Jason Pierre-Paul

Edge Notes: Ravens, Lions, Browning, Hawks

After letting both Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue walk during the 2021 free agency period, the Ravens acquired a first-round pick in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade. The team entered the draft determined to use one of its two first-round choices on an edge defender, but strategy played a role in the team ending up with Odafe Oweh. The Ravens would have been happy with either Oweh or Greg Rousseau, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes, but also wanted to leave last year’s first round with a wide receiver.

We heard previously the Ravens expected the Packers to select Bateman, whom several execs viewed as the team most likely to draft the Big Ten prospect. That played into Baltimore’s edge defender blueprint as well. The team had Oweh and Rousseau ranked similarly on its 2021 draft board, Zrebiec adds, leading to Bateman being prioritized with the No. 27 pick. Waiting for No. 31 to make its edge rusher selection paid off, as Oweh remained on the board. The Bills took Rousseau at 30. (The Packers took cornerback Eric Stokes at 29.) Through 1 1/4 seasons, Oweh has six sacks, four forced fumbles and 17 quarterback hits. Rousseau checks in with similar production, having tallied eight sacks — four already this season — along with one strip and 16 QB hits.

Here is the latest from the NFL’s edge defender landscape:

  • The Ravens used Jason Pierre-Paul extensively alongside Oweh in Week 4, playing the recently signed veteran on 55 defensive snaps. Their one-year Pierre-Paul deal is worth $1.35MM, according to OverTheCap. The contract includes a $150K signing bonus and playing time- and sack-based incentives that could take the price north of $5MM, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. This is a lower-priced deal than JPP is accustomed to signing, but he has a chance to be the rare free agent to sign in-season and earn potentially far more than the veteran minimum.
  • The Lions will be waiting a bit longer to deploy their two-Okwara edge-rushing attack. Eligible to return from the Lions’ PUP list this week, Romeo Okwara will likely need more time to recover from his 2021 injury, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Okwara, who suffered an Achilles tear just more than a year ago, did not return to practice this week when first eligible.
  • Detroit’s pass rush, when at full strength, is set to include Romeo and Julian Okwara, Charles Harris and first- and second-round picks Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal. That said, the Lions are adding another edge rusher to the equation. Rookie UDFA Demetrius Taylor is going to play defensive end in his debut this week, Birkett notes. Signed as a UDFA defensive tackle, Taylor will shift to a big D-end role as the Lions attempt to pick up the pieces on defense. This will likely lead to Hutchinson, who had previously played the team’s “big end” spot, rushing from around the formation, per Birkett. Taylor saw some time at D-end at Appalachian State.
  • It will not be second-round pick Nik Bonitto getting the call to replace Randy Gregory; Baron Browning will play that role for the Broncos beginning Thursday night, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. This will be an interesting stretch for Browning, whom the Broncos used as an inside linebacker during his 2021 rookie season. The third-round pick moved to the outside this offseason, helping lead to the late-August Malik Reed trade, and has impressed the coaching staff. Bonitto, who began the season as a healthy scratch despite being Denver’s top 2022 draftee, will see more time as a rotational cog behind Browning and Bradley Chubb.
  • The Seahawks will give second-rounder Boye Mafe more playing time, Pete Carroll said this week. This will be interesting considering the rookie logged a season-high 32 defensive snaps against the Lions. Mafe, who has one sack thus far this season, registered 10 in his final college campaign.

Pass Rusher Jason Pierre-Paul To Make Ravens Debut

Jason Pierre-Paul is “definitely” ready to debut for the third NFL team of his career, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. Pierre-Paul signed with the Ravens a little over a week ago after his second visit with the team this year. His presence has become a necessity as Baltimore, once again, finds itself getting bitten hard by the injury bug. 

Pierre-Paul surely saw his best years come with the Giants, during the first eight seasons of his career, when he tallied 58.5 sacks and 87.0 tackles for loss in New York. Not only could he wreak havoc in the backfield, but Pierre-Paul had a nose for the football, as well, forcing seven fumbles and returning both his interceptions in a Giants uniform for touchdowns.

As an esteemed veteran, he signed with the Buccaneers at 29-years-old. He became an immediate contributor and, in his first three seasons in Tampa Bay, recorded 30.5 sacks and 32.0 tackles for loss. Pierre-Paul even earned a Pro Bowl bid in his third season with the team.

