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Mailbag: Could the Ravens Draft a Top Edge Rusher?

Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith rushes the passer in the first half of a NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 in Athens, Ga.

Mink: Calais Campbell's departure leaves a hole on the Ravens' defensive line certainly more than at edge rusher. The Ravens still have a lot of returners on the D-line this year: Michael Pierce, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Travis Jones and Brent Urban. Still, they could use another big body to add to the mix, and I expect they'll do so in the draft. While cornerback and wide receiver are the team's top two needs, defensive lineman could be next on the list (competing with guard and edge rusher).

Considering the Ravens spent a first-round pick on Odafe Oweh in 2021 and second-round pick on David Ojabo in 2022, I don't expect they'll use another first rounder on an edge rusher this year. They still could bring back last year's team sacks leader, Justin Houston, later this offseason and Tyus Bowser is returning for what should be a stronger season with more time removed from his Achilles tear.

If a top edge rusher such as Georgia's Nolan Smith were to somehow drop to No. 22, the talent may be too good to pass up, however. It could be a Kyle Hamilton situation. If Smith is gone, the other edge rusher that could be available when the Ravens are on the clock would be Clemson's Myles Murphy. I would expect Baltimore would be more likely to draft Murphy's college teammate, defensive lineman Bryan Bresee, than Murphy.

Downing: I don't think the Ravens are done adding to their receiver room. Beckham is on a one-year contract, and while the Ravens indicated they hope to do a long-term deal with him eventually, he's only guaranteed to be in Baltimore for one season at this point. Rashod Bateman is also coming off significant foot surgery. All reports on his recovery have been positive, but he still needs to get back on the field and show he's fully recovered from the Lisfranc injury. With those points in mind, I think the Ravens could benefit from adding another piece to room, whether that's through a trade or the draft.

There has been lots of buzz about the possibility of DeAndre Hopkins coming to Baltimore, and it sounds like that is still a possibility. However, I'd point to the draft as the most likely place to add a receiver. The Ravens have indicated that they like this receiver group, and they could have a chance to get the second or third receiver off the board with pick No. 22. The draft has quality depth at receiver throughout the first few rounds. Adding a receiver in the draft would give the Ravens some depth in the short-term, and potentially someone to step into a big-time role starting next season. The addition of Beckham was great for this team, but receiver is such a premium position that I expect the Ravens to add at least one more with their draft capital.

Mink: If the Ravens take a first-round cornerback, the expectation would probably be that they would become a starter at some point this season. Remember, Marlon Humphrey wasn't an immediate starter. Jimmy Smith was not an immediate starter. While Joey Porter Jr. or Deonte Banks are both very talented, it's a big transition to becoming a starting cornerback in the NFL for any rookie. The Ravens could still add a veteran cornerback in free agency or bring back Marcus Peters. I expect Brandon Stephens will get a chance to compete for a starting cornerback job as well. He played well stepping in for Peters last season.

As far as Jalyn Armour-Davis and Pepe Williams, their roles will continue to grow, but it would be asking a lot to expect them to step into a starting job Week 1. Armour-Davis missed most of his rookie year due to a hip injury, so he has some catching up to do this offseason. The Ravens drafted him believing he has starter-level traits, which he showed at Alabama. If he can stay healthy and has a strong summer, Armour-Davis will be in that mix for CB2 or as a top reserve at outside corner. Williams is more versatile, so he could see reps as a slot corner and at safety. Chuck Clark's departure could mean more opportunities for Williams as Kyle Hamilton's role changes somewhat.

Downing: He certainly could be. Beckham was on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory early in his career before dealing with multiple injuries, and the Ravens believe he's "ready to explode" again this year. Beckham will be 18 months removed from his most recent ACL surgery when the 2023 season opens in September, and the Ravens expressed confidence last week during his introductory press conference about the impact he'll make on this offense. If Beckham returns to his form from earlier in his career where he topped 1,000 yards in five of his first six seasons, then he could very well have the best season of any receiver to put on a Ravens uniform.

Tight end Mark Andrews actually holds the franchise record for single-season receiving yards with 1,361 yards set in 2021. Michael Jackson has the most for a receiver, as he put up 1,201 in the team's inaugural season in 1996. Beckham has the talent and ability to hit those marks. The Ravens have brought in some high caliber veteran receivers in franchise history, like Steve Smith Sr., Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. Smith and Boldin may end up with gold jackets, and Mason is the leading receiver in franchise history. Beckham would need to have a big season to establish himself as the best receiver in franchise history, but I'm not going to bet against him.

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