Mike Macdonald Reportedly 'Targeted' for Defensive Coordinator, But Interview Process Isn't Done
Michigan Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald reportedly has emerged as the favorite to be the Ravens' next defensive coordinator, although the interview process is still ongoing.
The Detroit Free Press’ Michael Cohen first reported that the Ravens were targeting Macdonald, who is a former Ravens assistant coach, and that a deal is expected to be completed in the coming days.
However, Jacksonville Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Joe Cullen, who was the Ravens defensive line coach from 2016-2020, is scheduled to interview with the Ravens today for the defensive coordinator job, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
ESPN's Jenna Laine reported that Tampa Bay Buccaneers Inside Linebackers Coach Mike Caldwell interviewed for the position last night.
Macdonald, 34, joined the Ravens as an intern in 2014 and spent six seasons as a defensive assistant under Head Coach John Harbaugh before working specifically with defensive backs and then inside linebackers.
Last year, McDonald went from one Harbaugh to another, as he went to work for Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, John's younger brother.
Macdonald made an immediate impact at Michigan. He led a defensive turnaround that helped the Wolverines defeat rival Ohio State for the first time since 2011 and win the Big Ten Conference championship for the first time since 2004.
"Macdonald's hire at Michigan proved to be one of the most impactful in all of college football last season," Hensley wrote. "His schemes helped eliminate Michigan's propensity under former Defensive Coordinator Don Brown to give up big plays. Under Macdonald, the Wolverines yielded 100 fewer yards per game in 2021, an average of 330.8 after giving up 434.3 the prior season."
Cohen wrote that Macdonald impressed Jim Harbaugh with his attention to detail, teaching ability and knowledge of the game at such a young age.
"Macdonald accepted the position last January and was viewed as a breath of fresh air for a unit that was gashed during Michigan's shortened 2020 campaign," Cohen wrote. "He ingratiated himself to players by involving them in the creation and installation of his scheme, encouraging them to offer feedback about which concepts they liked and taking time to explain things they had difficulty understanding. Numerous players credited Macdonald with increasing their football IQs during his time at Schembechler Hall and often referred to him as a genius."
Ravens Among Top Candidates to Bounce Back in 2022
Watching the Ravens end the season with six consecutive losses — most of them gut-wrenching — to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2017 was tough. But as the saying goes, there's always next season.
For a talented and battle-tested team such as the Ravens, that's more than just a cliche. NFL.com’s Marc Sessler named them as one of four teams with losing records this season who are set to rebound in 2022.
Sessler pointed out that the Ravens (8-9) remained highly competitive this season despite dealing with a multitude of injuries to key players that began before the season started and continued throughout the year.
"Still, the Ravens found themselves seconds away from making the playoffs, because this unusual franchise is built of steel," Sessler wrote. "Few teams league-wide have earned more trust as a bounce-back candidate."
Sessler said Harbaugh should be in the Coach of the Year conversation because the team never blinked "through endless storm clouds, waves of chaos and ill fortune."
"The Ravens had every excuse to win four games, but they came within a few bad breaks of postseason play," Sessler wrote. "Bank on the fact that General Manager Eric DeCosta is huddled away in a bunker, surrounded by half-eaten cartons of General Tso's chicken and plotting revenge. Harbaugh — always open to change and new avenues — does not rest. Lamar [Jackson] burns to prove his starry rise was no truncated fluke.
"These dudes will return with a fire from within."
Looking at Three Players Who Might Be Cap Casualties
Having to cut veteran players to create salary cap space is one of the unfortunate realities of the NFL.
The Ravens currently have just under $10 million in salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, but that's before re-signing exclusive-rights and restricted free agents and accounting for the upcoming draft class.
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones identified several Ravens who might be cap casualties. Here's a look at three of them, which each player's pre-June 1 cap savings amount is in parentheses:
OT Alejandro Villanueva ($6 million)
"We'll never know whether the 33-year-old would have eventually settled in and played a solid right tackle after his poor Week 1 performance. Instead, [Ronnie] Stanley was done for the season after that overtime loss to Las Vegas, and Villanueva moved back to the blindside where Pro Football Focus graded him 54th out of 83 qualified offensive tackles. The Ravens have too many 'maybes' and 'ifs' at offensive tackle for comfort, but moving on from Villanueva seems like the best bet on this list when factoring in $6 million in savings and his underwhelming play in 2021."
CB Marcus Peters ($10 million)
"Knowing how much the defense missed his playmaking ability, leadership, and toughness this past season, a contract extension to lower his $10 million base salary would make some sense, but the Ravens must also acknowledge the 29-year-old is coming off a serious knee injury and didn't play as well in 2020 as he did in his first year with Baltimore, factors making one take pause about committing to Peters beyond 2022. Given the current state of their secondary, however, you'd expect the Ravens to keep the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback in the fold, but the status of his recovery is good reason to try to stand pat with his deal and look elsewhere to create some cap space."
CB Tavon Young ($5.845 million)
"The 27-year-old slot corner appeared in every game for the first time since his rookie year and played admirably after missing essentially three of the previous four seasons because of knee and neck injuries. At the same time, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Young had to push through some nagging ailments along the way and has too much of an injury history to not consider hedging bets on another healthy campaign. The current state of the secondary and the Ravens' long-term belief in Young's upside would seem to work in his favor for sticking around in 2022, but committing to him beyond the coming season would be risky."
Ravens' Rookie Class Ranked 25th
Pro Football Focus, using its Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric, ranked all 32 teams on the value of their rookie class over expectation given where each player was selected in the 2021 NFL draft. The Ravens' rookie class came in at No. 25.
"The Ravens' draft class was supposed to be impactful with two first-round selections, two third-round selections and four more picks in the fourth and fifth rounds," PFF wrote via ESPN.com. "Given that, the results from players such as Rashod Bateman, Odafe Oweh, Brandon Stephens and Ben Cleveland were somewhat underwhelming. None of those four players cleared 0.1 wins above a replacement-level player at their position."
Any assessment of Bateman, the 27th-overall selection, has to take into consideration the groin injury he suffered early in training camp. The wide receiver missed the rest of camp, the entire preseason and the first five games of the regular season, which slowed his adjustment to the NFL and prevented him from building chemistry with Jackson.
"Bateman didn't get the remainder of the season to work on that chemistry with Jackson, either, as Jackson missed time with injury and illness, which resulted in 1.3 yards per route run and an 80.0 passer rating when targeted for the rookie out of Minnesota," PFF wrote.
Still, Bateman was a chain-mover once he got on the field and showed flashes of why he's a first-round talent.
Meanwhile, ESPN released its top 10 rookie rankings. No Ravens made the rankings or were included among the eight players who "just missed."
Outside linebacker Oweh, the 31st-overall selection, was listed as one of the players to keep an eye on. Oweh did make the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team, however.