Last year, though, Pierre-Paul saw his production plummet. He finished 2021 with the second-fewest sacks of his career (2.5) and the fewest tackles for loss of his career (5.0). Pierre-Paul attributes the downturn in production to injuries to his shoulder. He reportedly tore his rotator cuff, biceps, and “a small muscle in his upper back” last year, limiting him for all but the first three weeks of the season.

“I basically got a whole new shoulder. I feel way totally better,” Pierre-Paul explained. “I did what I could do for the team, but not having two shoulders is a big thing. Can’t push, can’t grab, can’t snatch. But I can do all of that now.”

The Ravens are counting on it. Three Ravens outside linebackers already sit on injured reserve and second-round rookie pass rusher David Ojabo remains on the reserve/non-football injury list. With Justin Houston listed as doubtful going into the Bills game, according to Hensley, after suffering a groin injury in last weekend’s win over the Patriots, Baltimore was left with only second-year pass rusher Odafe Oweh to rush the quarterback. Enter Pierre-Paul, who will join Oweh as the only healthy outside linebackers on the roster.

The Ravens have plenty of experience finding pressure from other positions, as they blitz more than any other team in the NFL, but if Pierre-Paul can return to anywhere near his normal form at 33-years-old, the Ravens should have a formidable pass-rushing duo to corral Bills quarterback Josh Allen this Sunday at noon.

Latest On Ravens’ Pass Rushing Situation

The Ravens signed veteran edge defender Jason Pierre-Paul earlier this week, and that transaction was consummated in order to offer an immediate boost to the team’s pass rushing contingent. It does not necessarily mean that anything has changed with respect to the prognoses of Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo.

Per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, Baltimore is hopeful that Bowser will be on the field shortly after he is eligible to return from the PUP list (Twitter link). Bowser, who signed a four-year, $22MM contract in March 2021, rewarded the Ravens’ faith in him with a season in which he started all 17 games and registered career-highs in total tackles (59), sacks (seven), tackles for loss (eight), quarterback hits (15), and forced fumbles (two). Unfortunately, he suffered an Achilles tear in the 2021 finale and was placed on the reserve/PUP list in August, thereby guaranteeing that he would miss at least the first four games of the 2022 season.

Bowser does not necessarily excel in any one area, but he is useful against the run, in coverage, and as a pass rusher. His absence became even more significant when the Ravens lost Steven Means to an Achilles tear of his own last week, and Zrebiec’s report suggests that Bowser’s recovery is progressing more or less as expected.

Ojabo, meanwhile, was a first-round talent who fell to the second round of the 2022 draft due to (what else?) an Achilles tear during his Pro Day. GM Eric DeCosta chose to play the long game when he selected Ojabo, who was always expected to miss most, if not all, of his first season in the NFL. Per Zrebiec, the Ravens remain optimistic that the Michigan product can return in the second half of the season.

The Bowser injury and the dearth of proven pass rush talent on the roster meant that many free agent and collegiate edge defenders were connected to the Ravens this offseason (including Pierre-Paul, who first visited the team back in June). However, aside from the Ojabo selection and signing players like Means and Vince Biegel — who, almost predictably, tore his Achilles this summer — Baltimore did very little of note to address its needs in that regard.

The club did bring back Justin Houston, and it should be noted that the tragic death of Jaylon Ferguson also played a role in the team’s current lack of edge depth. The hope is that 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh, Houston, and Pierre-Paul can hold down the fort until Bowser and Ojabo are ready to return, though Oweh has been mostly invisible during the first two games of the season. There is plenty of time for him to get on track, but Baltimore was clearly relying on a second-year breakout from him, and he has yet to show signs of such an emergence.

Luckily, Pierre-Paul will not need much of a ramp-up period, as Zrebeic tweets. JPP will not be on the field for Sunday’s matchup with the Patriots, but he is in line to make his Baltimore debut during the club’s Week 4 contest against the Bills.

Ravens To Sign Jason Pierre-Paul

Jason Pierre-Paul‘s second Ravens visit this year will end up producing a deal. The veteran edge rusher told CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson he is signing with the team (Twitter link). It is a one-year deal worth up to $5.5MM for JPP, according to ProFootballNetwork.com’s Aaron Wilson and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

The 12-year veteran was at the team’s facility Tuesday but did not sign. While this seemed to repeat the pattern from earlier this year, when JPP visited the Ravens in June but left without a contract, the AFC North team is not letting the accomplished defender leave this time. Pierre-Paul, 33, will join a Ravens team in need at outside linebacker. The Ravens had been in contact with Pierre-Paul for months, per Rapoport.

