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Late for Work: Free-Agent Matchmaker Has Saquon Barkley Going to Ravens, Odell Beckham Jr. Returning to Giants

From left: New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley, WR Odell Beckham Jr.
From left: New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley, WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Free-Agent Matchmaker Has Saquon Barkley Going to Ravens, Odell Beckham Jr. Returning to Giants’s Nick Shook provided one ideal team fit for notable free agents, including running back Saquon Barkley, who was matched with the Ravens.

"The numbers don't suggest he's as good (or owns as much earning power) as he was a year ago, but I can confidently say he's still a very good back who would thrive in a better offense," Shook wrote. "The problem, though, is running backs don't get paid much these days, and Barkley will likely only fetch a two or three-year deal. This is all setting up for a perfect scenario for him to join a contender that doesn't have a ton of cap space. GM Eric DeCosta and the Ravens will look to sign a veteran back this offseason, and although bringing back Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins is on the table, Barkley sure feels like a good fit."

Whether Barkley will hit the open market remains to be seen. New York Giants General Manager Joe Schoen said at the Combine earlier this week that the team would like to have Barkley back. He also said applying the franchise tag on Barkley for the second straight year remains an option.

Meanwhile, Aaron Wilson, who covers the Texans for the NBC affiliate in Houston, reported that Barkley has expressed interest in playing for the Texans.

Shook said the best fit for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is the Giants, the team who drafted him in 2014.

"I could envision Beckham returning to Baltimore, where he's said he enjoyed his time immensely. … And yet, I feel as if a return to New York has always been alluring to Beckham," Shook wrote. "Daniel Jones doesn't do it for me, but maybe he will for Beckham – or maybe Beckham will once again wait out his free agency until a contender comes calling."

Both DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the Combine that the Ravens have not ruled out the possibility of Beckham returning to Baltimore next season.

Two Under-the-Radar Free-Agent RBs Who Could Interest Ravens

While the Ravens are frequently linked to the big-name running backs in free agency such as Barkley, Derrick Henry, and Josh Jacobs, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley said under-the-radar backs D'Andre Swift and Zack Moss are viable options.

"This has the makings of being a great fit in terms of value and playing style," Hensley wrote of Swift. "Swift is familiar with run-pass option plays and the pistol formation after rushing for a career-high 1,049 yards, which ranked fifth, with the Philadelphia Eagles. He is just one of six running backs last season with 1,000-plus rushing yards and 35-plus receptions. At 25, Swift is also one of the youngest free agent running backs."

Regarding Moss, Hensley wrote: "The Ravens have a history of taking notice when players perform well against them, and Moss certainly caught their attention when he rushed for 122 yards in Baltimore last season. A capable stand-in for [Indianapolis Colts] All-Pro back Jonathan Taylor, Moss was the NFL's third-leading rusher through five weeks last season and finished with 794 yards and five touchdown runs."

Ravens Have Experience Rebuilding Offensive Line, But May Need to 'Take Bigger Swings' This Time

It's been established that rebuilding the offensive line is the Ravens' top offseason priority, but how will they go about remaking a unit that could have as many as four new starters?

Through free agency? The draft? Promoting young, in-house players?

All of the above, said The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, who noted that this is not unfamiliar territory for the Ravens.

Not long after Harbaugh was hired as head coach in 2008, the Ravens parted ways with longtime starting center Mike Flynn and future Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden retired.

"That's what they did in 2008 when second-year pro Jared Gaither stepped in for Ogden at left tackle, Jason Brown shifted back from guard to center to replace Flynn, veteran Willie Anderson was signed as a stopgap right tackle and Chris Chester became a starting guard.

"It's also what they did during their most recent offensive line overhaul before the 2016 season. Ronnie Stanley, a first-round pick, was a plug-and-play starter at left tackle, solidifying a position after the injury issues for veteran Eugene Monroe. Guard Alex Lewis was drafted in the fourth round in 2016 essentially as a replacement for Kelechi Osemele, who departed in free agency. Vlad Ducasse, a one-year free-agent signing, gave Baltimore eight starts at guard."

Zrebiec added: "The Ravens have had holes to patch on the offensive line most offseasons since, and they've done it mostly with savvy, mid-level free-agent signings (Morgan Moses and Kevin Zeitler), successful mid-to-late-round draft picks (Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman, Ben Powers) and undrafted free-agent finds (Patrick Mekari, Matt Skura)."

However, Zrebiec said the Ravens may need to take "bigger swings" this offseason.

"Eric DeCosta and company will need to be aggressive like their divisional rivals have been the past couple of years in trying to solidify their offensive line," Zrebiec wrote. "Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up in the first round to select Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones. They also signed free-agent guard Isaac Seumalo to a three-year, $24 million deal. In the previous offseason, they signed veterans Mason Cole and James Daniels to man interior spots.

"After coming up short in the Super Bowl following the 2021 regular season, the Cincinnati Bengals were uncharacteristically aggressive in free agency, striking quickly to land center Ted Karras and guard Alex Cappa. They used a fourth-round pick on guard/tackle Cordell Volson. An offseason later, their makeover up front was complete with the big-money addition of Brown Jr."

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