Skip to main content
Presented by

Late for Work: Ravens Will Try to 'Defend the Fort' Next Week in Free Agency

OLB Jadeveon Clowney
OLB Jadeveon Clowney

Former NFL Executive Says Ravens' Roster Will Be 'Under Assault' Next Week

While most teams in the NFL will go shopping when free agency begins next week, the Ravens figure to mostly be watching their free agents fly off the shelves. That's what happens when you have arguably the best roster in the NFL.

"No roster will be under greater assault next week than the Ravens'. They are going to have their hands full defending the fort," former NFL executive Randy Mueller of The Athletic wrote.

The Ravens' top offseason priority is rebuilding the offensive line, which could have as many as four new starters in 2024. It's a deep draft for offensive linemen, but Mueller said relying on rookies to fill starting roles is risky.

"Going young on the offensive line can be great … in Year 2 or 3. But that rookie season will be an adventure. And that's only part of the problem," Mueller wrote. "Needing to find two or three starting offensive linemen in one offseason is asking for trouble. Filling those spots on paper is much easier than getting that group to jell and play as one by Labor Day. It's a unit that must work in unison and build trust, which takes time. Because of that, if my offensive line has been effective, I'd always want to minimize change. I might even overpay somebody for continuity, even if that means bypassing a slightly better option, as long as it's not outrageously more expensive."

Mueller noted that the Ravens also could lose wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, in addition to defensive standouts such as inside linebacker Patrick Queen, outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, and safety Geno Stone.

"In total, Baltimore has 10 free agents in my top 150, including eight in the top 75. That has to make every Ravens fan uneasy," Mueller wrote.

Mueller said another factor is how many former Ravens staffers could be interested in luring Baltimore's free agents.

"Longtime Baltimore personnel man Joe Hortiz is now the Chargers' GM. My guess is he will target several of 'his guys' to come west to Los Angeles and play for the younger Harbaugh brother, Jim," Mueller wrote. "The same could be true of [Head Coach] Mike Macdonald in Seattle, [Defensive Coordinator] Anthony Weaver in Miami and [Defensive Coordinator] Dennard Wilson in Tennessee."

Mueller's points are valid. But there are many big names on the market, and while the Ravens have a lot of players hitting the open market, the possibility remains that some of them might not find the deals they are seeking elsewhere and return. We'll have to wait and see.

The other good news for the Ravens is that they still have plenty of stars on the roster, led by two-time MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith, All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton, All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews, and Pro Bowl center Tyler Linderdaum.

Baltimore also has emerging young stars, including wide receiver Zay Flowers, tight end Isaiah Likely, and running back Keaton Mitchell.

"We've seen the emergence of a lot of younger players, and that's going to continue," General Manager Eric DeCosta said at the season review press conference last month. "We've got a great process. We've got great evaluators. Our coaching staff does a phenomenal job, and we also develop players, so I don't really subscribe to the idea of windows opening and closing. I'd like to believe that with careful roster building and good drafting and development of players, the window is going to always be open."

Pundit Believes Ravens Trading for Deebo Samuel Is Realistic Possibility

There is a growing sentiment that Beckham will be playing elsewhere next season, which means the Ravens could be looking for a veteran wide receiver to replace him.

Some viable options exist in free agency, but a trade could prove to be a better avenue for adding a difference-making receiver.

There has been speculation that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel could be on the trade block, and The 33rd Team’s Marcus Mosher believes the Ravens trading for the versatile star is a realistic scenario.

"The Ravens pride themselves on being tougher and more physical than their opponents. And there isn't a more physical receiver in the league than Samuel," Mosher wrote. "… Acquiring Samuel would likely require a high-draft pick, but he would be a perfect fit in this offense. The Ravens have shown in recent years they aren't afraid to go after elite talent, and Samuel might be the best receiver available in the league right now via trade."