This position group is shorthanded because of both tragedy and injuries. Jaylon Ferguson‘s death in June rocked the organization. The team had bigger plans for Ferguson this year. Tyus Bowser and second-round pick David Ojabo are coming off Achilles injuries, setbacks that landed them on different Ravens unavailability lists to start the season. Neither Ojabo (IR) nor Bowser (reserve/PUP) can return until Week 5. Ojabo, who suffered his Achilles tear while preparing for the draft in March, will likely need more recovery time than Bowser, who sustained his tear in January. The Ravens also just placed Steven Means on IR after his season-ending Achilles tear.

Pierre-Paul, who is joining Baltimore’s active roster, could certainly help the team. Baltimore is down to two outside linebackers on its 53-man roster — Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston, the latter being re-signed in the wake of Ferguson’s death. As veteran edge players steadily came off the free agency board this summer (from Houston to Melvin Ingram to Carlos Dunlap to Trey Flowers), JPP remained unsigned. But he will likely soon suit up for a third NFL team.

The 6-foot-5 sack artist spent the past four seasons with the Buccaneers, playing a significant role in their Super Bowl LV championship. JPP sacked Aaron Rodgers twice in the 2020 NFC championship game, with the Bucs upsetting the David Bakhtiari-less Packers en route to their second Super Bowl. Pierre-Paul, who made his third Pro Bowl in 2020, teamed with Shaq Barrett combined to pressure Patrick Mahomes throughout that hometown victory.

Although JPP (91.5 career sacks) did not finish his Tampa tenure well, recording just 2.5 sacks and five QB hits in 12 games, the Ravens will hope that is a blip rather than an indication the former first-round pick can no longer contribute. JPP will almost certainly be ticketed for a rotational role, as opposed to the starting gigs he had held for the past 11 years. A Giants backup as a rookie, Pierre-Paul broke through with a monster 2011 season — one that did plenty to key the Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI win — and has seven seasons with at least seven sacks.

Pierre-Paul underwent shoulder surgery this offseason, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes that led to the lengthy free agency stay (Twitter link). But surgeries have not exactly derailed him in the past. He completed comebacks from the 2015 fireworks accident and a fractured vertebra sustained in a 2019 car accident, leading to a 2020 Bucs re-signing. A 2020 knee operation commenced after that deal. His Ravens contract does not come close to the two-year, $25MM accord he signed in 2020, but this agreement will allow for a 13th NFL season.

Ravens Meet With OLB Jason Pierre-Paul

5:58pm: As was the case when the Ravens met with Pierre-Paul in June, he left his morning workout without an agreement. Pierre-Paul did describe the interest as mutual, according to CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson (on Twitter). Multiple other teams have shown interest as well, per JPP.

1:01pm: More than three months after initially visiting the Ravens, Jason Pierre-Paul is back on the team’s radar. The 12-year veteran is at the team’s facility Tuesday, per NFL insider Jordan Schultz (on Twitter).

One of the top players available on an obviously diminished free agent market by this point, JPP, 33, could be of use for a Ravens team that is only rostering two outside linebackers presently. Baltimore already turned to one veteran edge this offseason, re-signing Justin Houston after placing a UFA tender on him. Another could be on the way. For the next two weeks, at least, help is needed.

The team lost edge player Steven Means to a Week 2 Achilles tear and has multiple outside linebackers on injury lists. Second-round pick David Ojabo is on IR. The Michigan product is not a lock to debut when first eligible, given that he suffered an Achilles tear during a pre-draft workout. The team also has Tyus Bowser, who sustained an Achilles tear in January, on its reserve/PUP list. Neither Ojabo nor Bowser are eligible to play until Week 5.

A critical part of the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl LV-winning formula, Pierre-Paul has racked up 91.5 career sacks while bouncing back from multiple major injuries. He registered 9.5 sacks for the Bucs’ championship team two seasons ago, adding two more in a playoff slate that ended with he and Shaquil Barrett applying consistent pressure to Patrick Mahomes.

But JPP’s numbers cratered in 2021. The former Giants All-Pro totaled just 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits in 12 games, limiting his 2022 market. An early-offseason shoulder surgery also likely affected Pierre-Paul’s free agency appeal. The Cowboys had him on their radar in March but turned to the draft (second-rounder Sam Williams) to round out their post-Randy Gregory plan.

The Ravens are down to Houston (two sacks) and Odafe Oweh for the time being and will need to make a depth-based move ahead of Week 3.

