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Late for Work 2/10: Pundit Says Check Expectations for Signing Outside Free Agents

Kansas City Chiefs free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) runs during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday, December 16, 2021 in Inglewood, California.

Pundit Says to Keep Expectations in Check for Signing Outside Free Agents

There are some big names set to hit free agency next month, but The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said Ravens fans should temper expectations when it comes to signing outside free agents.

"I think they'll sign at least one reasonably priced outside free agent, but as usual, I don't foresee bidding on the very top guys," Zrebiec wrote. "I'd keep your expectations in check. One, the Ravens simply don't have enough cap room to be big spenders on several outside players this offseason. They can probably afford one big-ticket item. And two, they just don't believe in using free agency as a primary means to stock their roster."

Zrebiec said he expects the Ravens to take a similar approach to what they did last offseason.

In addition to re-signing players such as outside linebacker Tyus Bowser and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, the Ravens signed guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year deal reportedly worth $22 million; gave wide receiver Sammy Watkins a moderate one-year deal; and maintained some cap space for late additions (offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva and outside linebacker Justin Houston).

One prominent pending free agent who has been linked to the Ravens is Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, but he figures to be highly coveted and expensive.

"The Ravens have spent a lot of money on free-agent safeties in the past and it's yielded well more bad than good," Zrebiec wrote. "I know fans are clamoring for Tyrann Mathieu. I'd be more inclined to look at a younger and cheaper option, like say Marcus Maye, if they're comfortable with where he's at health-wise."

Maye, a five-year starter for the New York Jets, suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in Week 9.

Zrebiec named two free agents he could see the Ravens targeting.

"The Ravens made a run at edge rusher Haason Reddick last year. After an 11-sack season for the Panthers, why not try again?" Zrebiec wrote. "Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is a player the Ravens have always liked, but he won't be cheap."

Ravens Primed to Vault Into Super Bowl Contention Next Season

Largely because they were hobbled by injuries, the Ravens limped to the finish line this season as their hopes of making a Super Bowl run were dashed.

It's not far-fetched to envision a much happier ending next season for the Ravens. Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay listed them as one of four teams ready to vault into Super Bowl contention.

"It would be a shock if Baltimore can't find a way to return to the postseason for the 10th time in John Harbaugh's 15th year at the helm," Kay wrote. "If the Ravens manage to stay healthy and do return to the playoffs next season, they'll likely be one of the toughest outs in the field."

As Kay noted, staying healthy is the key for a team which lost more collective time from injured players than any team but the New York Giants in 2021 and led the league in cumulative quality of players lost.

"Considering that the Ravens lost four games by two or fewer points — matching the most such losses in NFL history — better health alone could push them back into the playoffs," Kay wrote.

However, if the Ravens are to make a deep playoff run, Kay said they'll need upgrades in certain areas.

"With Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale gone, Mike Macdonald is now tasked with leading a defense that finished 19th in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed this season," Kay wrote. "The safety position and depth corner spots arguably need the most work, but the Ravens have the means to acquire upgrades at those positions and elsewhere.

"Baltimore has four picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft, headlined by the No. 14 overall pick. The Ravens also have nearly $10 million in projected cap room now, and they have several ways — such as extending Lamar Jackson — to free up even more."

Steelers RB Najee Harris Puts Marcus Peters on Notice

Not that Ravens fans needed reminding, but the Ravens-Steelers rivalry is alive and well.

Steelers running back Najee Harris was asked in an interview on Radio Row during Super Bowl week in Los Angeles which player he would like to run over, and his answer was Marcus Peters.

When asked why Peters, Harris said: "It's Marcus Peters. If he's watching this, Marcus Peters for sure."

Harris' response isn't surprising considering Peters' antics during Harris' Zoom call with reporters after the Steelers drafted him with the 24th-overall pick.

Harris, who was at a draft party in his native Oakland, Calif., was videobombed by Peters, who's also an Oakland native and was a guest at the party. Peters kept reminding Harris that they'd be playing against each other twice a year.

Peters was sidelined the entire season, so that has yet to happen.

Harris ran for 1,200 yards and scored 10 total touchdowns this season. In two games against the Ravens, he was held to 99 yards on 32 carries (3.1 average) and no touchdowns.

Ray Lewis, Former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees Discuss Super Bowl Anxiety

ESPN interviewed 16 players and coaches about the anxiety of being in the Super Bowl, including Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees.

Lewis, who helped the Ravens win two Super Bowls and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, said: "I always had a confident, nervous energy. It was never like the game was too big or anxiety kicked in. It was never that for me, it was always in the moment, I was so in the moment.

"Rod Woodson used to tell me all the time, 'You got to calm down, sugar, you got to calm down.' Because I was just always ready for the moment. ... Let's get through all of these flags and fly cross and let's get the ball snapped. In all of my career, I would tell you this, I was always prepared to lead."

Pees was the Ravens Defensive Coordinator for Super Bowl XLVII and went to three Super Bowls as a coach with the New England Patriots. He said the key is "do your normal routine."

"The very first Super Bowl I went to, with New England, Bill Belichick did an incredible job of talking to the players — because they had already been to one the year before and two years prior to that — of telling the guys in the pregame, don't go out and get all hyped up and spend all your energy in the pregame because it's the Super Bowl. Guys are going out there, they're all amped up and all this stuff and all excited and going 110 miles an hour in pregame," Pees said.

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