Josh Jones (Houston)

Ravens Notes: Jackson, Bateman, OL, Tampa

Before veteran Eddie Jackson landed in Baltimore, the safety got a ringing endorsement from a Ravens defender. Linebacker Roquan Smith told reporters that he put in a good word to management about Jackson.

“Yes, I always tell the truth,” Smith said (via the team’s website). “I have great respect for Eddie [Jackson] and [I’ve] known Eddie since I came into the league. Like I said earlier, I think he’s a great asset for our team. [He’s] obviously been making plays in this league for a very long time, and with the pieces that we have here, and then with his talent, and having him in his role, I think it will go well for us.”

Jackson previously spent his entire seven-year career with the Bears, and he played more than four of those seasons alongside Smith. After starting all 100 of his appearances in Chicago, Jackson won’t be nearly as relied upon in Baltimore. The team is mostly looking for a replacement for Geno Stone, who often played with Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton in three-safety looks.

Smith also touched on the major shakeup on the sidelines. Inside linebackers coach Zach Orr replaced Mike Macdonald as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, and the star pass-rusher is optimistic that the new defensive play-caller will seamlessly replace the former defensive play-caller.

“I think are very similar that’s here, and I have a great deal of respect for Zach [Orr and] his mindset,” Smith said. “He’s been out there on the field, and believe it or not, obviously him and Mike [Macdonald] are two totally different people, and they’re unique in their own way, but through the headset, they actually sound the same. Every voice I’ve heard through a headset all sounds the same. I’m like, ‘Is that Mike or something?’ I told ‘Z.O.’ one day during OTAs, so it’s pretty funny. I’m excited for ‘Z.O.,’ for him to showcase what he’s able to do with the pieces that we have here and showcase it to the world. We’ve all been doubted before, [how] things may not be as good as this, that or the third, but the game gives us the opportunity to prove that. I have a great deal of respect for ‘Z.O.,’ and that he’ll prove it week-in and week-out, and it’s going to start here in training camp, preparing for the year.”

More notes out of Baltimore…

Ravens G Ben Cleveland Seeing Time At Tackle

We’ve covered the situation surrounding the Ravens’ offensive line position battles in depth already, but with three starting positions alongside center Tyler Linderbaum and left tackle Ronnie Stanley completely open for competition, the updates are sure to continue rolling in. Our most recent update highlights a disappointing development for a perceived favorite to take a starting job.

According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, three of the players competing for starting roles this offseason saw time at both guard and tackle during the team’s organized team activities. Daniel Faalele, newcomer Josh Jones, and Ben Cleveland are the three big men who have shuffled around on the line this spring.

Faalele is a massive human (listed at 6-foot-8, 380 pounds) who has one start in 32 game appearances over his first two years in the league. He has struggled to be effective as a backup tackle, sometimes filling in for the oft-injured Stanley. Moving Faalele inside could make an intimidating run defense even more formidable. Jones was brought in especially because of his versatility on the line, so his shuffling around is no surprise. If Jones doesn’t earn a starting job, he could be another valuable sixth man like the Ravens already have in Patrick Mekari.

Hearing that Cleveland is working outside of his natural guard position is not a great sign. A massive human in his own right (6-foot-6, 370 pounds), the former third-round pick out of Georgia has started seven of 37 game appearances in his three years with the Ravens but has never displayed a true starting ability.

While some viewed him as an early favorite to fill one of the open starting jobs at guard in 2024, Zrebiec now reports that Cleveland’s stock is trending down after he failed to get the first-team snaps that other candidates for the starting jobs got in OTAs. Seemingly falling behind Andrew Vorhees, Malaesala Aumavae-Laula, Jones, Mekari, and potentially even Faalele, Cleveland is now getting shifted out for looks at tackle.

Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, if Cleveland is going to make an impact, it’s now or never. If Cleveland can’t find a way to contribute in 2024, it’s going to be difficult to justify re-signing the former SEC standout. Decision-makers in Baltimore insist that Cleveland is still in the mix for the guard jobs, and perhaps they’re just trying different methods of motivation to pump Cleveland up for training camp, but trying him out at tackle sends an interesting message.

At tackle, Cleveland won’t likely be in contention for the starting job over second-round selection Roger Rosengarten out of Washington. Even if Rosengarten fails to earn the starting job, Mekari and Jones both have ample starting experience over Cleveland. Cleveland will need to utilize the next two and a half months to prove he’s worthy of not only a pivotal role this year but also a second contract in the future.