Latest On Ravens’ Edge Rush Pursuit

One of the position groups still surrounded by question marks for the Ravens is that of edge rusher. The team has been connected to a number of veterans this offseason, but little progress has been made lately on any noteworthy additions. 

Arguably the most logical move available is a reunion with Justin Houston. The 33-year-old spent last season with the team, starting all 15 contests he appeared in. He totalled 4.5 sacks and 17 QB hits, providing consistency to an otherwise inexperienced unit. The Ravens have yet to re-sign him, but they placed the rarely-used UFA tender on him. That leaves Houston free to sign with another team until July 22, at which point Baltimore will hold exclusive negotiating rights; a deal on the tender would pay him slightly more than the $2.1MM he made in 2021.

As that deadline approaches, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes that the situation between the two sides remains “in a holding pattern” (subscription required). That could lead to a further opportunity for fellow veteran Jason Pierre-Paul to be brought into the fold. The two-time Super Bowl winner visited the Ravens last month, as he looks to join a contender on the open market once again. He had a down season in 2021 with only 2.5 sacks, but is one year removed from his third Pro Bowl campaign.

At present, the Ravens are led in the pass-rush department by Tyus Bowser, whose Week 1 availability remains in doubt due to the torn Achilles he suffered at the end of last season. The same injury will delay second round rookie David Ojabo‘s NFL debut for a significant period of time. That leaves 2021 draftees Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes in line for sizeable roles, with recent signing Steven Means available as depth.

With the aforementioned injury concerns, as well as, unfortunately, a roster spot open after the death of Jaylon Ferguson, Zrebiec “wouldn’t rule out” the possibility of both Houston and Pierre-Paul playing in Baltimore this season. The team is severely lacking in cap space right now, so adding both would be difficult from a financial standpoint; however, the signing of one could be the move most likely to happen between now and training camp.

Packers Eyeing Veteran Edge Addition?

The Packers have made a number of changes to their edge rush group this offseason, but another addition may be in the cards. The team “might be looking for upgrades” at the position, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky

Green Bay lost Za’Darius Smith in free agency to the Ravens, it appeared at first, but he ultimately signed with the Vikings. With the two-time Pro Bowler gone, it became increasingly important that the Packers had re-signed fellow veteran pass rusher Preston Smith at the onset of free agency.

The latter is set to maintain his starting role in 2022. He will be paired with 2019 first-rounder Rashan Gary, who took a significant step forward last season. While that tandem should be in line to replicate their playing time and production from 2021, depth has been a talking point throughout the offseason.

To little surprise, Green Bay added Kingsley Enagbare in the fifth round of the draft to help address that need. The South Carolina product never had more than six sacks in a single college season, but he is listed in Demovsky’s projected depth chart as the No. 3 edge rusher on the roster. Another name included is that of Randy Ramsey, who played almost exclusively on special teams in 2020 as a rookie, and missed the entire 2021 campaign due to an ankle injury.

With very little experience behind Smith and Gary, a veteran signing would make plenty of sense. Some of the top free agents still available include Jason Pierre-PaulTrey Flowers and, depending on the outcome regarding his UFA tenderJustin Houston. Green Bay currently ranks in the top-10 in the league in cap space, so a short-term, low-cost addition would also be financially feasible. Whether they choose to make one in the coming days or weeks could be one of the most important roster decisions still facing the team.

Jason Pierre-Paul Visits Ravens

Free agent pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul is still available and looking for his next NFL home. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Pierre-Paul took another step toward that goal today, taking a visit to Baltimore. 

Pierre-Paul, 33, spent the first eight years of his career in New York, after the Giants selected him with their first pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. He saw early success with the Giants, being named a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler in his second NFL season after finishing second in the league in tackles for loss (23.0) and fourth in the league in sacks (16.5).

In 2018, New York traded Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers in exchange for a third-round pick and a swap of fourth-round picks. He immediately outplayed his trade capital, leading the team in sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (16.0) during his first year in Tampa Bay.

Over the course of a 12-year career, Pierre-Paul has totaled 91.5 sacks and 122.0 tackles for loss. He’s had his share of injuries throughout his career. Some were natural football-injuries that required surgery, but, twice, Pierre-Paul experienced substantial injuries outside of football that nearly cost him his career. His most recent season saw him miss time due to a torn rotator cuff that he called “the worst injury of his career,” according to Luke Easterling of USA Today.

