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Late for Work: Looking at Potential External Candidates for Next Defensive Coordinator

Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) is hit by Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) during the second half of an AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024, in Baltimore.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) is hit by Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) during the second half of an AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024, in Baltimore.

Looking at Potential External Candidates for Next Defensive Coordinator

With Mike Macdonald being hired as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, the search for his replacement at defensive coordinator begins.

The Ravens' internal candidates include Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver, Inside Linebackers Coach Zachary Orr, and Defensive Pass Game Coordinator/Secondary Coach Chris Hewitt. Defensive Backs Coach Dennard Wilson also was a candidate, but he is reportedly expected to become the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator.

Here's a look at several external candidates from lists compiled by The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec and The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer:

Mike Caldwell, former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator

"Caldwell, [52], was one of the finalists for Baltimore's defensive coordinator job when it hired Macdonald, and he's now looking for work again. He was let go by the Jaguars in early January after two seasons running their defense. He's still well thought of around the league and recently interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive coordinator position. Head Coach John Harbaugh has already done enough work on Caldwell, who played a season in Baltimore in 1996, where he'd know what he's getting." — Zrebiec

Joe Cullen, Kansas City Chiefs defensive line coach

"[A] former Ravens assistant with a good relationship with Harbaugh, Cullen deserves another opportunity to run a defense. He got caught in the wash of the Urban Meyer mess in Jacksonville in his only season as an NFL defensive coordinator. Cullen has done a quality job everywhere he's been, and that includes the five seasons he spent as the Ravens' defensive line coach. The 56-year-old still has strong relationships in the Ravens' building, and he's an upbeat personality who relates well to players." — Zrebiec

Ejiro Evero, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator

"Evero may not be available. The Panthers, according to colleague Joe Person, have not allowed Evero out of his contract to explore other opportunities — even after hiring new head coach Dave Canales. If he became available, Evero would have no problem finding work. The 43-year-old is viewed as a rising star and future head coach. He was the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2022." — Zrebiec

Leslie Frazier, former Minnesota Vikings head coach and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator

"Frazier served as the Bills' coordinator from 2017 to 2022, overseeing a unit that finished first and second, respectively, in DVOA in his final two seasons. Before that, he worked under Harbaugh as the Ravens' secondary coach in 2016. Frazier, 64, stepped away from coaching this season after Buffalo announced he would not be returning as defensive coordinator. He has head coaching experience — he went 18-29-1 from 2011 to 2013 with the Minnesota Vikings." — Shaffer

D'Anton Lynn, USC defensive coordinator

"Lynn, the son of former Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn, wasn't on the Ravens' staff long. He was hired in January 2021 as their defensive backs coach and served two seasons before he was named UCLA's defensive coordinator in February 2023. USC pried Lynn, 34, away from its crosstown rival in December after he oversaw a dramatic turnaround. In their first season under Lynn, the Bruins improved from 79th in defensive efficiency to sixth, according to ESPN's Football Power Index." — Shaffer

Jesse Minter, Michigan defensive coordinator

"With the Chargers hiring Jim Harbaugh, Minter is reportedly set to follow him as his defensive coordinator. But Minter does have a history with John Harbaugh, too. Before spending three years as a college defensive coordinator, first at Vanderbilt and then at Michigan, he worked for four years on the Ravens' staff, rising from defensive assistant to defensive backs coach. Minter's emergence comes two years after Macdonald's own in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines finished No. 1 in defensive efficiency last season, according to ESPN's FPI, as they rolled to a College Football Playoff national title. Minter, 40, was praised for his creative play calling, including his simulated pressures." — Shaffer

Joe Whitt Jr., Dallas Cowboys secondary coach and pass game coordinator

"Whitt also interviewed for the job two years ago. Over the past two seasons, the Cowboys have ranked sixth and seventh in pass defense efficiency, according to FTN. Cornerback Trevon Diggs developed into a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and cornerback DaRon Bland, a fifth-round pick in 2022, led the NFL in interceptions this season. Whitt, 45, has experience in defenses based out of different fronts, having worked under former Green Bay Packers Coordinator Dom Capers and current Cowboys Coordinator Dan Quinn." — Shaffer

Travis Kelce on Pregame Interaction With Justin Tucker: 'Not in a Joking Mood'

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce gave his side of the story regarding his interaction with Justin Tucker during pregame warmups at Sunday's AFC Championship.

