Mink: I have no idea if the Ravens are considering targeting Tyrann Mathieu in free agency, but I like the idea. Baltimore needs another playmaker on the back end of the defense and Mathieu is one of the league's most consistent and best with 26 picks since he entered the league in 2013. Besides being a playmaker, Mathieu's leadership, passion for the game, and work in the community (he won this year's Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge) all seem to make him a good fit for Baltimore. Safety is a difficult position where I think experience counts. So I like addressing it in free agency, especially with plenty of other needs to attack in the draft.
The Ravens tried this route in free agency three years ago with Earl Thomas, but it ultimately didn't work out. Mathieu signed with Kansas City that same offseason on a deal with very similar average salary per year. Last season, Baltimore reportedly tried to trade for another interception king in cornerback Xavien Howard. The Ravens and General Manager Eric DeCosta are certainly not averse to spending money in the secondary, and they like guys who take the ball away.
Mathieu will turn 30 years old in May, but that's the same age Thomas was when the Ravens signed him in 2019. It will be interesting to see what Mathieu will command (he won't be cheap), but I expect Baltimore will clear enough cap space, even if Lamar Jackson plays on his fifth-year option, to make a splash move.
Ravens linebacker and fellow LSU product Patrick Queen certainly likes the idea and the notion of joining the Ravens seems to have crossed Mathieu's mind.
Downing: The veteran pass rusher had a solid season in Baltimore. He finished with 34 tackles, 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Those numbers are far from the best years of his career, but he still was a productive and disruptive player at times. The Ravens may be interested in keeping him in Baltimore, especially after fellow outside linebacker Tyus Bowser tore his Achilles in the final game of the season. (The Ravens hope to have Bowser back in training camp, but last season showed that recovery timelines are tricky).
Something to remember with Houston, however, is that the Ravens signed him midway through training camp after he sat on the market for a few months. The two sides could opt to go that route again this year, which would give the Ravens time to address the position in free agency and the draft, while also seeing how Bowser progresses in his recovery. If the Ravens stock up on young pass rushers in the draft, then they may opt to pass on re-signing Houston. But if they fill other needs this offseason and then Bowser looks like he won't be ready for the start of the season, then a late-summer reunion with Houston could make sense, assuming he's still available and willing at that point.
Mink: I think the Ravens will approach training camp practices and their preseason playing time differently next year.
I wouldn't be surprised if they do less 11-on-11 work in practices in favor of more one-on-one or individual work. John Harbaugh already talked about taking a fine-toothed comb to their practice scripts and player workloads in particular. He's going to be vigilant about making sure they get time to ramp up their bodies and still get in the work they need to, but will also be mindful of not putting player in harm's way.
In terms of preseason games, I would not expect to see much – if any – action for the starters (or at least the top guys). Harbaugh already didn't play them much before, and after seeing J.K. Dobbins go down in Washington last summer, you could immediately see from his raw bench reaction that he regretted having him in the game at all. I think that injury will change how he manages preseason reps.
Downing: I don't think the Ravens will be "banking on the unknown" when it comes to injury rehab and timelines. The rocky recovery process for Stanley and tight end Nick Boyle showed everyone that timelines can be fluid, and teams need contingency plans. In terms of the offensive line, DeCosta said during last week's press conference that "we'll probably add two guys." A popular mock draft projection is for the Ravens to take an offensive tackle in the first round who could start at right tackle immediately or flip over to the left side if Stanley isn't ready. The Ravens also have Ja'Wuan James returning from a torn Achilles, and he's an intriguing player in the offensive line mix. Improving the line is a major priority for the Ravens this offseason, and they are not just going to count on Stanley's return to accomplish that objective.
With the running backs, DeCosta said the Ravens would be "conservative" in the recoveries for J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. He expressed confidence that they will be back "at some point this year," but said the Ravens will also assess the running back market in free agency and the draft. The Ravens have drafted a number of mid-round running backs over the years, and with five fourth-round picks this year, don't be surprised if the Ravens take that approach once again.