Late for Work 3/18: Ravens Still in the Market for Wide Receiver or Edge Rusher?

031821-LFW
Left: Lions WR Kenny Golladay; Right: Seahawks DE Carlos Dunlap

Are Ravens Still in the Market for a Proven Receiver, Edge Rusher?

Heading into the offseason, it was widely believed that the Ravens would sign a proven wide receiver and edge rusher. Neither has happened yet.

The top remaining free-agent receivers are Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller V, Antonio Brown and T.Y. Hilton.

Popular opinion was that the Ravens wouldn't get involved in a bidding war for Golladay (Spotrac projects his market value at $17 million per year), but some pundits saw wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., Golladay's teammate in Detroit, as a good fit. However, Jones signed with Jacksonville.

"Marvin Jones' two-year, $14.5 million contract with the rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars seems like a deal the Ravens could have either met or exceeded if they were interested in Jones. That they didn't again calls into question how committed they are to adding an outside receiver," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "I've heard from plenty of agents over the past two days who say that the Ravens are absolutely in the wide receiver and tight end market. They are looking for help, but obviously, there will be skepticism based on the team's recent avoidance of paying veteran pass catchers."

Russell Street Report's Todd Karpovich said Ravens fans should temper expectations regarding the team landing a big-name receiver.

"The Ravens are potentially in the market for a wide receiver, but the team likes the potential of the young playmakers on the roster," Karpovich wrote. "It's not an overwhelming free-agent market for wideouts, and the team could also look to add depth in the draft. In short, don't expect a blockbuster trade or an expensive free agent."

Adding a veteran edge rusher appears to be a more pressing need.

"The Ravens projected top three linebackers of Bowser, McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson had seven total sacks last season. The team is confident in defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale's ability to scheme pressure, but they can't be too dependent on that," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens need to add more of a pure pass rusher and they should be able to find one on the free-agent market at a relatively modest price.

"The unsigned list of outside linebackers currently includes Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram, Olivier Vernon, Ryan Kerrigan, Carlos Dunlap, Justin Houston and Aldon Smith. There are plenty of options."

The Ravens also could look to the draft to boost the pass rush.

"If DeCosta opts to bypass a pass rusher in free agency, he could fill the void in this year's draft," Karpovich wrote. "There are several talented players available, such as Jayson Oweh (Penn State), Joseph Ossai (Texas), Joe Tryon (Washington), Zaven Collins (Tulsa) and Carlos Basham Jr. (Wake Forest)."

Ravens Making Solid Moves, If Not Splashy Headlines

While some other teams around the league are making headlines with splashy free-agency signings, the Ravens have been making solid moves that are in line with their "right player, right price" philosophy.

While that may not make for sexy headlines, the franchise's prudent way of doing business has a proven track record of success.

"The Ravens have various needs on both sides of the ball, namely at outside linebacker/edge rusher, wide receiver, and on the offensive line. However, expect General Manager Eric DeCosta to remain prudent in the market. One bad deal can set a franchise back several seasons," Russell Street Report's Todd Karpovich wrote. "And championships are never won in March.

"DeCosta has said that he walks a delicate balance between trying to compete for a Super Bowl in the short-term while laying the foundation for long-term success. That means most offseasons in Baltimore are not that exciting. But expectations are high in September when the stakes begin to get much higher."

Strengthening the offensive line was perhaps the top priority for the Ravens this offseason, and they wasted no time addressing that need with the signing of durable and dependable free-agent guard Kevin Zeitler, a move that has been universally praised by pundits.

As expected, the Ravens let outside linebacker Matthew Judon and edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue walk in free agency, but they re-signed outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee. Bowser is a 2017 second-round pick coming off a breakout season, and McPhee is a veteran presence who ranked second on the team with 15 quarterback hits in 2020.

Baltimore also solidified its interior defensive line by re-signing Derek Wolfe, who fit in perfectly with Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams last season.

The economical re-signings of Bowser, McPhee and Wolfe all earned "B" grades from The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.

Georgia Edge Rusher Azeez Ojulari: Playing for Ravens 'Would Be a Dream Come True'

Another edge rusher prospect who has been linked to the Ravens is Georgia's Azeez Ojulari.

Pro Football Focus said the Ravens would be the best fit for Ojulari, who said he would welcome the opportunity to play in Baltimore.

"[Playing for the Ravens] would be a dream come true, because I come from a defensive school," Ojulari said on Glenn Clark Radio. "It would be a dream come true, playing with the best of the best and always having an opportunity to compete, get a chance to go to the playoffs and win a Super Bowl."

Standing in at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Ojulari had 9.5 sacks in 10 games for Georgia last season.

"Ojulari may not be the biggest nor the strongest defensive line prospect, but he wins with his athleticism and is the most polished pass rusher in the class," FF's Anthony Treash wrote. "Ojulari's profile is precisely what the blitz-heavy Ravens are looking to add."

There's No Downside to Trading for Tight End Josh Oliver

The Ravens' reported acquisition of Jaguars tight end Josh Oliver for a conditional seventh-round pick is being categorized as an under-the-radar move with no downside. The conditions are reportedly that Oliver makes the team.

Oliver was selected in the third round in 2019 (69th overall) after being a standout at San Jose State, but he has played just four games in two NFL seasons. He missed all of last season with a broken foot and suffered a season-ending back injury in November of his rookie year.

"The Ravens are in need of another pass-catching threat at the tight end position to effectively replace former first-round pick Hayden Hurst, who they traded last offseason, and take some of the attention away from Mark Andrews," Baltimore Beatdown's Joshua Reed wrote. "Acquiring a promising young athlete like Oliver who can bring another seam-stretching element to the passing game when healthy for essentially nothing if he doesn't make the cut is a modest, low-risk move by General Manager Eric DeCosta.

"While the trade doesn't mean that the team won't address the position with a veteran signing or via the draft, it does address a position of need with a player who possess some intriguing upside."

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