younger complementary items, however the Ravens nonetheless lack a No. 1 receiving possibility who can win in any respect ranges of the sector. It’s onerous to have a dominant passing assault with out that participant.
Nonetheless, the Ravens aren’t your typical offense. They confirmed they may construct an elite passing offense with out elite weapons outdoors in 2019. Their 0.215 anticipated factors added per go play ranked second within the league, behind solely Kansas Metropolis. However Baltimore dropped to twenty first in the identical metric final season. The receiving choices didn’t change. The offensive line did in a giant manner with the losses of Ronnie Stanley to harm and Marshal Yanda to retirement.
At its core, Baltimore desires to impose its will within the operating sport, and Jackson makes them uniquely suited to have a profitable offense with a run-first assault in a pass-first league. The staff wants a powerful offensive line for that technique to work. The Ravens shouldn’t keep away from including to their receiving corps, however upgrading their offensive line must be the highest precedence this offseason.
What does Orlando Brown Jr.’s commerce request imply for this offense?
Strictly how it will affect the 2021 Ravens, Brown’s seemingly inevitable departure shouldn’t be supreme. His 81.8 pass-blocking grade since 2018 ranks 18th out of 90 qualifying tackles, and he was an improved run blocker this previous season, as effectively. Shedding a dependable beginning sort out is way from an insignificant loss.
Then again, getting one thing of worth again for Brown in a commerce is sweet enterprise from a team-building perspective. The Ravens drafted him within the third spherical of the 2018 NFL Draft, obtained three strong years of beginning play from him and will have the ability to flip him for a greater return than a third-round decide with out committing long-term “left sort out” cash to him.
Brown may very effectively take a step again in one other offense, as effectively. The way in which opposing groups must go rush towards Jackson — afraid of the quite a few methods he can beat you when he will get outdoors the pocket on scrambles — protects an offensive sort out like Brown and makes his life simpler. Buying and selling the Oklahoma product on the prime of his worth and utilizing the return from that commerce to focus on his potential alternative shouldn’t be the worst of outcomes for the Ravens.
How does Baltimore repair its passing sport woes from final season?
It’s no secret that the Ravens passing assault took a serious step again in 2020. A part of that falls on Jackson failing to dwell as much as his 2019 MVP play. And a part of that falls on a receiving corps missing in high-end expertise, as effectively. The Ravens’ teaching and offensive sport plans final season aren’t absolved, both. Former Ravens vast receiver Steve Smith had this to say of the Ravens’ passing offense following their postseason loss to the Buffalo Payments.
“Once you’re operating the kind of route mixtures which might be very elementary college, very Cracker Jack-like, very simple to defend, you’ll be able to’t essentially put all of it on the vast receivers. You probably have, “Hey, you two go deep and also you two go shallow and Lamar throws it to whoever is open,” that’s simply not the NFL. That’s not the complexity of the NFL, and their passing sport shouldn’t be very advanced,” Smith mentioned.
From a personnel perspective, there isn’t any query the Ravens must get higher alongside the offensive line in safety of Jackson and at vast receiver, concentrating on gamers who can create separation rapidly. Reimagining their passing assault from a schematic standpoint shall be equally as essential as Baltimore heads into the 2021 season.
Potential targets at open spots
Allen Robinson II is the Ravens’ supreme free agent goal, however he’ll value round $20 million per 12 months to accumulate. It’s powerful to see Baltimore prioritizing the vast receiver place to that extent.
The following tier of outdoor targets — together with Marvin Jones Jr. and Sammy Watkins — might be the candy spot. Jones is coming off a near-1,000-yard and nine-touchdown season with the Lions by which he served because the staff’s prime receiving possibility for a lot of the 12 months with Kenny Golladay sidelined. He has earned 70.0-plus receiving grades in each season since 2013. Watkins had an injury-riddled 2020 season with Kansas Metropolis, however he has produced an identical grading profile to Jones outdoors of an elite 2015 season with Buffalo (89.8 PFF grade).
If the Ravens select to deal with the place early within the 2021 NFL Draft, Rashod Bateman could also be the most suitable choice on the board at their decide. Bateman has picked up 80.0-plus PFF grades in every of the previous two seasons in two completely different roles — primarily out vast in 2019 and from the slot in 2020. He ought to have the ability to produce straight away within the NFL with arguably the most effective launch bundle within the draft class.
Corey Linsley shall be one of many prime free agent offensive linemen this offseason, and the Ravens may select to aggressively improve their inside. Linsley’s 86.4 PFF grade this previous season for the Green Bay Packers was over 5 factors increased than some other heart within the league, and he was one of many highest-graded facilities within the league on hole runs — a talent set Baltimore would covet. He would instantly present a lift to their inside offensive line.
Alabama’s Landon Dickerson wouldn’t make fairly as massive an affect as Linsley out of the gate, however he has the potential to show into a top quality starter the Crimson Tide with a dominant efficiency within the run sport. He would give the Ravens some positional versatility, as effectively. Dickerson has frolicked beginning in any respect 5 positions alongside the offensive line for the Crimson Tide and will realistically play any spot alongside the inside.
The Ravens must be concentrating on maulers, and these two tackles within the draft qualify as potential replacements for Brown at proper sort out. Teven Jenkins’ energy within the PFF Draft Guide is listed as upper-body energy, and he confirmed this previous 12 months at Oklahoma State that he can impose his will within the run sport. Jalen Mayfield’s greatest energy was listed as uncooked energy, displaying the power to carry up effectively towards the bull rush. Any potential pass-protection weaknesses gained’t be punished as harshly as they could in different conditions given how defenses must rush Jackson.
