The Ravens narrowly missed the playoffs last year, blowing a golden opportunity to put themselves in the driver’s seat for a divisional title in Week 16 before allowing the Steelers to drive the length of the field in the game’s waning moments. That was essentially the story of the season for Baltimore, as missed opportunities and fourth quarter collapses turned what might have been a successful campaign into a disappointment.
Depending on who you ask, the offseason has not been much better. The Ravens focused most of their attention, both in free agency and in the draft, on the defensive side of the ball when the offense sorely needed help. While Jeremy Maclin surprisingly falling into their laps late in the spring helped to mitigate that somewhat, the offensive line is still a major question mark. It’s also fair to wonder how wise it is for the team to depend so heavily on third-year wideout Breshad Perriman considering that he missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury, had an up-and-down 2016, and is currently being held out of training camp with hamstring soreness (thus halting the momentum he had built in spring and in the early stages of camp).
The Ravens have a fair amount of talent and could make some noise in the AFC North, though their recent spate of injuries is threatening to derail the season before it starts. One might also ask whether the conservative and predictable play-calling of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Dean Pees will get the most out of their talent, and whether a mixed bag of an offseason will be enough to get Baltimore back to the postseason.
- Brandon Williams, DT: Five years, $52.5MM. $24.5MM guaranteed.
- Tony Jefferson, S: Four years, $34MM. $19MM guaranteed. $3MM available via incentives.
- Jeremy Maclin, WR: Two years, $11MM. $6MM guaranteed. $3MM available via incentives.
- Brandon Carr, CB: Four years, $24MM. $4MM guaranteed.
- Danny Woodhead, RB: Three years, $8.8MM. $3.25MM guaranteed.
- Anthony Levine, S: Three years, $4.2MM. $1.3MM guaranteed.
- Lardarius Webb, S: Three years, $6.3MM. $1.2MM guaranteed. $1.4MM available annually via incentives. Had previously been released.
- Michael Campanaro, WR: One year, $1.2MM. $250K guaranteed. $800K available via incentives.
- James Hurst, T: One year, $1.2MM. $250K guaranteed.
- Austin Howard, T: Three years, $16MM. Guarantees unknown.
- Ryan Jensen, G: One year, $1.797MM. Signed original round RFA tender.
- Terrance West, RB: One year, $1.797MM. Signed original round RFA tender.
- Brandon Boykin, CB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Larry Donnell, TE: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Thaddeus Lewis, QB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Bobby Rainey, RB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Trevin Wade, CB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Griff Whalen, WR: One year, minimum salary benefit.
The Ravens landed two key offensive pieces late in the offseason in Maclin and Austin Howard, but until that point, they had invested the vast majority of their assets into the defensive side of the ball. One of the most curious moves of the offseason was the massive payday Baltimore doled out to Brandon Williams. Williams is a terrific player to be sure, but he’s not a generational talent, and Baltimore has a quality defensive tackle in Michael Pierce that might have filled in capably for Williams at a fraction of the price. Plus, the Ravens have always been able to find quality defensive linemen. It has been more of a struggle to find quality offensive pieces, and the fact that Baltimore spent so lavishly on Williams and Tony Jefferson while letting right tackle Ricky Wagner walk in free agency and ignoring free agent wideouts like Alshon Jeffery and Terrelle Pryor — who both signed relatively inexpensive deals — certainly raised some eyebrows.
Luckily for the Ravens, it may have worked out anyway, though it’s hard to say it was by design. No one expected a receiver like Maclin to become available when he did, and while Howard could be a solid replacement for Wagner, he is coming off an injury-plagued season in which his performance took a noticeable dip. Danny Woodhead, who for a long time was Baltimore’s big offensive acquisition, offers a nice complement to the bruising running style of Terrance West, and if he can stay healthy — a big “if” for players wearing purple and black these days — he should be a big contributor as a receiver out of the backfield and will surely line up in the slot a fair amount.
Jefferson will join last year’s big free agent splurge, Eric Weddle, to form arguably the best safety tandem in the game, and the Ravens also signed Brandon Carr to bolster its cornerback corps, which has been thin in recent seasons and which has really suffered when No. 1 corner Jimmy Smith has been forced to sit out due to injury. Unfortunately for Baltimore, sophomore corner Tavon Young, who was excellent in his rookie season, tore his ACL and will miss all of 2017, which precipitated the Brandon Boykin signing. Maurice Canady, another sophomore corner who enjoyed a terrific spring and a strong start to training camp, was the favorite to replace Young, but he, too, went down with a potentially serious knee injury, so it looks as if Smith and Carr will man the perimeter while Boykin or stalwart Lardarius Webb will line up in the slot (though first-round draft choice Marlon Humphrey could replace Carr later in the season). That sounds like a decent enough group of CBs, but one more injury could lead to the same problems in coverage that the Ravens have experienced of late.
Nonetheless, the defense looks strong as a whole, and with the influx of young athleticism that the team added to that side of the ball in the draft, the only thing holding that unit back (outside of injury) is Pees. Wideouts Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Perriman offer considerable talent and complementary skill-sets on the offensive side of the ball, and if the Ravens can find some production from the tight end spot — see below — and if Joe Flacco can overcome his back injury, Baltimore should be in pretty good shape.