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Mailbag: What's the Plan at Cornerback?

Free Agent CB Rock Ya-Sin

Mink: The Ravens aren't done building their cornerback room and I expect that they'll add at least one veteran free agent. Rock Ya-Sin has been a name talked about a lot considering the Ravens reportedly brought him in for a visit before the draft. That could make a lot of sense, but he's not the only free-agent cornerback that could fit. Marcus Peters, Kyle Fuller, Shaquill Griffin and others are still available.

The Ravens like the talent of the young cornerbacks they already have on the roster in Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Pepe Williams and now rookie Kyu Blu Kelly. Stephens was solid stepping in for Peters in two starts late last season. The Ravens felt Armour-Davis absolutely has starter-level talent when they picked him out of Alabama in the fourth round last year, and Williams flashed his feistiness at times last season. Both dealt with injuries in their rookie year that shortchanged them of valuable reps, however. The Ravens also love Kelly's talent and he was a four-year starter at Stanford, but he's a fifth-round rookie. He'll be in the mix pushing for defensive reps.

It would be asking a lot to ink any of them as starters opposite Marlon Humphrey right now. They could earn that job over the summer, but they'll have to beat out stiff competition. And at this point of the year, building the roster is about adding as much competition as possible. Thus, I expect Baltimore to sign a veteran with more extensive starting experience.

Downing: My expectation is that Patrick Queen will be the starting WILL linebacker next to Roquan Smith. Smith and Queen are the best inside linebacker tandem in the NFL, and I think Queen will have a very strong 2023 season. The fact that that Ravens reportedly declined Queen's fifth-year option doesn't change his status for this season, except for that fact that he's now in a contract year. Queen is coming off a career year where he played his best football at the end of the season, and he'll have a big payday in his future if he can build off that performance.

Declining the fifth-year option is largely a business decision. Queen would have counted $12 million against the cap in 2024 had the Ravens picked up that option, which is a steep price to pay after already giving the big contract to Smith. It's tough to pay two inside linebackers top dollar, especially with a quarterback now on a second contract. For now, however, the Ravens still have Queen and Smith on the roster and they can anchor the middle of the defense. I think Queen will be motivated this year to shine, win, and earn himself a hefty contract from the Ravens or another team. General Manager Eric DeCosta said over draft weekend that he believes Queen is a "Pro Bowl linebacker in the making," and that could happen this year if he builds off his success from last year.

Mink: Yes, I expect that Devin Duvernay will be the Ravens' primary returner again. The guy is a back-to-back Pro Bowl returner. I think Duvernay's effectiveness in that role diminished a little down the stretch last year as he was forced to take on a bigger offensive role. Now that Baltimore has beefed up the wide receiver corps, Duvernay should be fresher for his return duties – a job he's elite at. Zay Flowers returned seven punts over his college career, so I don't think he's a great option to usurp Duvernay, nor would the Ravens probably want the first-round pick taking those reps. James Proche returned four punts last year after Duvernay's season-ending injury, but he would be a longshot to beat out Duvernay for that job in 2022.

Downing: The offense will look much different this year. The biggest difference is that Todd Monken is now at the helm as the coordinator, and he's putting in place some much different schemes compared to what the Ravens ran under Greg Roman. With Flowers and Odell Bekcham Jr. now added to this offense, Monken has some additional firepower to build this passing game. The Ravens will be more of a pass-heavy team compared to what we saw the last few seasons. At his introductory press conference earlier this offseason, Monken talked about the importance of creating space, and using speed players to make that happen. By adding Flowers and Beckham to a group of pass catchers that already includes Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews, the Ravens will be able to maximize those space players in a variety of ways.

Another potential difference with the offense this year will be the use of no-huddle. Monken used that the last two years at Georgia in helping the Bulldogs win a pair of national championships, and he will bring elements of that with him to the NFL. The offense will look much different this year, and the Ravens have an exciting group of players to maximize the schemes Monken is installing.

Mink: Hallelujah. Thanks for staying patient with us, everybody. Contract negotiations can be challenging, but we all got there in the end together. Thankful to have Lamar Jackson for at least another five years and thankful we don't have to answer (or dodge) any more questions about his future.

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