Samuel, 28, had 892 rushing yards, 225 receiving yards, and 12 total touchdowns in 15 games this past season. His best season was 2021, when he had 1,405 rushing yards, 365 receiving yards, and 14 total touchdowns.

"The San Francisco 49ers are in a tough spot on offense right now," Mosher wrote. "Brandon Aiyuk is coming off a Pro Bowl season and is set to play on the fifth-year option. Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Trent Williams are all among the highest-paid players at their positions, and the team is currently over the cap. The 49ers would love to keep all their weapons, but that just doesn't seem possible.

"Samuel is the most likely to be traded among their four Pro Bowl skill players. A trade could save San Francisco $7 million this year and nearly $25 million in 2025. There isn't a better fit for Samuel than the Baltimore Ravens."

Financially, this trade doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense for Baltimore, however. Any team that trades for Samuel would be taking on his nearly $21 million base salary, unless the 49ers ate some of that. The Ravens are already tight against the salary cap. Would they pay that much, plus trade compensation, for another veteran wide receiver?

Three Free Agents Who Would Be Good Fits for Ravens

The expectation is that the Ravens will exercise patience when it comes to adding free agents, but they undoubtedly will have their eyes on certain players.

Here are three free agents pundits believe are good fits for the Ravens:

RB Josh Jacobs

**CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin:** "To be honest, it's hard to see the Ravens actually doing this. But wouldn't it be really cool? Imagine Jacobs as the power back complement to Justice Hill and (when he returns from injury) Keaton Mitchell, working alongside Lamar Jackson. That'd be awful fun."

WR Gabe Davis

**Sports Illustrated’s Gilberto Manzano:** "Yes, Davis tends to have quiet receiving games, but he's an excellent blocker and would fit well for the offensive scheme Lamar Jackson runs in Baltimore. Davis, 24, would fill a need and likely won't command an expensive contract, which would be a plus for the Ravens, who have limited cap space."

EDGE Chase Young

**Pro Football Focus’ Dalton Wasserman:** "After franchise-tagging Justin Madubuike, the Ravens sit nearly $10 million over the salary cap. They will be working on a tight budget but need to build up their edge defender group with Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy hitting free agency. Chase Young could be an option, as he is currently projected to sign a one-year prove-it contract to reestablish his market next year. He performed reasonably well in his first full season off a torn ACL but hasn't yet lived up to his lofty draft status. Baltimore has a long history of handing veteran pass rushers one-year contracts, and Young could be next in line."

Jackson Doesn't Crack Top Five in PFF's Top 101 Players

Despite winning his second MVP award in five seasons (falling one vote shy of being a unanimous winner for the second time), Jackson did not crack the top five in PFF’s top 101 players of 2023. Jackson was No. 7.

"Jackson had multiple signature performances where opposing defenses had no answer for what he and the Ravens were doing on offense," PFF's Sam Monson wrote. "His season was cut short once he ran into a team that found those answers."

The Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes (No. 4) was the top quarterback on the list. Cleveland Browns EDGE Myles Garrett was No. 1 overall.

The other Ravens on the list were Hamilton (No. 26), Madubuike (No. 53), Smith (No. 67), and Linderbaum (No. 97).

Matthew Judon Says Jackson Is the Hardest Player to Plan for

New England Patriots outside linebacker Matthew Judon might disagree with Jackson's PFF ranking. During an appearance on "Good Morning Football," the former Raven was asked to name the three players that are hardest to prepare for, and Jackson was at the top of his list.

"When plays break down, when it seems to be no hope, he makes it hope," Judon said. "I think when he came into the league he gave this Ravens team and this organization new hope. … When you get him people that he can throw the ball to, he is so dynamic anywhere on the field."

Judon went against Jackson in practice when they were teammates from 2018-2020. The one time Judon faced Jackson in a game, Jackson threw four touchdown passes and rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens'  37-26 victory at New England in 2022.

Quick Hits

Related Content