Justin Madubuike Says Baltimore Is 'Home,' But 'Business Is Business'
After Justin Madubuike's breakout season, keeping the All-Pro defensive tackle in Baltimore is arguably the Ravens' top offseason priority.
Madubuike, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent and land a lucrative contract, spoke with NFL.com at the Pro Bowl over the weekend about his future.
"In terms of Baltimore, man, that's home," said Madubuike, a third-round pick of the Ravens in 2020. "But, you know, business is business, and that side is going to take care of itself." Madubuike added that when it comes to negotiations, he's "letting my agent worry about that."
Madubuike, who led all defensive tackles with 13 sacks this season, spoke fondly about the 2023 Ravens, who have 29 pending free agents.
"We had a helluva year," Madubuike said. "We were actually a special group. This was a special group. We had a lot of guys that not only loved playing with each other in terms of just football, but we loved just being around each other. Hopefully, we can keep as much guys as we can, but it's a business, people gotta go where they gotta go. It was a special team. We should've went all the way. We came up short, it stings."
When General Manager Eric DeCosta was asked about negotiations with Madubuike at the Ravens' end of season press conference last week, he said "we'll have a good plan in place."
NFL.com’s Kevin Patra said it's imperative that the Ravens bring back Madubuike.
"With top-paid DTs like Quinnen Williams and Jeffery Simmons recently landing contracts worth more than $90 million, the Ravens could use the franchise tag (projected to be roughly $20 million, per Over the Cap) as a placeholder to ensure Madubuike doesn't leave Baltimore in 2024," Patra wrote. "Retaining the DT could mean losing a player like Patrick Queen, but that's the cost of doing business."
Returning Players Who Can Step Up in 2024
While there figures to be considerable turnover on the Ravens' roster, there are a number of talented players returning.
The Baltimore Banner's Kyle Goon identified eight players who can step up in 2024 and divided them into tiers. Here's a look at at least one player from each tier:
Tier 1: Still-surging stars
S Kyle Hamilton
"What can't Kyle Hamilton do? This season, that was difficult to answer, as he was one of the best cover safeties in the NFL, blew up screens and sacked quarterbacks. The area Hamilton needs to grow the most in, according to Pro Football Focus, is stopping the run, and he also had a couple nagging injuries that were the only real thing that could keep him off the field. Another year in an NFL strength program could help both areas. It's unclear what Geno Stone's future is, and Marcus Williams struggled through much of the season with a pectoral injury. Hamilton is the force-multiplier that the Ravens defense needs in the secondary. He's a different player than Ed Reed, but he has the same game-breaking influence when he's at his best."
Tier 2: Upward trajectory
TE Isaiah Likely
"It's now quite obvious that Isaiah Likely has talent. The biggest question remains how the Ravens get the most out of it. Mark Andrews and Likely thrived in the starting role, but when they were both on the field, it didn't seem there were enough passes to go around. On the depth chart, Andrews is a more established playmaker, a better blocker and (of course) better paid. It's going to be hard, still, for Likely to beat him out for reps in one-TE packages. But Likely's aerial ability and soft hands have to count for something — he's possibly the third-best receiver returning next season. It'll be on Todd Monken (and Lamar Jackson, frankly) to figure out how to keep Likely hot even when Andrews is healthy."
ILB Trenton Simpson
"Since he was drafted, inside linebacker Trenton Simpson was quickly penciled in as the presumptive replacement for Patrick Queen, cleats that now seem even larger to fill than last spring. DeCosta suggesting Queen will have the chance to test free agency felt like an acknowledgement that the Ravens don't actually have the cap space to bring him back. Simpson didn't have a huge role this season, but in the last regular season game against the Steelers, he played well — notably earning attaboys from even Queen himself. While we have yet to see how [new Defensive Coordinator] Zach Orr will change this defense, you can bet the former inside linebackers coach will continue to put a ton of responsibility on that position group. If Simpson gets the nod to start next year, he'll have to be ready for a whole lot more on his plate."
Tier 3: Waiting in the wings
G Andrew Vorhees
"On the offensive line, there are a few candidates, but it seems apropos to remind folks about a seventh-round draft pick who was almost a footnote last spring: former USC lineman Andrew Vorhees. After suffering an ACL tear in the predraft process, Vorhees fell from a possible second-day pick to the Ravens, who traded back in the draft to get him. He was a longtime starter for the Trojans and his scouting profile reflects a fundamentally sound blocker. There are big questions at guard, with Kevin Zeitler up in the air and John Simpson (who had a solid season) not necessarily a lock as the long-term answer. We haven't heard much about Vorhees in the last year, but it will be interesting to see if the 2023 draft pick might be able to make a splash in camp."
Ravens Would Be 'Perfect' Match for Khalil Mack if He Becomes Cap Casualty
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox looked at six potential cap casualties and which teams could be a good match.
Among them was Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack, and the Ravens were mentioned as a potential landing spot if he becomes available.
"Mack is still a fantastic player, even in the later stages of his career," Knox wrote. "He'll turn 33 later this month, but he just posted a career-high 17 sacks this past season. Mack also tallied 74 tackles and 36 quarterback pressures in 2023. Mack would be a logical free-agent target for virtually any team in need of pass-rushing help. To get him at a bargain, though, a team would likely have to offer the chance to find postseason success—something that has eluded Mack during his 10-year playing career. The eight-time Pro Bowler has never experienced a playoff victory.
"The Baltimore Ravens, who took a one-year flier on Jadeveon Clowney last offseason, could provide Mack with the perfect pairing. Baltimore advanced to the AFC title game this past season, and it will have an opening on the edge if it doesn't re-sign Clowney."
Ravens Named Potential Landing Spot for Three Prominent Free-Agent Running Backs
With running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards pending free agents, there could be some new faces in the Ravens' backfield next season.
PFF’s Brad Spielberger named Baltimore as a potential landing spot for pending free agent running backs Derrick Henry, D'Andre Swift, and Zack Moss. Here's what he said about each of them:
Henry, Tennessee Titans
"The Baltimore Ravens were believed to be a top suitor of Henry's at this year's trade deadline, and he now comes available without them needing to give up any draft capital. Zone read with Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry would be absolutely diabolical for defenses to stop, and Henry could push for a ring on the back nine of his career, much like Odell Beckham Jr. did with Baltimore this past season."
Swift, Philadelphia Eagles
"The Ravens probably did their homework on Swift when they took J.K. Dobbins about 20 picks later in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and now Dobbins and Gus Edwards are free agents while upshot rookie Keaton Mitchell is recovering from a gruesome knee injury sustained late in the season."
Moss, Indianapolis Colts
"Moss made the most of his season with the Indianapolis Colts after Jonathan Taylor sat out for the first month and also missed some more time with injury later on, forcing 0.2 missed tackles per attempt — a top-20 mark among running backs with at least 100 carries. The Ravens' run-heavy attack needs to make multiple additions if they don't swing for a bigger target, and they have a ton of top contracts on the books in addition to several key free agents."
Ravens Reportedly Hiring Michigan's Doug Mallory As Defensive Backs Coach
The Ravens are reportedly set to hire Michigan's Doug Mallory to fill their vacancy at defensive backs coach.
Mallory, 59, worked as a defensive analyst under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan for the past three seasons. He also was a defensive assistant for the 2016 Atlanta Falcons team that went to the Super Bowl. Mallory spent the majority of his coaching career in the college ranks, including a stint at Maryland (1997-2000) as defensive backs coach.
Mallory would replace Dennard Wilson, who left the Ravens to become the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator.