Mailbag: Will Ravens Sign a Veteran Edge Rusher?

042920_Mailbag
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen and Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Clay Matthews

Mink: I kind of asked Eric DeCosta the question of whether he's going to sign a veteran pass rusher on his appearance on "The Lounge" yesterday and he said, "We'll have to see. It's hard to say." I would be surprised if the Ravens don't, but it's not going to be a big-money deal because they can't afford it.

The most likely candidates, in my opinion, are re-signing Pernell McPhee or bringing in Clay Matthews. McPhee was off to a good start last season before his season-ending triceps injury and is a respected locker room guy. The Ravens reportedly had interest in Matthews last year before he signed with the Rams. I'd have to image, especially after seeing what Baltimore did in the draft, that he would be interested in jumping on board.

Now that the deadline for unrestricted free-agent signings to count against the compensatory pick formula in 2021 has passed, we could see some market movement. Few pass rushers have been as productive as Griffin over the past six seasons (57 sacks), but I have hunch that he'll cost too much. Markus Golden, who the New York Giants put the rare unrestricted free agent tender on, is another player to keep an eye on after a 10-sack season last year, but also might be too pricey. It's an odd (and depressed) market though when Jadeveon Clowney is still sitting out there, so who knows.

The Ravens have Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson, and there's good reason to believe all three could be better in 2020. Plus, Patrick Queen can be used on the edge, and the Ravens upgraded their pass rush on the defensive line dramatically already in free agency. Baltimore doesn't need an immediate starter. It's just that another player to come off the bench fresh and gobble up some sacks would be the cherry on top of a loaded defense.

Downing: Reaching 1,000 yards is a lofty goal, especially considering Mark Ingram is still the team's No. 1 running back. Ingram finished just over 1,000 rushing yards last year (1,018) so I don't see Dobbins also reaching that mark. Keep in mind that quarterback Lamar Jackson could likely lead the team in rushing again like he did last year with 1,208 yards. Yes, the Ravens run the ball more than any team, but I don't expect them to have three 1,000-yard rushers.

Plus, it's hard to predict what the running back rotation will even look like in 2020. The Ravens still like Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, and they aren't going to simply hand over the No. 2 role to Dobbins. It's going to be a competition for that spot. Edwards had just over 700 yards in the No. 2 role last year, and I think that's probably the top end of what to expect from Dobbins. Ray Rice had 454 rushing yards in his rookie season backing up Willis McGahee, and that could be similar expectation for Dobbins.

Mink: DeCosta indicated that the Ravens have every intention of rolling with four running backs in 2020. Edwards can still be your short-yardage bruiser (he rarely is stopped for no gain) who can also wear down defenses late in games when the Ravens are protecting leads. That would keep Ingram fresher. But there's little doubt that Edwards will see fewer carries next season. Hill is still your change-of-pace back and a receiving weapon out of the backfield.

Downing: The competition for that job will be one of the most interesting of the summer, and it's a wide-open race right now. I made this point on Final Drive earlier in the week, but I think the competition is bigger than just the right guard spot. The Ravens are always looking for the five best lineman, which means that they there could be some shuffling among those interior lineman. Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari both played well at center last season, but Skura is working his way back from a major knee injury. I also wonder if Bradley Bozeman, who played center in college, could move from left guard to center.

The Ravens have rookies Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredesen, last year's fourth-round pick Ben Powers and reportedly veteran lineman D.J. Fluker, who will all be competing for those starting guard spots. My best guess right now is that Fluker would get that job to open the season, assuming the reports are true and that he passes his physical. The eight-year veteran has starting 88 games in his career, so it will be tough for a rookie to beat him out for that spot.

Mink: So which combo will Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison be like? NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah talked about how Bart Scott would do a lot of the "take on" duties while Ray Lewis played "over the top." That's how I see it with Queen and Harrison with Queen being more of the floater and the bigger-bodied Harrison crashing the line of scrimmage.

But have no doubt, both guys are very athletic. People are sleeping too much on Harrison's ability to cover and go sideline-to-sideline, and I think that versatility and speed from both linebackers will make them a truly special duo that won't exactly fit into any of the aforementioned comps.

Downing: That's one of the many challenges teams are facing right now. It seems unlikely that teams will step on the field for any offseason practices, so the rookies will have a steep learning curve once they report for training camp. They better have a strong grasp of the playbook before arriving for camp or else they could be in for a rude awakening once they step on the field. The Ravens have high hopes for this rookie class, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said they aren't planning for this to be any kind of a redshirt year. But it wouldn't surprise me if it takes the rookies a few weeks into the regular season before they really start to find their footing and make an impact.

Mink: Our fans are the best. I love how there's even a ton of excitement about the Ravens' undrafted rookies. Bronson Rechsteiner's highlight reel is ridiculous. Plus, he's the son of former WWF star Rick Steiner. I mean, how cool is that? Imagining Pro Bowler Pat Ricard and Rechsteiner together is like thinking about the Heisman Package – it's almost too good to really believe. But how many fullbacks can you really carry? And we already talked about carrying four running backs. Only way I could see this happening is if Edwards were to land elsewhere.

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