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Mailbag: What Will Ravens Do at Outside Linebacker?

LB Justin Houston
LB Justin Houston

Mink: It's no coincidence that the two teams that led the NFL in sacks this season played each other in the Super Bowl. The Ravens made big strides in that area last season, jumping from 34 (tied for 22nd) to 48 (tied for fifth), and they want to keep that arrow going up.

There's no doubt that Baltimore will need much bigger contributions from Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo. Oweh is entering a critical Year 3 and needs to make a Patrick Queen-like jump. Eric DeCosta said the Ravens are "extremely excited" about Ojabo, and feel he has "tremendous potential" after what amounted to be almost a redshirt rookie season. So much of how the pass rush pans out will be on how much those youngsters develop.

I imagine that Tyus Bowser will be more productive with more time since his Achilles injury. Bowser led the team with 7.0 sacks in 2021 and he can certainly get to that number, or higher, again.

The prospect of losing their leader in sacks, Houston, would not be ideal. If the Ravens can find the salary-cap space, I imagine they would be open to a reunion. Houston is 34 years old, but he showed no signs of slowing down last year. According to Next Gen Stats, Houston averaged a pass-rush get-off of 0.75 seconds, the fourth-quickest in the NFL, and only three players had a higher sack rate. Houston hasn't been in any rush to sign a deal the past two years and he likes it in Baltimore. Perhaps this is another year in which the two sides can see where each other stands after the dust settles.

I do think the prospect of adding another affordable, big-bodied pass rusher, perhaps even at defensive end, could be in the cards if the Ravens have enough cap space to do so. And while unlikely, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of using another high draft pick on an outside linebacker.

Brown: Upgrading the wide receiver room is a must, regardless of any constraints caused by Lamar Jackson's next contract.

There are at least three wide receivers the Ravens could target with their first-round pick – Jaxon Smith-Njigba of Ohio State, Quentin Johnson of TCU and Jalin Hyatt of Tennessee.

Even if the Ravens draft a wide receiver, I also expect them to acquire at least one veteran wideout via free agency or trade. DJ Chark, Allen Lazard, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jakobi Myers are among the pending free agents Baltimore may be able to sign at a reasonable price. DeAndre Hopkins of the Cardinals has been rumored to be potentially available via trade, but his hefty contract will make it difficult for a deal to be worked out.

In order to maximize what Todd Monken will bring to the table as offensive coordinator, the Ravens must up upgrade their depth at wide receiver. They won't let Jackson's contract situation prevent them from doing so.

Mink: In this scenario, the Ravens would get the highest first-round pick the team owns, whether it's their original pick or one acquired via trade. If a team does not have a first-round pick (Dolphins, Rams, Browns, 49ers) they cannot work out an offer sheet for Jackson.

Brown: I think there's a reasonable chance Fuller returns to the Ravens. Suffering a season-ending torn ACL in Week 1 was a tough break for the Baltimore native. However, the Ravens are always looking for more depth at cornerback and Marcus Peters is a pending free agent.

Scouts say this is a very deep cornerback draft class and it's possible the Ravens may take a corner in the first round. However, I'd expect the Ravens to explore re-signing Fuller, especially if Peters doesn't return. Even if he didn't win the starting job opposite Marlon Humphrey, Fuller could find a role in the cornerback rotation.

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