It’s time. 

Finally I’ve emerged from my anger and grief over the Ravens failure to get to the Super Bowl last month and started to think about the future of this franchise. 

Every season brings new challenges, and this will be one of a different variety for Eric DeCosta and the Ravens top brass to navigate. The most recent article by The Athletic gave some insight into what lies ahead for Baltimore and why they are one of several teams that stand to lose the most this off-season. 

I’m going to begin with the area that I feel should be addressed first and that’s the offensive line.  

Tyler Linderbaum has been everything that was advertised when he was selected in the First Round two years ago. He’s the linchpin and the Pro Bowler is already considered one of the best in the league at his position. From there things get extremely murky. Starting guards John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler are both unrestricted free agents and I’m unsure if either will be back in 2024. Simpson was a solid find coming from the Raiders and is a player trending in an upward direction. He’s an old school power player who fits in well with the run first mentality. Zeitler is still playing at a high level at age 34 but I have feeling that the team may step away from both players and take the compensatory picks. They also have Ben Cleveland poised to take Zeitler’s spot and super sub Patrick Mekari can always fill in when needed across any position. 

Fans are ready to move on from Ronnie Stanley who turns 30 this month. He has the team’s second highest cap hit at $26 million and missed time due to injury even prompting a rotation system once he returned. He’s not going anywhere this coming season and as most likely DeCosta looks to draft a possible replacement in April. Morgan Moses is also on the radar as a possible salary cap cut but I’d expect him to play out his contract and stay at Right Tackle.  

Continuity is always important when have a group jell and with several spots potentially filled with new players, although in-house candidates it wouldn’t be wise to have so much turnover. 

Staying on the offensive side of the ball Baltimore is likely to have a new stable of running backs this coming season. JK Dobbins has been injury prone during his stint in Charm City. I could see him signed on the cheap in a “prove it” deal as dynamic Keaton Mitchell certainly won’t be ready in September. I feel that the team will move on from Gus Edwards even though he had a career highs in attempts (198), rushing yards (810) , and touchdowns (13) he may be showing signs of wear and tear as his yards per carry dropped to 4.1. I also think that when it came down it they simply don’t trust Edwards to be the lead back. Time and again during his tenure here there have been chances for the offense to lean on him and his angry running style but to no avail. The game just “didn’t go that way” as Coach Harbaugh is want to say. Former All Pro Dalvin Cook who was signed as cover during the playoff run is most likely on to greener pastures as well. Let’s not forget Justice Hill entering his fifth season with the club. He’s also coming off a career season with five starts in the backfield and highs in rushing (387) and receiving yards (206). I don’t think the team wants to expand his role any more than what it is as he also contributes on Special Teams. So in which direction do they go? Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara? All these names have been linked with a possible move to B-More. I think it’s more likely they address running back in the draft and sign a cheaper option at running back such as Ezekiel Elliot. At any rate I feel that the Ravens need a running back to lead the team in rushing yards and not Number Eight. Lamar can still use RPO action under center and of course scramble when the situation calls for it but as his ability from the pocket continues to develop, he should use his running skills to put pressure on the defense. This team can and should be “Run-First” as they expand their playbook and be more unpredictable. That said I think they should part ways with Pat Ricard. His removal would save roughly $4 million against the cap and since his snaps decreased last campaign, he’s just outgrown his contract.  

For some reason Ravens Twitter is pining for more “weapons” for Lamar Jackson. I think what they already have on the roster is plenty to build a dynamic offense out of. I do feel that they need to alter their formations and mindset to fit the players they have. I’d start with going to more two Tight End sets with a returning Mark Andrews and the emerging Isiah Likely. Both are more receivers than blockers and that’s where Charlie Kolar can become a third Tight End in some instances. In other words, just take a page out of the Kansas City playbook and go with it. Zay Flowers legal troubles will probably net him a suspension of a few games in 2024 but he should continue to be Baltimore’s number one wide receiver target moving forward. He should be a 1,000 yard contributor. Rashod Bateman can be a capable number two. He’s had injury and drop issues in the past but he gets open..a lot. His ability to separate isn’t the question, he needs to develop trust with his quarterback to make plays and move the chains when called on. It’s make or break this season for him. Re-signing Nelson Agholor was a smart move and provides depth and experience to the group.  

I’d say both Odell Beckham Jr. and Devin Duvernay will not be back. Beckham served his role well last season and even though the price tag was outlandish he was a model teammate and made some big catches, but he won’t be back. Duvernay, the former All Pro returner went to IR to finish 2023 and I think the team will look for cheaper options in the return game such as Justice Hill or Tylan Wallace who have both shown value. The team may still add another pass catcher through the draft but don’t expect a big name vet to suit up. 

Zach Orr takes over the defense for the departing Mike MacDonald and while the core the one of the top units remains intact there are plenty of choices that the team needs to make.  

As expected, the team used the franchise tag on Justin Madubuike. He’s developed into a special player that helps transform how you can play defense. His interior skills against the run and the pass are in high demand and using the tag allows time to work out an extension by July 15th. Like Jackson last season the team will allow the market to dictate terms as they used the Non-Exclusive tag. Vets Brent Urban and Jadaveon Clowney are unrestricted and while many would clamor for a return of especially Clowney since he was a menace off the edge in 2023 it may not happen. I think the team will most certainly not overpay and if another team comes calling with a nice offer he’ll be in new colors in September. 

Linebackers Patrick Queen and Kyle Van Noy will also most definitely be cap casualties. The team chose to decline the 5th year option on the former first rounder Queen and while he paired with Roquan Smith to be one of the most feared tandem’s in the league he’ll cost the team way too much. Queen has already been linked to Seattle, Miami, and Pittsburgh. Van Noy was another DeCosta bargain find, and he turned in a career season high in sacks (9). Someone will overpay him, and he’ll be elsewhere.  

The core of the secondary remains intact with the likes of Marlon Humphrey and Kyle Hamilton ready to lead the back end. Geno Stone is another player that had a huge season in a contract year. He’s no doubt the most successful seventh round pick in franchise history and while initially it looked like he’d be in a new city a month ago the most recent round of cuts around the league may suggest he’ll return. The rest of the corners that are up for renewal were all depth signings who outperformed their usual production, which was perhaps due to the scheme more than anything else. Rock Ya-Sin, Ronald Darby and Arthur Maulet could all return on inexpensive deals or not. I’d like to see at least one of the three back and my preference is Maulet. 

While change is inevitable in sports the good thing for Baltimore is that amidst all the current chaos their core players remain in the fold. This team should still be one of the tops in the AFC with a chance at glory in February. 

Matt Jergensen
Matt Jergensen

Matt has lived in Maryland his entire life and is a graduate of Calvert Hall and Towson University. has always been an avid Baltimore sports fan. Since 2007, he has been writing and talking about Baltimore sports, especially the Ravens. His work has appeared on Ravens Gab, Russell Street Report, and he currently co-hosts a podcast “The Blitz- A Ravens podcast” with Brent Harris.

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