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Late for Work: Ravens Reportedly Among 'Serious Suitors' for Saquon Barkley

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs the ball against Los Angeles Rams safety Jordan Fuller (4) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs the ball against Los Angeles Rams safety Jordan Fuller (4) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J.

Ravens Among 'Serious Suitors' for Saquon Barkley

Free agency's "legal tampering" window opens today at noon and the buzz continues to build around the Ravens going after a big-time running back.

On Sunday, ESPN's Jordan Raanan reported that the Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, and Chicago Bears are "believed to be serious suitors" for running back Saquon Barkley.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are also rumored to be in the hunt, but "aren't expected to reach Barkley's price point," and the Houston Texans may also be in the hunt. The expected price point has been rumored to be around $10 million per season.

Barkley, Derrick Henry, and Josh Jacobs are seen as the top three options in a loaded free agent running back class.

Last season, Barkley ran for 962 yards and six touchdowns and 41 passes and another four touchdowns.

"If he was in San Francisco, he would be Christian McCaffrey," one pro personnel director told Raanan. "He hasn't had an offensive line, ever, in New York."

There's also a chance that Barkley returns to the New York Giants, who Raanan reports could be more interested in bringing him back if it's the Eagles or Cowboys who make a run at poaching their talented back.

"If Barkley gets offered more money elsewhere from a team that is ready to compete, he's likely gone," Raanan wrote. "And the Giants don't seem willing to stop him. It's just a matter of how much another team is willing to pay."

Pundits' Reaction to Ravens Signing Justin Madubuike to Contract Extension

On Friday evening, the Ravens announced they've reached an agreement on a four-year contract extension with defensive lineman Justin Madubuike. Pundits gave their reaction to the blockbuster signing days before the start of free agency.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "[Friday's] news was, far and away, the best-case scenario for the Ravens as they accelerate another crucial offseason. General manager Eric DeCosta got things started by coming to a verbal agreement with Madubuike on a four-year, $98 million contract extension that includes $75.5 million in total guarantees, according to a team source involved in the negotiations."

**ESPN’s** Jamison Hensley: "Madubuike delivered one of the best recent seasons by an interior defensive lineman, recording 11.5 of his 13 sacks when lining up on the interior of the defensive line. That's the fourth-most by an interior defensive lineman since NFL Next Gen Stats started tracking this stat in 2016."

The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer: "Madubuike had one of the Ravens' best-ever seasons for a defensive lineman in 2023, finishing with a team-high 13 sacks, the most by any NFL interior lineman. An ascending talent at the position, Madubuike has boosted his pressure rate each of the past three seasons, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, from 5.1% to 6.5% to an elite 13.1%. He's also been one of the Ravens' most durable players and most consistent run defenders."

**The Baltimore Sun’s** Brian Wacker: "Signing Madubuike to a long-term deal had long been a goal of DeCosta's, dating to before the start of last season. Now that it has, the Ravens and DeCosta can turn their attention to the several holes they have at other positions, most notably offensive line, running back, outside linebacker and cornerback."

**Baltimore Beatdown’s** Zach Canter: "Madubuike is a dominant defensive piece capable of obliterating offensive guards in one on ones while also playing all over the defensive line including the edge. He creates pressure from stunts, loops, a variety of pass rush moves and pure athleticism and strength as well. He plays through contact at a near Aaron Donald level of elite. Paired with pass rush coach Chuck Smith and new defensive coordinator Zach Orr, Madubuike's career year in 2023 might have only been the beginning."

**Russell Street Report’s** Darin McCann: "There are still a ton of questions regarding how this team will look next season, but having Madubuike, Roquan Smith and Kyle Hamilton manning the spine of the defense for the foreseeable future is a solid start. The contract, while huge, does help with this year's salary cap as it removes that strangling franchise-tag number. This is a big box to check off before legal tampering starts next week. We'll count this one as a win."

**Baltimore Positive’s** Luke Jones: "The last five NFL seasons included a total of only 15 double-digit sack campaigns from interior defensive linemen, which is why the Ravens were determined to keep Madubuike from hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent."

