Skip to main content
Presented by

Late for Work: Ravens Are Early Favorites to Win the AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) is tackled by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Travis Jones (98) and Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (92) in the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) is tackled by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Travis Jones (98) and Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (92) in the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.

Ravens Remain Division-Winning Favorites After Free Agency Slows

Despite pundits seeing the Ravens taking a step back, oddsmakers remain high on the Ravens. As free agency subsides, those setting the lines see the Ravens atop the AFC North in 2024.

DraftKings Sportsbook places the Ravens at +115 to win the AFC North. FanDuel Sportsbook have the Ravens at +110 (48% implied probability). PFF's Mason Cameron dove into why the Ravens are at the peak.

"Joe Burrow's return to the Bengals' lineup places Cincinnati (36% implied probability) as the greatest threat to Baltimore's reign atop the AFC North in the eyes of oddsmakers," Cameron wrote. "Albeit, that remains a steep challenge as the Ravens seemingly bolstered their presence on the ground with the Derrick Henry signing. The Henry and Lamar Jackson pairing is sure to cause defensive coordinators around the league sleepless nights."

Trio of Pundits Say Ravens Have "Taken a Step Backward"

It's been an offseason of turnover for the Ravens, with numerous players and coaches going elsewhere in the NFL. While all teams see change each offseason, the Ravens saw a few more household names depart than others, drawing dismay from a roundtable of pundits hosted by ESPN. Three pundits named the Ravens as a team that's taken a step backward over the past week, including ESPN's Matt Bowen, Jeremy Fowler and Andscape's Jason Reid.

"The Ravens added running back Derrick Henry, who is an upgrade and a scheme fit in Todd Monken's offense," Bowen wrote. "However, this is more about the players (and the coaches) who have moved on this offseason. Linebacker Patrick Queen, guard John Simpson, safety Geno Stone and cornerback Ronald Darby signed free agent contracts with new clubs. Plus, former defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is now the head coach in Seattle, and defensive back coach Dennard Wilson took over as the coordinator in Tennessee."

While the Ravens did lose a few starters, their cornerstone contributors remain on the roster. 

For Fowler, it's not so much about the losses as it is delivering on the Ravens' way of landing replacements to take the mantle.

"Baltimore lost three starters along the offensive line that it must replace," Fowler wrote. "This is the Baltimore way, letting veterans walk in exchange for compensatory picks down the line. The Ravens need to shore up that O-line, but they could also replenish at receiver with a veteran or high draft pick, preferably a true X receiver that Lamar Jackson hasn't had."

Reid notes the Ravens' losses weren't surprising, as their list of free agents was lengthy.

"They entered the season with many pending free agents, so the losses aren't shocking. But the Ravens appear to be weakened," Reid wrote. "It wouldn't be surprising if the Ravens took a step backward next season."

With the parity of the NFL and the Ravens' high level of success in 2023, it's not a hot take to expect the Ravens to have difficulty matching last year's season. They finished with the No. 1 defense in sacks, takeaways and scoring defense. The offense ranked No. 4 in scoring and Lamar Jackson won league MVP. They went through a gauntlet of a schedule and emerged with the No. 1 seed in the AFC by Week 17, going 13-4 and making it to the AFC Championship. With Jackson at the helm and a talented roster, Baltimore shouldn't be ruled out.

Will the Ravens Need to Trade Up to Land an Offensive Lineman in the 2024 NFL Draft?

The 2024 NFL Draft has been lauded as one of the best in recent history for offensive line and wide receiver talent. But after a free agency cycle featuring a lack of options at both positions, The Athletic's Dane Brugler sees a lengthy run coming in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft.

"There will be more wide receivers and offensive tackles drafted in the first round this year than any other position," Brugler said on "The Athletic Football Show Podcast." "I don't know if one effects the other, it's just kind of the way it's worked out in this particular draft and this offseason, but I do think it speaks to the larger point that hey, if teams have one of these guys, a tackle or receiver that they feel is a Pro Bowl level player, they're just not letting him go."

This has Russell Street Report's Dev Panchwagh considering the Ravens as a team needing to consider a trade-up to land the player they want.

It's a rarity for the Ravens to trade up in the draft, having been six years since the Ravens did so to select Jackson at No. 32 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Before then, it had been a decade since their last trade up, when they selected quarterback Joe Flacco in the 2008 NFL Draft. Both times, however, the Ravens originally traded down before trading back up.

The Ravens have demonstrated a propensity to maximize the value of their first-round picks, even when they're selecting late into the first round. But some mock drafts have shown lengthy runs of offensive line talent stripping the top-end talent from the board before the Ravens' No. 30 overall pick. With the need to fill three starting positions across their offensive line, the Ravens could find themselves wanting to pick earlier than they're slotted for.

Quick Hits

Related Content