Mailbag: How Will the Tight Ends Be Utilized in Baltimore's New Offense?


Brown: New Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken loves using tight ends, and I think that group will be a focal point of the offense in 2023. When Monken was at Georgia last year, the Bulldogs' leading receiver was Brock Bowers who won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. Backup tight end Darnell Washington was also heavily featured.

Three-time Pro Bowler Mark Andrews should continue to excel under Monken and may once again lead the Ravens in targets. I also expect Isaiah Likely to build on his rookie season (36 catches, 373 yards, three touchdowns) and to be used more often in two tight end formations with Andrews. Likely's blocking improved as his rookie season progressed, and deploying Andrews and Likely together in the passing game can create matchup headaches for opponents.

Don't sleep on Charlie Kolar either, who lost much of his rookie season after undergoing sports hernia surgery last summer. Kolar caught 168 passes during his college career at Iowa State. He was drafted 11 spots ahead of Likely, which shows what the Ravens think of Kolar's potential. He'll push for playing time and an expanded role in the offense.

The Ravens will need an effective inline blocking tight end to keep their running game humming after losing Josh Oliver in free agency. However, four-time Pro Bowl fullback Pat Ricard is more than capable of assisting the tight ends in that role. In short, Monken's tight end toolbox looks loaded, and he won't be shy about taking advantage of that.

Downing: According to Spotrac, the Ravens currently have about $6.9 million in salary cap space right now. That number already includes the $32 million cap hit for quarterback Lamar Jackson under the franchise tag. The Ravens don't necessarily need to clear space at this point, unless they want to make a splash move with a trade or free-agent signing. They're clearly still interested in adding help at wide receiver (more on that below), and the top receivers won't come cheap. If the Ravens want to make a big move at receiver, they may need to do some contract restructures with veteran players to give themselves more room.

Of course, the way to create the most significant amount of cap space is to work out a long-term deal with Jackson. That would allow the Ravens to spread out that cap hit over the duration of the contract, rather than the full $32 million hitting the cap this year. Getting that long-term deal done has proven to be a challenge, and it remains uncertain if the two sides will agree to a contract before this season.

Downing: There is a good deal of nuance with the answer to this question. Could the Ravens technically find a way to afford Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins? Yes, they could make that happen. Is that likely? I don't think so. The reports right now are that Beckham is seeking a contract in the range of $15 million a year. As we discussed above, the Ravens reportedly have less than $7 million in cap space this year, so even adding Beckham could prove difficult. Beckham remains unsigned at this point – the Ravens reportedly offered him a deal – so his asking price could come down the longer he sits on the market. The Ravens could also do a multi-year deal to spread out that cap hit, giving them more flexibility to fit him on the roster given their cap situation.

Hopkins is an even more challenging situation. The Ravens would need to trade for him from Arizona, and the Cardinals are reportedly seeking a second-round pick, which the Ravens don't have (they used it to acquire Roquan Smith last year). Hopkins then carries a cap hit for $30 million this year, according to Spotrac. The Ravens could ask the Cardinals to take on some of that salary, but that would likely increase the asking price of the draft pick. There has been a recent report from Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated that the Cardinals could end up cutting Hopkins because of a lack of interest on the trade market. If that happens, then the Ravens could get creative about a potential contract for the star receiver. Overall, it's unlikely for the Ravens to land both Hopkins and Beckham, but multiple reports indicate that they're in the mix to bring one of them to Baltimore.

Brown: I think second-year defensive lineman Travis Jones will play a bigger role in 2023, especially after the departure of Calais Campbell to the Falcons. Jones appeared in 15 games and played 35% of the defensive snaps as a rookie, but his playing time could increase significantly.

At 6-foot-4, 333 pounds, Jones might be the strongest player on the team and he's a run-stopper who also has pass-rushing potential. Veteran lineman Michael Pierce will be returning from a season-ending pectoral injury, and Brent Urban is also an experienced lineman. However, next year is an opportunity for young linemen like Jones, Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington to carry the load.

Second-year outside linebacker David Ojabo, who missed most of last year with an Achilles, is another strong candidate to play a bigger role in 2023.

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