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Ravens News 3/18: High Bar

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By: Vasilis Lericos

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Twelve Ravens Thoughts following early waves of free agency

Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive

Eric DeCosta called Derrick Henry “a unicorn,” and Baltimore certainly needed an impact running back. At the same time, this ground attack has been elite in the aggregate for years with only modest investments, allowing the Ravens to devote resources elsewhere. The bar is high, especially considering other roster needs.

You wonder if Henry’s addition signals a return to more of a run-heavy offense on early downs. Lost in the AFC title game rage was Baltimore ranking seventh in game-neutral early-down passing rate last season. The ground game typically didn’t take over until building sizable leads, which were common.

Regardless of Henry’s arrival, the Ravens have to protect their two-time MVP quarterback and now need to fill three openings on the offensive line. Yes, it’s a strong draft class, but filling multiple spots with rookies and unproven players almost always sounds better in March than it looks come September.

Of Baltimore’s free agents still on the market, re-signing Jadeveon Clowney easily tops my preferences. I wouldn’t be overly comfortable penciling in David Ojabo and Tavius Robinson as my No. 3 and 4 edge rushers, let alone projecting either to start opposite Odafe Oweh. There’s serious work to do there.

Ravens make tough decisions in letting veteran players go

Todd Karpovich,

The Ravens made a couple of surprise moves this offseason by deciding not to re-sign Pro Bowl guard Kevin Zeitler and trading right tackle Morgan Moses to the New York Jets.

It left a huge void on the offensive line and added more challenges for general manager Eric DeCosta this offseason.

The Ravens were not confident that Zeitler, 34, and Moses, 34, could withstand another complete NFL season after battling injuries last year.

DeCosta plans to replace those players and boost the offensive line “with good, young, cheap, talented football players.”

The Ravens need to replace both starting guards and find a new starting right tackle.

Ben Cleveland will have the opportunity to take Zeitler’s spot on the right side of the line, but he will need to perform better and show up to training camp in shape.

Andrew Vorhees, who missed last season as a rookie with a knee injury, is a wild card to take a starting job at guard after being rated the highest-rated offensive lineman in the Pac-12 each of his final two years at USC.

The Ravens are likely to take two or even three offensive linemen with their nine selections in this year’s draft. Some of the players who could fall to the Ravens with the 30th overall pick include Blake Fisher (Notre Dame), Graham Barton (Duke), Kiran Amegadjie (Yale), and Jordan Morgan (Arizona).

50 Words or Less: Ravens Have ‘Won’ Free Agency Their Way

Ryan Mink,

Age isn’t just a number, but it’s also not something to be scared of. The tape, the player, the fit all matter more than a birth certificate. The Ravens operate that way and have been richly rewarded by high production from 30+-year-old players over the years. Henry is next.

Baltimore has (so far) lost a whopping eight free agents to other teams, which is higher-than-usual turnover. The reason is because their 2020 draft class was so strong and because so many veterans they signed to one-year deals last offseason performed so well. Eric DeCosta should take a bow.

Right now, Russell Street Report’s Brian McFarland estimates the Ravens have essentially $4.7 million in usable salary-cap space to spend, but with room to create more with restructures. I expect they’ll spend a chunk on a pass rusher (maybe Jadeveon Clowney), but otherwise a series of smaller short-term veteran deals.

The details from Ronnie Stanley’s reported contract restructure have come to light, and they clearly spell out a prove-it-year for the veteran left tackle. The Ravens reportedly saved more than $9 million on this year’s cap and Stanley is set to become a free agent next offseason. He’s highly motivated.

Derrick Henry plays a ‘greyhound’ position. The Ravens aren’t worried: ‘He’s kind of a unicorn.’

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry is almost defiantly durable. He had a reported 1,397 carries as a record-breaking high school star, 602 carries in a Heisman Trophy-winning college career at Alabama and 2,030 carries over eight standout regular seasons with the Tennessee Titans. And yet he has missed fewer NFL games (12) while playing the sport’s most vulnerable position than quarterback Lamar Jackson has at the sport’s most protected position (13).

Henry, meanwhile, has aged as if he were immune to wear and tear. His highest speed as a ball carrier last season (21.68 mph) was the third highest of his career, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. He broke tackles at a higher rate last year than he did in 2019, when he rushed for 1,540 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

And, during the season itself, Henry almost becomes football’s Benjamin Button. Over his career, he’s averaged 3.7 yards per carry in September, 4.6 yards in October, 4.9 yards in November and 5.2 yards in December and January. Even over the past two years, after returning from the foot injury that ended his 2021 season, his rushing average from Week 13 to Week 18 (4.5 yards per carry) is higher than it is from Week 1 to Week 12 (4.2), according to TruMedia.

2024 NFL draft rankings: Jordan Reid’s top 50 prospects

Jordan Reid, ESPN

28. Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Height: 6-1 | Weight: 173

One of the most improved defenders in the country, Wiggins is patient and sudden. He has the versatility in man and zone coverage to suffocate matchups. He hardly ever panics in his technique, staying glued to wide receivers. His vision and instincts in reacting to routes are among the best of this class, and he also has very good ball skills (three picks and 17 pass breakups over the past two seasons). And his 4.28-second 40-yard dash time paced all of the defensive backs at the combine.

32. Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

Height: 6-3 | Weight: 213

Coleman made an instant impact with FSU after transferring from Michigan State before last season. His big frame helps him play through contact, and he’s also a strong route runner and dominant at the catch point. He has consistent ball-tracking skills (11 touchdown catches in 2023); he seems to see the ball in slow motion. But creating consistent separation outside of the red zone and in the underneath areas has room for improvement. His 4.61-second run in the 40 at the combine wasn’t ideal, though he plays faster than his timed speed would indicate.

Originally posted on Baltimore Beatdown – All Posts