Derrick Henry Joining the Ravens Would Be "Nasty Stuff"

Pundits cannot get enough of pairing Henry and the Ravens. But who can blame them? Linking the NFL's best rushing attack with the NFL's most dominant running back of the past six years feels like football matrimony.

The latest to wed the two are The Ringer's Sheil Kapadia and Ben Solak on their podcast, *Extra Point Taken*.

Kapadia expects the Ravens to pursue Henry, citing Zrebiec's report that "the Ravens were in advanced talks with the Tennessee Titans about Henry before the 2023 trade deadline."

Kapadia: "I'm picturing a scenario where we have one of these Lamar Jackson runs around for nine seconds, one where they put the clock on the replay and he guns one downfield to Zay Flowers [for] 43 yards and then they go hurry-up and it's, 'Alright, you're tired now? Here's Derrick Henry. Tackle him. We're at the eight-yard line.' He's going to run in for a touchdown. I think that, certainly, would be a lot of fun."

Kapadia also guessed at what the market would be for the Ravens to net Henry.

"One-year, $7 million, with incentives. I don't know," he said. "What is the market for a 30-year-old running back when that 30-year-old running back shows no signs of really slowing down and is a one-in-a-generation type guy that can carry the load?"

Solak wholeheartedly endorses the idea of Henry in black and purple, noting the lethal pairing of Jackson and the current offense adding the bruising back.

 "The thing that Lamar does, when Lamar's present in the backfield and he puts the ball in the belly of the back and freezes you there with that mesh-point, is that he makes their linebackers sit back on their heels. Unless you are calling plays specifically to get an extra body in the box and muddy the picture, your backers just kind of have to [pause] and read it out," Solak said. "If Lamar freezes backers and make them inert and Derrick Henry has a full head of steam, a steam-engine train coming at you? That's a very perfect pairing. That's an ideal world for Henry to be in. 'Oh, linebackers don't get to generate any momentum when they come into contact with me? They're just stuck at the second level?' That's nasty stuff."

Since 2018, Henry is first in rushing yards, with 8,268 yards. Joining the Ravens' top-flight rushing attack, with the No. 9 rusher in Jackson (5,258), it's hard to root against, Solak said.

"Derrick Henry to the Ravens is just pure fun and everybody should be rooting for it," Solak said. "Unless you're in the Ravens division. In which case, I get it."

Potential Free Agent Targets

Zrebiec listed a few players that should be on the radar for Baltimore, starting with the running backs.


"The Ravens have done their homework on the top backs. If the price is right, they could pounce."

RB Zack Moss

"Several available running backs would fit well with the Ravens. Moss stands out as a physical, downhill guy who would be a strong complement to Hill and Mitchell's speed and elusiveness."

G Damien Lewis

"The Ravens were miffed when the Seattle Seahawks selected Lewis two spots ahead of them in the third round of the 2020 draft. They wanted Lewis. Instead, they 'settled' for Madubuike. Let's just say it worked out. They now have an opportunity to have both on the same team."

CB Darious Williams

"Williams was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Ravens in 2018 but was cut during that season. He's made 55 starts in the five seasons since. He'd be a nice addition to a cornerback group that is suddenly trending young."

OLB Shaquil Barrett

"Re-signing [Jadeveon] Clowney and/or [Kyle] Van Noy will probably be the preference, but Barrett is a nice candidate to be the latest veteran edge rusher the Ravens bring in and try to coax another year of quality football out of. He's a Baltimore native, and since he was let go by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he wouldn't factor in the compensatory pick formula."

Quick Hits

  • ESPN’s Dan Graziano writes a few Ravens free agents could be on the move to the West coast an reunite with Mike Macdonald in Seattle, writing, "I've heard a lot of speculation about which (if any) Ravens defensive free agents could follow former Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to Seattle now that he's the head coach of the Seahawks. In order of likelihood, based on conversations with my sources, I'd rank them as follows in terms of chances to land in Seattle: Patrick Queen, LB; Jadeveon Clowney, DE; Geno Stone, S."

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