Eisenberg: Year of Change for the Ravens

LB Pernell McPhee leads a huddle.

Change occurs nonstop for NFL teams, but the Ravens have experienced more than usual, at least for them, since their 2021 season ended less than a month ago.

A new defensive coordinator is already on the job. A new team president will take over in April. Several new position coaches will soon join Head Coach John Harbaugh's staff.

That's a fair amount of change for an organization that sees stability as a lifestyle choice, and no doubt, quite a bit more is coming when the front office starts re-shaping the roster.

The subject didn't directly come up when Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta met with the media last week, but you don't need a magnifying glass to read between the lines.

At different points in the two media sessions, the offensive and defensive lines, secondary, running back, linebacker and tight end all were discussed as positions the Ravens would like to address with new blood. Just about every position is under consideration, it seems, except quarterback and wide receiver.

"We have some work to do in a lot of different areas," DeCosta said.

The Ravens might give off a familiar vibe on the surface in 2022 with Harbaugh on the sidelines and Lamar Jackson at quarterback, but beneath that exterior, there could be a lot of new faces.

It's no surprise. When you finish last in your division for the first time in 14 years after being widely projected to make the playoffs, you don't stand pat.

But a significant overhaul was coming even if the Ravens had fared better in 2021. The math alone makes it inevitable.

The Ravens have more than 20 unrestricted free agents. That's a lot. It's partly attributable to the injuries they experienced in 2021, which forced them to add players in unexpected places. But regardless of how they got here, the sheer volume of free agents and a relatively tight cap situation makes it a challenge to retain too many.

DeCosta did say the team would be able to sign anyone it wants, an indication that some players under contract for 2022 are liable to become cap casualties. That's how teams clear cap space.

Another example of math pointing to significant roster change is the armful of high picks the Ravens have gathered heading into the 2022 draft. They're projected to have nine in the first four rounds. It's more than they've ever had in the first four rounds, even when they famously had five selections in the fourth round alone in 2016.

"If we do our job correctly, if we set the board the right way, we have a chance to add some serious, quality depth," DeCosta said about the nine picks.

Given that the Ravens almost never quickly part ways with players selected that high, that's nine new faces right there, or roughly 17 percent of the 53-man roster. That brings them close to the NFL's average annual roster turnover rate of 20 to 25 percent without even including the other ways new players will come aboard -- as later-round picks and veteran free agents, and also, possibly, as undrafted rookie free agents.

See what I mean? The Ravens might need to issue name tags when they bring the 2022 squad together and start practicing.

OK, that's overstating it. But you get the idea.

The good news for the Ravens is it's an opportunity to execute a re-set after a season in which they lost their last six games.

"I think everything is fixable and can be improved and strengthened, for sure," DeCosta said.

The hoped-for returns of tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, all of whom dealt with injuries in 2021, will be a headline-grabbing element of the Ravens' blueprint for 2022.

But even if those comebacks go exactly as planned, bolstering a sense of continuity and familiarity, don't be fooled. In a year of change for the Ravens, the roster isn't excluded.

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