Late for Work 1/6: Who Could Be Playing Their Last Game as a Raven?

010622-LFW
Left: CB Anthony Averett; Center: DT Brandon Williams; Right: FB/DL Pat Ricard

An Early Look at Soon-to-Be Free Agents

Sunday's regular-season finale against the Steelers may very well be the last time these Ravens suit up together.

Barring some Jacksonville Jaguars magic – along with a few other games to go in the Ravens' favor – there will be players going elsewhere, be it retirement or free agency.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec took down the names of all those whose deals are up at this season's conclusion, and some more who are a possibility to be a cap casualty, and offered his take on how this offseason could play out.

Here are a few players Zrebiec covered:

Anthony Averett, CB

Contract status: Pending UFA
"Averett had a few tough games and he's one of the most targeted cornerbacks in the NFL, but for the most part, he held up well and earned himself some money this offseason. It may be tough for Baltimore to pay Averett as a starting corner with Marlon Humphrey and Peters on the payroll."

Alejandro Villanueva, LT
Contract status: One year left with a cap hit of $9.25 million
"He's had some solid games and he's managed to post every week, which has been valuable during a season when the Ravens have been short on bodies at tackle. However, the Ravens are hopeful to have a healthy Ronnie Stanley and Ja'Wuan James back next year and they recently extended Patrick Mekari. Moving on from Villanueva would create $6 million of cap space."

Brandon Williams, NT
Contract status: Pending UFA
"He's still an effective run stopper and the Ravens have been vulnerable against the run in recent years when he's out of the lineup. However, he's missed nine games over the past three seasons and he's essentially a 50 to 60 percent snap guy. Williams told the Ravens website that he wants to keep playing and he has plenty of support in the building, but the Ravens need to get younger up front and finding interior pass rushers should be a priority."

Patrick Ricard, FB
Contract status: Pending UFA
"With the type of offense the Ravens run, Ricard is probably worth more to them than anybody else. But Ricard won't come cheap, so we'll find out soon enough whether the Ravens view him as a necessity or a luxury who can be replaced by a cheaper option."

Bradley Bozeman, C
Contract status: Pending UFA
"Bozeman has been tough and durable, a steady performer on the field and the organization's most charitable and active player in the community. The Ravens have interest in extending him, but ongoing contract talks that started over the summer have not bridged a significant gap and the closer Bozeman gets to free agency, the harder it will become to keep him."

Tavon Young, CB
Contract status: One year left with a cap hit of $9.1 million
"Young's toughness and resilience have made him an organizational favorite and he's played some good football at times this year. Still, the injury questions aren't going away and his cap number next year isn't low. The Ravens, who will undoubtedly be looking for ways to create cap room, could save nearly $6 million from moving on from Young this offseason."

Justin Houston, OLB
Contract status: Pending UFA
"The Ravens have uncertainty at outside linebacker heading into the offseason with only Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser looking like locks for prominent roles next year. They'll probably want to add a veteran edge rusher, but it's unclear whether Houston will continue to play and whether both sides will have interest in continuing the relationship."

Kentucky Tackle Prospect Called a 'Player Who Can Turn the Ravens Around Next Year'

The absence of Stanley made the 2021 season more difficult for the Ravens. Prior to his injury, he was a cornerstone for the Ravens, but with Stanley needing a second ankle surgery, the Ravens were forced to reshuffle some players up front.

While Stanley is expected to return next season, Bleacher Report's Michelle Bruton believes the Ravens need more reinforcements along the offensive line, and the Ravens should draft Kentucky offensive tackle Darian Kinnard, who makes her list of "Players Who Can Turn Franchises Around Next Year

"If the season ended today, the Ravens would have the No. 16 pick in the draft," Bruton wrote. "When we look at what transpired this season to even put Baltimore in this unenviable position, the offensive line stands out. It's something the team must address this offseason, whether it makes the playoffs or not. … The season went off the rails as injuries and poor play along the unit dictated games, with a particularly ugly seven-sack blemish against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13. In the all-important game against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17, Baltimore let a win slip through its hands in the fourth quarter when Tyler Huntley was sacked on 3rd-and-goal from the 9-yard line, leading to the Rams' game-winning touchdown on the next drive."

The Ravens have already begun locking down their offensive line for the 2022 season, as they inked offensive lineman versatile Patrick Mekari to a three-year extension last week.

As noted in yesterday's LFW, the Ravens and center Bradley Bozeman have not reached an agreement on a new contract and Mekari has a history of playing center. If the Ravens and Bozeman part ways, Mekari could take over the center role once more and the trio of Kinnard, Alejandro Villanueva and Ja'Waun James could compete for the starting right tackle role, if all are back next year.

Bruton isn't alone in linking Kinnard to the Ravens, as CBS Sports Josh Edwards' latest mock draft paired Kinnard with the Ravens at pick No. 18.

"Baltimore can lean into its identity with the selection of Kinnard," Edwards wrote. "The return of J.K. Dobbins and the selection of the Wildcat will signal that the team's run game is back with a vengeance."

Some aren't as high on Kinnard being an NFL tackle, however, with Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network writing that Kinnard's "ideal role" is as a guard and viewing him as a second-round prospect.

Media Not Expecting Lamar Jackson to Play in Season Finale

While there is still hope for star quarterback Lamar Jackson to play in the regular-season finale against a divisional foe, local media is not so optimistic about his chances after Jackson missed Wednesday's practice.

Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones: "Jackson has practiced only once since injuring his right ankle in Cleveland on Dec. 12, making it difficult to envision him playing against the Steelers without a full week of practice after such a lengthy layoff."

Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper: "There's two more days of practice to go this week, but neither Harbaugh's answer nor Jackson's inactivity does much to suggest that he's going to be back in the lineup for the season finale."

FOX5 News Bruce Cunningham: "Lamar Jackson's ankle injury has probably knocked him out for the season. Good luck finding someone in Owings Mills who will confirm that."

While local media doesn't believe Jackson will be suiting up on Sunday, the Around the NFL Staff at NFL.com are still holding out hope.

"With Baltimore having an outside chance at the playoffs, perhaps Harbaugh is keeping his cards close to the vest against a division rival. The Ravens can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Pittsburgh combined with a Chargers loss, a Colts loss, and a Dolphins loss or tie."

Quick Hits

Related Content

Advertising