Projected 2021 protection
One of many NFL’s higher defenses in 2020 will keep largely intact for 2021. Season-ending accidents have value Tavon Young taking part in time in every of the previous two seasons, so he’ll look to lastly see the sector for important snaps after signing an extension with Baltimore previous to the 2019 season.
I’m additionally projecting Justin Madubuike for a bigger position on the Ravens protection in his second season out of Texas A&M. Madubuike performed effectively on simply over 300 defensive snaps as a rookie — incomes a 70.3 overall grade — and will take among the snaps probably misplaced from free agent Derek Wolfe.
The sting defender place is the most important space of uncertainty for the Ravens heading into the 2021 season. Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee and Jihad Ward will all hit the market — a possible mass exodus on the place. Judon and Ngakoue are the large names in that group, and every will command a hefty chunk of change in free company. Anticipate the Ravens to deliver again among the names above whereas including elsewhere via free company and the draft.
In a vacuum, the Ravens ought to need Ngakoue and Judon again for 2021 and past. They rank twelfth and sixteenth, respectively, in complete quarterback pressures amongst edge defenders over the previous three seasons. The problem is that Baltimore shall be competing with a number of suitors for his or her providers this offseason, and contract negotiations gained’t come low-cost. PFF projects Ngakoue to signal a contract within the neighborhood of 4 years and $70 million, whereas Judon is projected to signal for the same four-year, $68 million deal.
For good however not elite edge defenders like Ngakoue and Judon, it’s tough to justify such a excessive price ticket on a Baltimore protection that may generate strain alternatives with lesser expertise via the scheme they run. Judon himself is an efficient instance. His 39 unblocked pressures since 2018 are seven greater than the following closest edge defender.
It appears extra possible that the Ravens let Judon and Ngakoue stroll whereas bringing again a number of of Bowser, McPhee and Ward. They might then look so as to add to the place with cheaper free agent choices or draft expertise.
Clark and Elliott performed effectively for the Ravens this previous season. Elliott, particularly, was largely an unknown after taking part in simply 40 defensive snaps throughout his first two seasons within the NFL previous to the 2020 season. The third-year security was lastly capable of keep wholesome — logging over 1,000 defensive snaps on the 12 months — and graded out as a top-30 safety within the league whereas filling Earl Thomas‘ sneakers.
The beginning duo of Elliott at free security and Clark at sturdy security is a strong one, and Baltimore shouldn’t have any reservations about carrying that pairing into 2021. The Ravens nonetheless may look so as to add a rangy, playmaking free security in some unspecified time in the future this offseason, although. Elliott and Clark mixed for just five pass breakups and one interception throughout the 2020 common season. It will give the staff extra flexibility to run three-safety defenses and add a distinct talent set to the group.
When it comes to offseason wants, security gained’t are available excessive on the checklist, nevertheless it might be an under-the-radar space the place Baltimore appears to be like so as to add some competitors within the coming months.
What does Patrick Queen’s second 12 months appear to be for the Ravens?
I gave a barely extra intensive model of my ideas on Queen’s rookie season in a piece last month, however the shortened model is that the extent of concern shouldn’t be all that prime for the previous LSU Tiger regardless of one of many worst PFF grades (29.7) of any linebacker within the NFL final season.
Most of his downgrades got here on performs the place he obtained caught out of place or missed tackles. Queen tied Houston’s Zach Cunningham for probably the most missed tackles within the league this season, at 22. These are each areas the place there may be each motive to imagine Queen will enhance with extra time and expertise in Baltimore’s protection. Taking part in linebacker in right this moment’s NFL is likely one of the tougher jobs within the sport, and we regularly see that it takes time for these gamers to develop and constantly discover themselves in the best positions.
Queen flashed the high-end athleticism that obtained him chosen within the first spherical of final 12 months’s draft. The Ravens shall be hoping that ceiling exhibits up extra constantly in 2021, and there may be motive to imagine that it’ll.
Potential targets at open spots
The Ravens may very effectively attempt to re-sign Matthew Judon or Yannick Ngakoue, however the extra lifelike possibility appears to be Tyus Bowser on a less expensive deal. Bowser shall be simply 26 years previous subsequent season and has performed effectively in an elevated and versatile position for Baltimore over the previous two seasons.
If trying so as to add a free agent from outdoors, Haason Reddick — an edge defender turned off-ball linebacker turned edge defender — makes some sense. He took a large leap in his first full 12 months on the sting within the NFL, incomes an 82.6 pass-rushing grade and recording 56 pressures this previous season. Little manufacturing earlier than the 2020 season may make groups hesitant to supply Reddick a giant, multi-year contract, which may open a chance for Baltimore to signal him. His expertise at off-ball would play effectively on the Ravens’ protection.
Within the draft, Azeez Ojulari might be a first-round goal at outdoors linebacker. His participant comp in PFF’s Draft Guide is none aside from Ngakoue, and he is likely one of the greatest go rushers within the draft class at turning the nook on tackles. Chris Rumph II could be a later-round goal who has an NFL-ready set of pass-rushing strikes however lacks supreme dimension for the place. That mentioned, Baltimore may make use of his versatility in its blitz-heavy scheme.