Competition for roster spots and playing time will be intense once training camp begins in late July. After missing the playoffs in 2021, the Ravens are looking to rejoin the AFC's heavyweights and have assembled a deeper roster with 11 draft picks and key offseason moves.
New additions like Marcus Williams and first-round picks Kyle Hamilton and Tyler Linderbaum are almost certain to be major players in the Ravens' fortunes. However, here are five returning players who could earn a significant role if they have a strong training camp and preseason.
OLB Daelin Hayes
Hayes played in just one game during his injury-riddled rookie season – four snaps against the Detroit Lions in Week 3. However, he was obviously healthy during OTAs and minicamps, showing a quick first step and frequently flashing into the backfield.
Playing time is available to anyone who can strengthen the pass rush. Tyus Bowser led the team with a career-high seven sacks last year, but the timetable for his return from an Achilles injury remains uncertain, and second-round pick David Ojabo is also coming off a torn Achilles suffered at his pro day.
Odafe Oweh and Ojabo are promising young pass rushers. But after the draft, General Manager Eric DeCosta mentioned Hayes as someone with the talent to break out.
"Daelin Hayes is a guy who we're excited about that flashed last year when he had the chance," DeCosta said.
G Ben Cleveland
Cleveland is one of several players vying for the starting job at left guard joining Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers and Patrick Mekari. It's the most competitive battle on the offensive line, although the Ravens may prefer Mekari in a backup role as a versatile veteran who can play all five offensive line positions. Cleveland hopes to feed off the momentum he built last season after making his first NFL start in Week 15. He was a third-round pick in 2021, and his size and strength would add even more physicality to Baltimore's offensive line. However, Phillips and Powers are also talented, so Cleveland will need a strong preseason and training camp to win the job.
WR James Proche II
Rashod Bateman was a first-round pick who played well as a rookie and Devin Duvernay had 33 catches, played all 16 games, and made the Pro Bowl as a returner. However, Proche's role is not nearly as clear heading into his third season. This is Proche's golden opportunity to become a bigger part of the offense, and he has plenty of intangibles like great hands and a terrific work ethic. Proche was a prolific college receiver at SMU with 301 catches and almost 4,000 yards (3,949) over four seasons. If Proche becomes a go-to guy in the offense, it will make the Ravens' passing game tougher to defend.
RB Justice Hill
Hill has made an impressive recovery from the Achilles injury that cost him the 2021 season. He looked quicker than ever during OTAs and minicamps, but he's entering his pivotal fourth season in the NFL still looking to carve out a consistent niche on offense. Hill is a good special teams player which helps his case to secure a roster spot, but the Ravens have added two running backs who can also catch the ball out of the backfield – veteran Mike Davis and rookie Tyler Badie. It remains to be seen if Baltimore's top two running backs, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, are ready for Week 1 after missing all of last season with knee injuries. With a solid training camp, Hill would strengthen his case to earn a role.
DT Michael Pierce
Pierce missed mandatory minicamp for personal reasons, but Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated he expects Pierce to be ready for training camp.
"He's healthy, he's good; it's just a personal matter with his family, and that's what it is," Harbaugh said.
Pierce is a key piece on a Baltimore defensive line that has undergone significant changes. The Ravens have to replace Brandon Williams and Justin Ellis who were in the D-line rotation last year, and Derek Wolfe was recently waived with an injury settlement after missing all of last season.
Pierce is a proven run-stopper on a defense that prides itself on being tough to run against. However, Pierce has only played eight total games the past two seasons. The Ravens would love to see a strong training camp from him that sets the foundation for the season.