Why Haven't the Ravens Signed a Pass Rusher Yet?
The consensus was that signing a proven pass rusher was among the top priorities for the Ravens this offseason. The departure of free agents Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, while not unexpected, made the need at the position even more apparent.
However, we're now more than two weeks into free agency and the Ravens haven't added a veteran pass rusher. There hasn't been much buzz about the Ravens even being in the mix.
"As I've said many times this offseason, don't take the Ravens not being mentioned as a suitor on a certain player as confirmation that they are not involved," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "They are extremely protective of their offers and overtures on players. Still, it's been a little surprising not hearing more buzz about their involvement in the pass rush market.
"Even if they plan on drafting an outside linebacker early, they still have room for a veteran who can make up for some of the sacks that walked out the door when Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward departed. The good news for them is there are still quite a few veteran pass rushers available and they can afford to be choosy and patient."
The best remaining pass rushers in free agency are Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram III. There's also Ryan Kerrigan, Olivier Vernon, Everson Griffen and Aldon Smith.
More good news for the Ravens is that the top remaining pass rushers "are expected to sign for a relatively bargain price of $8 million to $9 million per season," according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
The bad news for Ravens fans who want the team to sign a pass rusher sooner than later is that they could be waiting until after the NFL draft, which starts April 29.
"I don't think the Ravens will sign a free agent pass rusher before the draft," our Clifton Brown wrote. "They're not going to overpay, and with Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram III among those still unsigned, there's no shortage of veterans available. I think the Ravens can afford to be patient until after the draft.:
Zrebiec wrote: "Another reason for the Ravens to be patient and choosy in the pass rush market? You've heard it before: the almighty comp pick. The Ravens are currently in line to get two 2022 fourth-round picks for the departures of Judon and Ngakoue and they seem to be protecting those.
"A one-year deal for decent money to a guy like Clowney or Ingram would almost certainly erase one of those picks. It wouldn't at all be surprising if the Ravens wait until after May 3, when signings no longer count toward the compensatory formula, to make another significant 'true' free-agent addition."
At 28, Clowney is the youngest of the top remaining pass rushers and has been linked to the Ravens in the past. The former No. 1-overall pick visited with the Cleveland Browns last week. He played eight games last season with the Tennessee Titans before undergoing knee surgery.
"His stock is at a low, but I'm still taking Clowney's snap-to-snap ferocity upside over players like Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon," NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote. "Clowney remains capable of a strong second phase to his career."
Don't Overlook Importance of Signing L.J. Fort
The Ravens re-signing linebacker L.J. Fort won't garner major attention outside of Baltimore, but his return allows the team to maintain continuity, versatility and depth at inside linebacker. It also helps save some money under a tighter salary cap.
"This isn't a major move for the Ravens, but it could be an important one," Zrebiec wrote. "Fort has made some key plays for the team and his versatility and experience should come in handy. The Ravens also saved about $1.25 million in cap space by declining Fort's option and then bringing him back at a reduced number."
The Ravens originally signed Fort, 31, in September 2019. He went on to start 16 games over the past two seasons. Last year, Fort had a career-high 53 tackles, forced a fumble and recovered two others, including one he returned for a touchdown.
"Despite playing in a rotational role with 2020 third-round pick Malik Harrison, Fort was arguably the Ravens' best inside linebacker last season," Baltimore Beatdown's Joshua Reed wrote. "He was certainly their most consistent and well-rounded player at the position, excelling in both pass coverage and run defense.
"Fort will continue to be the veteran leader and stabilizing presence in a very young position group for the Ravens for at least one more season. He was a reliable resource to Harrison and 2020 first-round pick Patrick Queen, both in the locker room as well as on the field."
Should Ravens Draft Michigan OT Jalen Mayfield in First Round?
While wide receiver and edge rusher remain the most popular positions for the Ravens in the first round of mock drafts, NFL.com's Adam Rank has Michigan offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield going to Baltimore with the 27th-overall pick.
The twist with Rank's mock draft is that he made his selections based on what teams should do rather than trying to predict how the draft will unfold.
"Hey, you signed Sammy Watkins. You don't need a wide receiver! All right, I'm kidding," Rank wrote. "But seriously ... if some of the top names were on the board, sure, I would say go for it. However, tackle is an even bigger need if you end up moving on from Orlando Brown. Even if you don't, depth can be an issue."
ESPN's Mel Kiper ranked Mayfield as the sixth-best offensive tackle in the draft.
The Draft Network's Klye Crabbs wrote: "Jalen Mayfield projects as a high-quality starting offensive lineman at the NFL level. He's got ample size and athleticism to play in space in pass protection and with just two years of starting experience under his belt, Mayfield is only going to continue to get better with more repetitions."
Ravens Have Connections to Men's Basketball Final Four
A player with a last name familiar to NFL fans will take the court for No. 1-overall seed Gonzaga tomorrow when the Bulldogs face UCLA in an NCAA men's basketball Final Four game.
Freshman guard Jalen Suggs averages 14 points per game for Gonzaga and is generating a lot of NBA draft buzz. His father, Larry, is the second cousin or former Ravens great Terrell Suggs.
"When Jalen was in fifth grade, Terrell reportedly helped Larry found Grassroots Sizzle, fronting him the money to start the basketball program," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "Jalen played years above his age level, and the program years later landed an Under Armour sponsorship."
Jalen Suggs also was a star football player in high school as a quarterback/defensive back. He was named Minnesota's Mr. Football as a senior.
Meanwhile, Ravens outside linebacker Tyus Bowser will be rooting on his alma mater, Houston, when it plays Baylor in the other Final Four contest. Bowser played basketball for two years (2013-2015) at Houston before deciding to focus on football.