The incident saw Kelce toss aside Tucker's helmet, practice footballs, and kicking tripod from an area on the field where Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was warming up.

"If you're trying to go onto the other team's designated area, you kind of stay out of their way. You don't interfere with what they have going on," Kelce said on his “New Heights” podcast.

Tucker said on Monday that he thought the interaction was "all in good fun," but Kelce said he and Mahomes weren't in a jovial mood.

"I mean, he was kind of winking at me, being a d--- about it, trying to get under the skin," Kelce said. "I get it. But me and Pat? We've been having the same mentality for this game all week long, man. And it was a, 'you've got to go in there and have the right mind set,' and we just weren't in a joking mood.

During an appearance on ESPN's "The Pat McAfee Show" yesterday, Kelce and Mahomes said they were planning to run onto the field and taunt Tucker if he had missed his 43-yard field goal attempt late in the game.

"If he would've missed that field goal, we were 100 percent getting a 15-yard flag," Kelce said.

Mahomes added: "But of course he made it. He can't let us have any fun."

Pundit Says Chiefs' Early Touchdowns Got Ravens Offense Off Its Game

Kelce also made an interesting comment about the Ravens' offense during his podcast.

"We knew if we put up touchdowns, it was going to force their offense to feel a little bit antsy and little bit pressed to get the ball downfield. That's what we wanted. We wanted to see what our DBs and their wideouts looked like," Kelce said.

The Chiefs scored on their first two possessions to take a 14-7 lead. Lamar Jackson ended up throwing 37 passes (completing 20 for a season-low 54.1 percentage with one interception), while the Ravens' running backs got just six carries.

The Ringer's Benjamin Solak said the Chiefs' early scores put the Ravens in a position they were unaccustomed to, as they rarely trailed during the regular season.

"I really think this was a big deal," Solak wrote on X. "Lamar hadn't been in a clear trailing spot in ages (because he and the Ravens have been so lights out unbelievably good) and he really started pressing. Lamar needs to learn much of what Mahomes learned over 2021: how to play patient."

Pro Football Focus Names Ravens' Most Improved Player, Early Breakout Candidate in 2024

Pro Football Focus named edge rusher Odafe Oweh as the Ravens' most improved player this season and inside linebacker Trenton Simpson as the team's early breakout candidate in 2024.

Oweh improved his PFF grade from 56.8 in 2022 to 80.7 in 2023.

"Although he missed time due to injury early in the season, Oweh put together his best season yet," PFF’s Zolton Budhay wrote. "The former first-round pick recorded 58 quarterback pressures — including five sacks — to set a career high despite rushing the passer fewer times than in his first two NFL seasons."

Regarding Simpson, PFF’s Jonathon Macri wrote: "The Ravens are currently on pace to lose about 56% of their defensive linebacker snaps with both Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison slated to hit free agency, which should allow Simpson to earn more looks in 2024. Simpson was a third-round pick out of Clemson this past year and only played 49 defensive snaps as a rookie. His most significant playing time came in Week 18, when he earned an impressive 80.3 PFF defensive grade and 78.0 PFF coverage grade, coming up with five tackles and a sack."

Hypothetical Trade Has Ravens Acquiring Brian Burns

Bleacher Report’s NFL scouting department came up with one hypothetical trade for every team. For the Ravens, it proposed a deal in which Baltimore would acquire edge rusher Brian Burns from Carolina for a 2024 first-round pick, 2025 third-round pick, and edge rusher David Ojabo.

"Burns is now set to be a free agent, but a tag-and-trade scenario isn't dead," Bleacher Report wrote. "There have been a few instances of it happening, including deals that moved featured pass rushers in Yannick Ngakoue, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, and Dee Ford."

Bleacher Report also named Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner as potential trade targets for Baltimore.

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