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Late for Work: Three Veteran Free Agents Who Could Help Ravens

Minnesota Vikings guard Dalton Risner (66) lines up against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Las Vegas.
Minnesota Vikings guard Dalton Risner (66) lines up against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Las Vegas.

Three Veteran Free Agents Who Could Help Ravens

The draft is in the books and the free agency frenzy is last month's news, but the Ravens' roster construction remains fluid.

Some of General Manager Eric DeCosta's shrewdest signings last year took place during the summer and even a few weeks into the regular season.

With that in mind, The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer looked at a handful of free agents the Ravens could still target. Here's a look at three, along with Shaffer's comments:

G Dalton Risner

"News flash: The Ravens don't have a sure thing at left guard. Andrew Vorhees hasn't played in a game in 17 months, Sala Aumavae-Laulu hasn't played since an unimpressive preseason last year, and Josh Jones hasn't lined up at guard since Week 1.

"Risner, 28, is the best option remaining in a depleted guard class. He finished ninth among interior linemen in ESPN's pass block win rate in 2023 and has started 73 games over the past five seasons. In 11 starts at left guard for the Minnesota Vikings last year, he graded out poorly as a run blocker on Pro Football Focus. According to Sports Info Solutions, the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Risner fared far better as a blocker on gap runs (1.7% blown-block rate) than zone runs (3.9%)."

WR Michael Thomas

"Depending on his price tag, Thomas could fit the Ravens' mold for a low-risk wide receiver signing. The three-time Pro Bowl selection hasn't finished with more than 450 receiving yards in a season since 2019, when he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors.

"Injuries have limited Thomas, 31, to 20 games with the New Orleans Saints over the past four seasons. An ankle injury sidelined him in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, it was a foot injury. Before a season-ending knee injury in Week 10 last season, Thomas had 39 catches on 64 targets for 448 yards and a touchdown — but he was averaging a career-low 1.38 yards per route run, according to TruMedia."

EDGE Carl Lawson

"Lawson's one of a handful of notable edge rushers available, along with Bud Dupree (6.5 sacks in 2023), Emmanuel Ogbah (five), Yannick Ngakoue (four) and Markus Golden (four). The return of Kyle Van Noy will give the Ravens a veteran presence at the position, but Lawson could be another low-cost renovation project. With David Ojabo and Malik Hamm combining to play just three games last year, the team's depth at the position is a question mark.

"Lawson, 28, finished last season without a sack for the first time in his career. He dealt with a back injury that sidelined him for much of the New York Jets' training camp, and after returning he played just six games, stuck behind a deep group of pass rushers. In 2022, when Lawson played in all 17 games, he had seven sacks and 24 quarterback hits. The Ravens should know Lawson well, having faced him regularly during his early years with the Cincinnati Bengals."

John Harbaugh Reflects on AFC Championship Offensive Plan, Lamar Jackson Contract Negotiations, and More

Head Coach John Harbaugh appeared on "The Rich Eisen Show" yesterday. Here are some highlights of the conversation:

On the pass-heavy offense in the AFC Championship Game: "It definitely wasn't the goal. I think what the Chiefs basically decided to do, Steve Spagnuolo, their great defensive coordinator, basically said, 'We're gonna make you beat us in a certain way,' and it was going to be by beating press coverage with a loaded box. We need to make plays against that really in the passing game in order to do that, or we had to pack the whole formation and just play an old school, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust game, which we've done before, but that really wasn't our game plan going in, that's not the way we tried to do it. So the way I look at it and how Lamar [Jackson] looks at it, and he and I have had this conversation, is that we've got to build ourselves up in ways that we can handle that in the future and basically make people pay for playing us in that kind of defense."

Reflecting on the Jackson contract negotiations: "I'm proud about a lot of things. A lot of things get said about your team, and about your choices and decisions, and about your players. Sometimes it's hurtful. And of course you respect the fact that this is possible, and then you get determined. You say, 'OK, we're gonna make this work and we're gonna find a way to overcome it.' Whether it was a contract situation, or whether it was that we didn't have enough good pass rushers, or we didn't have enough good receivers, or whatever it might be. And then when you do it, even that's not good enough sometimes because you didn't win the whole thing."

How Derrick Henry fits in the offense: "It's going to be what we do, and it's going to be Derrick Henry doing it within the structure of what we've built around Lamar, and he's going to be just fine. I think what it's going to look like is what it's looked like in Tennessee — him running for a lot of yards. Maybe even in some ways we'll create some opportunities because we're gonna possibly spread the defense out just a little bit more. There won't be as many eyes on him, maybe not as many helmets directed toward him when he gets the ball, and we'll be able to create just a little more space for him."

