Six weeks before the start of free agency, Eric DeCosta was confident that the Ravens could re-sign whichever player they needed to. He also conceded that the Ravens couldn’t re-sign everyone they wanted to.
“We could pretty much sign anybody we want to sign if we could get a deal done,” DeCosta said at his Feb. 4 season-ending news conference. He later added: “You can’t sign everybody back; that’s a fact of this game.”
As the Ravens plot a path forward this offseason, trying to plug their many roster holes through the draft and free agency, it’s unclear just how much they’ll be willing to spend on players outside Baltimore. DeCosta doesn’t have much salary cap space. Nor does he have the ability to easily free up tens of millions of dollars. Nor does he have the appetite to sign players who might cost the Ravens compensatory picks.
What DeCosta wants, he said, are “responsible, good deals that work for the club but also work for the player.” If the Ravens make a splash in free agency next month, it likely won’t be a big one. Here are 10 players the team could target at five positions of need — one for a higher price tag, the other at a more modest cost.
The Ravens’ projected starting left tackle, Ronnie Stanley, is coming off his second straight season-ending ankle injury, and DeCosta, at his season-ending news conference, would say only that he was “optimistic” about his rehabilitation. The Ravens’ incumbent starting right tackle, Patrick Mekari, could be more useful as an interior lineman or swing tackle.
Even with the Ravens likely to use a Day 1 or Day 2 draft pick on a potential starting right tackle, depth could again be a problem here. Alejandro Villanueva’s not expected to return for the second year of his contract. Tyre Phillips has bounced between guard and tackle, and he’s struggled out wide. Ja’Wuan James has played three games over the past three seasons. The Ravens need to add at least one starting-level tackle this offseason.
Morgan Moses: The Washington Commanders released Moses two weeks after the Ravens signed Villanueva, and he made the most of his one-year, $3.6 million deal with the New York Jets. Moses appeared in all 17 games, starting 16 at right tackle, and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 40 tackle. The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Moses, who turns 31 next month, is considered a strong run blocker.
Joseph Noteboom: A 2018 third-round pick, Noteboom started his career in Los Angeles at guard, only to be knocked off course by injuries. But in the final year of his rookie deal, he stepped in capably at both left and right tackle. According to PFF, the 6-5, 321-pound Noteboom allowed one sack in 85 pass-blocking snaps last season and had the second-best pass-blocking grade of any Rams lineman.
If Bradley Bozeman leaves in free agency — and his tearful, season-ending news conference last month indicated that it’s a real possibility — the Ravens’ center carousel will continue to spin. Because of injuries and the coronavirus, Matt Skura, Mekari, Trystan Colon and Bozeman have all started at least three games there over the past two seasons.
Like Ryan Jensen, Bozeman would be tough to replace in Baltimore. In the locker room, he’s a respected and well-liked teammate. In the community, he’s a committed volunteer. And in his first season as a full-time starting center, he finished second in the NFL in pass-block win rate and seventh in run-block win rate last season, according to ESPN’s rankings for the position.
Brian Allen: Nagging knee injuries kept Allen from playing a single snap for the Rams in 2020, but he broke out in 2021. Allen started 16 games for the Super Bowl champions and finished his fourth NFL season as PFF’s 10th-rated center, one spot ahead of Bozeman. The 6-2, 303-pound Allen’s mobility was a good fit for the Rams’ zone-blocking run schemes, but the Ravens’ ground game relies more on gap schemes.
Billy Price: After three disappointing seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, the 2018 first-round pick got a fresh start in New York last season. Pass protection remained an issue for Price — he allowed two sacks and 24 quarterback pressures — but he was a solid run blocker for the Giants. The 6-4, 308-pound Price hasn’t missed a game because of injury over the past three seasons.
DeCosta said earlier this month that the Ravens expect to get younger up front. Three defensive linemen set to hit free agency — Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Justin Ellis — are at least 31 years old, and Derek Wolfe, who turns 32 on Thursday, is coming off a season lost to injuries.
Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington have shown promise as three-technique linemen, lined up over the outside shoulder of the opposing guard, but the Ravens will need to add at least one run-stuffing nose tackle this offseason. With no dominant edge rushers, first-year coordinator Mike Macdonald will need more from the Ravens’ interior pass rush.
Sebastian Joseph-Day: The 6-4, 310-pound Joseph-Day isn’t built like an old-school nose tackle, but he lined up over the center or over the center’s shoulder on about half of his snaps as a run defender last season, according to Sports Info Solutions. Before a torn pectoral muscle ended his season in early November, the 26-year-old Joseph-Day had a career-high three sacks in seven games. In 2020, he was one of the better run defenders on one of the NFL’s best run defenses.
Tim Settle: Statistically, Settle had a quiet season on Washington’s deep defensive line. But he graded out well on PFF for the second straight year and had four tackles for loss despite getting only 20% of the defensive snaps. In 2020, when he played 33% of the Commanders’ snaps, he had five sacks and 10 quarterback pressures. The 6-3, 308-pound Settle, who’s still only 24, could be a useful role player in Baltimore.
In Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, the Ravens have two potential lockdown cornerbacks returning next season. But who’s behind them? Tavon Young could be a salary cap casualty. Anthony Averett will likely be too expensive to re-sign. Jimmy Smith, another pending free agent, could be headed for retirement. Restricted free agent Chris Westry had an injury-marred first year in Baltimore.
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Even if Brandon Stephens splits his time between cornerback and safety next season, the Ravens will need more help. They’ll likely target a cornerback in the first four rounds of the draft, and a free-agent signing is possible, too. If Young doesn’t return, a slot cornerback will have to be a top priority.
Rasul Douglas: The well-traveled Douglas was a revelation in Green Bay, his sixth team in five seasons. Signed off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad in October, he finished with the fourth-most interceptions in the NFL (five) and allowed a passer rating of just 44.5 in coverage, according to Pro Football Reference. The 6-2, 209-pound Douglas, 26, played a lot of zone in the Packers’ system but also held up well in man-to-man.
Kyle Fuller: The Baltimore native and Mount Saint Joseph graduate, a former first-round pick and two-time Pro Bowl selection, is expected to move on to his third team in as many years. Denver benched Fuller for a game last season, and four other times, he played six defensive snaps or fewer. He also finished 2021 without an interception for the first time in his career. But despite the 5-11, 190-pound Fuller’s poor form, his playmaking talent should still attract short-term offers.
Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott’s short-lived partnership last year had more lows than highs, and Stephens endured first-year growing pains before finishing the season on an upswing. Even as the Ravens struggled toward the end of the year, Geno Stone and Tony Jefferson emerged as potentially valuable reserves. Ar’Darius Washington could also compete for playing time in his second year in Baltimore.
With Elliott headed for free agency, and Stephens’ role in Macdonald’s defense unclear, the Ravens could look to add a potential starter. The team needs another ballhawk at the position; Ravens safeties combined for just five interceptions and four forced fumbles over the past two seasons
Marcus Maye: According to PFF, only Tennessee Titans star Kevin Byard has graded out better at free safety since the 6-0, 207-pound Maye’s 2018 arrival in New York. In his breakout 2020 season, Maye had two interceptions, two forced fumbles and 11 passes defended for the Jets. And before tearing his Achilles tendon in November, he was also seeing more snaps as an in-the-box safety. With Maye’s injury and drunken-driving arrest last year, however, his next contract could be a short one.
Anthony Harris: Harris played last season on a prove-it deal in Philadelphia, and after a solid season with the Eagles, he should have a handful of suitors. Over 14 starts, Harris was sound in coverage (68.7 passer rating allowed, according to PFR) and a dependable tackler (2.7% missed-tackle rate). The 6-1, 202-pound Harris, who tied for the league lead in interceptions in 2019 (six), has just one pick over the past two seasons, but at age 30, he can still be an asset in split-safety coverages and on special teams.