Baltimore is certainly in the market for a veteran pass rusher. The Ravens return Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh at the top of their depth chart, with the former working to come back from a torn Achilles injury suffered in Week 18 of last season. They’ve seen limited results out of three-year pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson and 2021 fifth-round pick Daelin Hayes only saw one game of action last season. The Ravens did draft Michigan’s David Ojabo in the second round of this year’s Draft, but a torn Achilles suffered during his pro day is likely to hold him out for much of his rookie season.

Enter: Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul has an extensive pass rushing resume to bring to Baltimore. While his recent injury may prevent him from being an immediate upgrade over Bowser or Oweh, his presence would give the Ravens some much-needed depth in their pass-rushing rotation.

Ravens Seeking Veteran Edge Rush Addition?

This time of the offseason is rife with teams looking to round out their depth charts with available veterans who can help fill remaining roster holes. In the case of the Ravens, that could lead them to be players on the edge rusher market. 

[RELATED: Ravens Eyeing Veteran WRs?]

Jeff Zrebiec of the Athletic (subscription required) writes that Baltimore will “likely still sign a free agent pass rusher”. The team has already added a number of notable players on defense recently, including veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller. Their front seven could stand to be bolstered further, though.

The Ravens currently have Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh at the top of their depth chart at the outside linebacker position. The former stepped into a larger role after the departures of Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue last offseason, and responded by putting up career highs in sacks (seven) and tackles (59). However, he suffered a torn Achilles in the season finale, putting his Week 1 availability in question.

That would place an even heavier burden on Oweh, who flashed potential with a five-sack rookie campaign, and the team’s other young options at the position, Jaylon FergusonDaelin Hayes and, potentially at some point this season, David Ojabo. As a result, it came as little surprise when general manager Eric DeCosta said in April that the team wasn’t finished making additions in the edge department. However, the team didn’t select a pass rusher in the draft other than the injured Ojabo, leaving the June free agent market as the last realistic avenue to add to the unit.

With respect to veterans, the likeliest move could be a reunion with Justin Houston. The Ravens placed the rarely-used UFA tender on the 33-year-old last month, pointing to another low-cost, one-year deal being possible in the near future. The longtime Chief totalled 4.5 sacks in 15 games, providing an experienced presence to an otherwise young unit. If not Houston, other options for the Ravens to target include Trey Flowers and Jason Pierre-Paul. By training camp, the team could very well have signed one of those three, or another edge rusher, to add depth to a position group facing a number of questions.

NFC Rumors: Cowboys, Falcons, Saints, Trask

Going into the 2022 offseason, the Cowboys knew that they needed to bolster their defensive line. Early reports rumored that Dallas had interest in adding a former rival in Jason Pierre-Paul, who spent eight years as a Giant before going to Tampa Bay.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Cowboys’ interest in Pierre-Paul seems to be waning, as Dallas believes they have “at least six capable edge rushers.” In the offseason, they added Dante Fowler through free agency and drafted Sam Williams out of Ole Miss last month. They’ll find themselves in the pass rushing rotation with the likes of Dorance Armstrong, Tarell Basham, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Chauncey Golston.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC, starting with a few more rumors from Jeremy Fowler’s article:

  • Atlanta selected Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round, over every quarterback in the Draft, besides Kenny Pickett who was the only passer off the board at that point. Fowler reports that Ridder’s biggest competition for the pick was Liberty’s Malik Willis, but the Falcons felt that Willis lacked the signature moments at Liberty, even though he had incredible talent. Ridder, on the other hand, had a more complete body of work, in their opinion. It didn’t hurt that Ridder reportedly came to interviews with a plan on how to unseat a veteran starting quarterback wherever he landed.
  • Another team that was long rumored to be looking at quarterbacks in the Draft, New Orleans instead drafted wide receiver Chris Olave with their first round pick. According to Fowler, the Saints had no plans to draft a quarterback. They had Olave in their sights and, upon seeing Drake London and Garrett Wilson come off the board at Nos. 8 and 10 overall, they knew they needed to make a move to ensure Olave would be available. New Orleans apparently did an outstanding job of keeping their plans a complete mystery to the rest of the NFL.
  • With Tom Brady coming out of retirement to quarterback the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay has been evaluating their backup quarterback position. According to Greg Auman of The Athletic, Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen doesn’t see Kyle Trask competing with Blaine Gabbert for the backup job. This shouldn’t put Trask’s roster spot in jeopardy, though. Gabbert is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, but the plan for Trask was always for a post-Brady team. Tampa Bay is happy with Trask’s progress so far and will likely keep developing the 24-year-old for the future.