Ravens get head start on free agency, re-sign defensive end Brent Urban to one-year deal

Ravens officials spoke excitedly earlier this offseason about how virtually their entire defense was expected to return. The only player to start a game on that side of the ball who wasn’t under contract for 2018 was defensive end Brent Urban.

They’ve now made sure Urban will be returning as well. The team announced Tuesday that it had agreed with Urban on a one-year deal.

“Beyond thankful to be given the opportunity to do what I love with the organization that gave me my start,” Urban wrote on his Twitter account. “2018 is going to be so real.”

Terms aren’t immediately known, but it will likely be a “prove-it” deal for Urban, a talented player who has struggled with injuries. If Urban can stay healthy and have a productive 2018 season, the 26-year-old can hit the free-agent market next offseason and potentially get a much more lucrative payday.

However, staying healthy has been difficult for Urban, one of the Ravens’ fourth-round draft picks in 2014. He’s missed 39 games in four seasons with the Ravens. That includes all but three games last year, when Urban suffered a Lisfranc foot sprain in the team’s Week 3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and needed season-ending surgery.

Lisfranc injuries can take nearly a year to come back from, so Urban’s status for the start of training camp is unclear. However, the Ravens will be patient with him and Urban won’t have to feel he has to rush back to impress a new team so he can secure a roster spot.

Urban gives the Ravens pass-rushing ability from the interior that they lacked for much of last season, along with a physical presence at the five-technique defensive end spot. Urban’s absence last year, coupled with the toe injury that sidelined Brandon Williams for four games, left the team vulnerable against the run. Recent third-round picks Bronson Kaufusi and Chris Wormley were unable to make a significant impact. The Ravens ultimately relied heavily on Carl Davis at the five-technique spot.

Urban’s return leaves the Ravens with plenty of defensive line depth heading into the 2018 season. Along with Williams, Urban, Davis, Kaufusi and Wormley, the Ravens also still have Michael Pierce, Willie Henry and Patrick Ricard under contract.

It appeared that Urban was in line to have a breakout season last year. He had a healthy offseason and that was followed by a strong training camp and preseason to earn the starting defensive end job. Ravens coach John Harbaugh believed that Urban, who is 6 feet 7 and 300 pounds, was finally learning how to use his physical assets to his advantage.

That’s why the injury, which added to the insult of a 44-7 loss to the Jaguars in London, was such a significant blow to both Urban and the Ravens.

The Ontario native tore his ACL in his first training camp as a rookie, missing his entire first season. He then tore his biceps during the following training camp, delaying his NFL debut to the second half of the 2015 season.

Urban played in six games in 2015 and finished with one sack and 11 tackles. His blocked kick of a late Cleveland Browns field-goal attempt was returned for a touchdown by Will Hill, resulting in the Ravens’ most memorable victory of a disappointing 2016 season.

Urban stayed healthy and played all 16 games in 2016, finishing with two sacks and 10 tackles.

With Urban under contract, the Ravens have 11 unrestricted free agents. Other teams can officially sign them after 4 p.m. March 14.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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