After the first big wave of free agency cleared and the dust settled on the newest Ravens, a theme became clearer and clearer: The Ravens were ready to fix the front seven. It just wasn’t in the manner that everyone expected.
Baltimore made the biggest, both literally and figuratively, acquisition by acquiring Calais Campbell for a fifth-round pick from the Jaguars. At 300 pounds, Campbell can provide a strong pass rush from the interior, something the Ravens sorely lacked last season. The Ravens re-upped Campbell’s contract too, and gave him a one-year extension to keep him around through the 2021 season.
He registered 6.5 sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 56 tackles in the 2019 season. Over the last three seasons, he's tallied 31.5 sacks and 77 quarterback hits.
The Ravens added defensive lineman Michael Brockers just a few days later in free agency to a three-year deal worth $30 million. Brockers, a run-stopping force, will pair with Brandon Williams and Campbell as three massive defensive linemen along the front that has improved since Derrick Henry ran through the entire front seven in the playoffs.
In smaller moves, the Ravens re-signed Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward to add into the defensive line rotation, both players who the Ravens clearly feel comfortable with enough to rely on heading into training camp. The team also shipped Chris Wormley to the Steelers in a very rare trade for the two teams, as they upgraded their 2021 seventh-round pick to a 2021 fifth-round pick.
Added in with the franchise tag being placed on Matthew Judon, the Ravens have made significant moves to boost their run defense and their pass rush — even if the moves aren’t what was necessarily expected headed into the offseason.
With a strong defensive line, the Ravens have relieved some pressure on Judon and Jaylon Ferguson on the edge. Now, offenses will have to focus their attention to Campbell and Brockers too, both impact interior players the Ravens simply didn’t have last season.
The Ravens’ pass rush got better in the last week, despite the fact the reinforcements came in an area no one expected.
Additionally, the team has the 28th overall pick in next month’s draft, as well as two second-round picks and two third-round picks. In short, the Ravens will have the ammunition to continue to add depth to the front seven.
As of now, though, an off-ball linebacker appears to make more sense for the Ravens in the draft as a need, at least when related to edge rusher.
The Ravens have that decent haul of picks due in part to Hayden Hurst’s trade last week. The Ravens shipped Hurst off to the Falcons and received the 55th overall pick in this year’s draft in the package.
While Hurst will get No. 1 tight end targets and receptions in Atlanta, the move gives Hurst the chance to become a true top-target — something he couldn’t do in Baltimore — and the Ravens more draft capital in a year where the back-half of the roster still needs to be filled out.
But like the defensive front additions, the Ravens aren’t afraid to attack a problem a bit differently if need be. Just because the team lost 39 targets, 30 receptions and 349 yards receiving doesn’t mean they’re going to replace Hurst with another tight end in the draft.
The 2020 draft is loaded with wide receivers, so the Ravens don’t necessarily have to replace the pass production at tight end, but can draft a wide receiver instead.
General manager Eric DeCosta hasn’t been shy before about making quick and aggressive moves to shore up holes on the roster.
Last season, the Ravens had a problem getting after opposing quarterbacks. Instead of acquiring an edge player, or a defensive lineman, they traded for Marcus Peters.
This year’s first wave of free agency is no different than that trade was. When the Ravens have a hole on the roster, they’re going to address it. It just might not be the way everyone thinks.
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