Thoughts on first-round cornerback Nate Wiggins: "He's got some things he has to learn, but the thing I liked about Nate is that he knows that. He's very self-aware. Here's very reflective on where he's come in the last three years, where he needs to grow. I saw some humility. We saw a guy with work ethic. I like the way he played — he played hard. And he's super talented. I thought he was the most talented cover corner in the draft. He's just got natural cover skills. He's not afraid to hit you. He's not afraid to run under the ball. Those are things we like in Baltimore."

Iowa EDGE Joe Evans Named UDFA to Watch for Ravens

The Athletic identified one undrafted free agent to watch for every team. For the Ravens, who have kept an undrafted free agent on their roster 19 times in the past 20 years, it was Iowa edge rusher Joe Evans.

"If Evans (6-1, 246) stood 2 inches taller or weighed 25 pounds more, a team would have grabbed him by the fourth round," The Athletic's Scott Dochterman wrote. "At his pro day, Evans posted a 41.5-inch vertical, and his shuttle and three-cone times were faster than any edge at the combine. He finished his Iowa career with 29 sacks, including four in the Citrus Bowl. He's a John Harbaugh type of player, as is fellow Ravens UDFA Beau Brade."

Evans led the Hawkeyes last season with 9.5 sacks, 10 quarterback pressures, and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Ravens Take EDGE, WR in 2025 Mock Drafts

The draft may be over but mock draft season never ends.

ESPN's Jordan Reid and PFF’s Max Chadwick and Dalton Wasserman have released their way-too-early 2025 mock drafts. Here's a look at their picks for the Ravens at No. 30.

Reid: Arkansas EDGE Landon Jackson

"At 6-7 and 281 pounds, Jackson fits well with the Ravens. He improved significantly in 2023, posting 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Scouts keep pointing to Arkansas' game against Alabama last season (10 tackles and 3.5 sacks) to explain his potential, but they want to see him dominate more consistently this season."

Chadwick/Wasserman: Ole Miss WR Tre Harris

"Baltimore smartly added Devontez Walker in this year's draft, but Tre Harris gives them a potentially dominant perimeter weapon. He posted the sixth-best receiving grade in college football last season and finished 10th in yards per route run. He has shown that he can be the best player on the field and would add a vertical element to Baltimore's offense."

Ravens Defense Ranked in Top 5 After the Draft

The 2023 Ravens were the first team to lead the league in scoring defense, sacks, and takeaways. After losing some key players this offseason, can the defense remain dominant?

The 33rd Team’s Dan Pizzuta believes the Ravens will still be one of the NFL's best, just not the best. He put the Ravens at No. 4 in his rankings of the top defense's coming out of the draft.

"Most of the personnel losses will be covered by players brought in or already on the roster," Pizzuta wrote. "The great thing about the Ravens' defense is there is a star to work around at every level: Justin Madubuike on the line, Roquan Smith on the second level and Kyle Hamilton in the secondary.

Pizzuta noted that Smith's presence should help smooth the transition from Patrick Queen to Trenton Simpson at inside linebacker, and a healthy season of Marcus Williams and more playing time for Ar'Darius Washington could ease the loss of Geno Stone at safety.

"There weren't many new additions on the defense, but 2024 first-round pick Nate Wiggins could make an impact on the outside opposite Marlon Humphrey with Arthur Maulet in the slot," Pizzuta wrote. "Wiggins is thin but played good press-man coverage at Clemson and could solve Baltimore's CB2 issue.

"Baltimore also has some signs of regression that could help. Despite being the best defense in the league by points allowed per drive, this unit was one of the worst red zone defenses. That typically trends toward the overall level of the defense from year to year, meaning the Ravens could be better in that area."

Pizzuta didn't mention them, but third-round EDGE Adisa Isaac and fourth-round cornerback T.J. Tampa also could be significant contributors.

Ravens Are One of Two Teams Projected to Have Maximum Number of Compensatory Picks

The Ravens are known to love compensatory picks, and they are one of two teams (the Dallas Cowboys are the other) expected to have the maximum of four comp picks next year.

Baltimore is projected to have one comp pick in Round 4, one in Round 5, and two in Round 6.

"It is a rare year that the Ravens aren't adding to their draft capital with at least one compensatory pick," draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote. "In 2025, they'll load up with the maximum of four selections after losing key members of the roster in 2024, including Patrick Queen, Jadeveon Clowney and both starting guards (Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson). In total, Baltimore said goodbye to a whopping seven qualifying free agents while only signing Henry as a qualifier. Henry's modest salary canceled out one of their sixth-round qualifiers (Stone or Zeitler)."

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