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Mailbag: Evaluating the Ravens' Pass Rusher Options

OLB Kyle Van Noy
OLB Kyle Van Noy

Mink: The Ravens believe Odafe Oweh and a healthy David Ojabo can be a game-wrecking duo. They certainly have the talent to be so. But this is a very similar position to the one the Ravens were in last offseason, when they kicked off training camp with those two guys leading the way at EDGE and ultimately added Jadeveon Clowney early in camp and then Kyle Van Noy early in the season. I expect a similar outcome this offseason.

Baltimore will probably draft another EDGE defender and could even do so in the first round. I would be surprised if the Ravens didn't take a pass rusher in the first four rounds at least. That still leaves room for a veteran addition at some point later this offseason.

Looking at the list of current free agents, some names that stand out are Van Noy, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Lawson, Randy Gregory, Charles Harris, and Bud Dupree. I'm sure that list will grow.

Van Noy already publicly stated he's had talks with Baltimore about a possible return. After posting a career-high 9 sacks last season, he wants and deserves a pay increase. How much of a bump is part of negotiations between the two sides, so it remains to be seen whether they can find a deal that works for both.

The Ravens did well scooping up talented veterans late in the process last year (Clowney, Van Noy, Ronald Darby, Arthur Maulet, etc.) and they'll need to do so again this offseason with holes to fill. Pass rushers are at or near the top of the list.

Downing: The Ravens currently have nine picks in the draft, and Eric DeCosta has said many times that the draft is the lifeblood of the organization. That's even more so the case now that quarterback Lamar Jackson is signed long-term and taking up a big chunk of the salary cap. The Ravens need to rely on the draft to build out the roster with talented, affordable players, and General Manager Eric DeCosta likes to have lots of swings in the draft. I don't know that there's a "magic number" of draft picks DeCosta would like to have, but if he can trade back and accumulate some extra picks, then he won't hesitate to do that. DeCosta has a track record of maneuvering around the board on draft weekend – both trading up and down – and I would be surprised if he sits and picks with all nine of those selections.

An interesting part of the decision in this year's first round is the fact that the Ravens are picking at No. 30, so they don't have much room to trade back and still maintain a first-round pick. An added benefit of that first round pick is the fifth-year option, which the Ravens value, so DeCosta may balk at the idea of trading back into the second round and losing that fifth-year option. The Ravens have plenty of needs to address through the draft. They could use immediate impact players on the offensive line, at pass rusher cornerback and wide receiver, so those picks in the first few rounds will be imperative for the Ravens to hit.

Mink: I don't think the Ravens are specifically building their strategy around how to beat the Chiefs. DeCosta just wants to build the best team overall, because there are a lot of good teams in the AFC. First and foremost, the Ravens keep their divisional rivals in mind.

When it comes to beating the Chiefs, a strong ground game would certainly help. The Ravens' lack of running hurt them in the AFC Championship loss, and Derrick Henry absolutely gives Baltimore a strong hammer to deploy. A good ground game helps keep Patrick Mahomes off the field. Mahomes, as with all quarterbacks, also needs to be pressured. Keeping Justin Madubuike in Baltimore helps with that and, as stated above, the Ravens will need more pass rusher help.

Downing: Uniform talk is always intriguing, and it sounds like the Ravens could have some new pieces added to the equation in the coming years. Team President Sashi Brown told reporters at league meetings last week that "we have some stuff that's coming," and he pointed to the possibility of adjusting or adding to the alternate jersey collection. "We're exploring some things with some of the alternative jerseys," Brown said. He also added that the Ravens are happy with the look and style of their primary jerseys, so it doesn't sound like any wholesale change is on the horizon. Jersey changes and additions are a big point of interest in the NFL, and the Ravens could have some new items in the closet in the relatively near future. Stay tuned.

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