Latest On Ravens’ Offensive Line

The Ravens’ offensive line is set to look very different from the group that started throughout their 14-3 campaign last year. Baltimore was home to the league’s MVP winner and top rushing offense thanks in part due to the contributions of right tackle Morgan Moses (now with the Jets), right guard Kevin Zeitler (now with the Lions), and left guard John Simpson (also with the Jets). With the departures of Moses, Zeitler, and Simpson, the team needed to address three starting positions along the offensive front this offseason.

The Ravens will see a few familiar faces return to start in 2024. Tyler Linderbaum, who has excelled since being drafted in the first round in 2022, will return with two years and a fifth-year option remaining on his contract. He has been the top-billed center as advertised, grading in the top seven players at the position each year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Ronnie Stanley also returns at left tackle. The blindside blocker’s inability to stay on the field continued in 2023, though with marked improvement. Though he made 13 starts last year, he only played 100 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in four of those games, often subbing out to be replaced by swing tackle Patrick Mekari.

Mekari returns, as well, set to reprise his usual role as the sixth man on the offensive line. At this point in his career, the veteran Cal product has started games at every position along the offensive line, often grading out better than the players he replaces. Mekari’s value as an emergency starter at any position makes it hard to dedicate him to a single starting spot, but at the end of the day, Baltimore is going to want to start its five best linemen.

To fill the three starting positions vacated, the Ravens are looking internally at draft picks from the past four years. At right tackle, rookie second-round pick Roger Rosengarten is expected to start at some point this year, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN, a bit more certain of a prediction than we had previously received on the subject. The Washington product will compete for the job with 2022 fourth-round selection Daniel Faalele. Faalele has only seen one start in his two years of play, but thanks to the continuous injuries to veterans like Stanley and Moses, Faalele has gotten a good number of injury-relief snaps with the first-team offense.

The drafted players competing for the two guard spots are 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland and last year’s sixth- and seventh-round picks, respectively, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Andrew Vorhees. Cleveland has made starts in each year since getting drafted (seven starts total) but has failed to give Baltimore enough confidence to hand him the reins to the starting role. His starts have always come at the end of the season, usually when the team’s postseason fate has already been decided. In the team’s past two postseason appearances, Cleveland has failed to make a start despite staring the final games in each season.

Aumavae-Laulu and Vorhees are both interesting cases. Aumavae-Laulu was a finalist for the starting left guard job last offseason as a rookie, eventually losing out to Simpson. After not landing the gig, Aumavae-Laulu essentially served a redshirt season, failing to make an appearance in 2023. Vorhees joined Aumavae-Laulu in his redshirt season, recovering from an ACL tear suffered at the scouting combine last year. The USC product was widely viewed as a first- or second-round pick before the injury, allowing the Ravens to bookmark the seventh-rounder as an eventual candidate to start once healthy. Vorhees was also viewed as a candidate to start at right tackle before the draft, but with Rosengarten joining the locker room, Vorhees can likely focus on the interior.

There is at least one outside candidate vying for a starting role. Baltimore signed Josh Jones in free agency back in March as a potential competitor for a starting guard role. Jones has plenty of starting experience over his time with the Cardinals and Texans, starting 24 of 60 game appearances at both guard and tackle. Even if he can’t beat out Cleveland, Aumavae-Laulu, or Vorhees for a starting gig, he could join Mekari as one of two extremely versatile backups.

In the end, there is a lot to look forward to in offseason position battles. Linderbaum and Stanley seem fixed at their center and left tackle starting spots, respectively. Rosengarten should start at right tackle eventually, and if he’s not ready to start Week 1, Mekari, Faalele, Jones, or even Vorhees could man the spot in the meantime. The guard spots are mostly blind right now as the Ravens wait to see who develops into the roles best out of Cleveland, Aumavae-Laulu, Vorhees, and Jones. Expect it to be some combination of two of those four. And even if they fail to earn starting jobs, Mekari and Jones stand to represent two of the stronger backup options in the league and could fill in if any of the new starters falter early.

Regardless of who ends up where, the line is guaranteed to look extremely different in 2024. It will be up to offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, new assistant offensive line coach Travelle Wharton, and new run game coordinator Travis Switzer to make sure the line is as productive as last year’s unit. Having Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry in the backfield should do wonders in helping towards achieving that goal, as well.

OL Notes: Jets, Alt, Titans, Jones, Steelers, Shelton, Rams, Jones, Ravens, Giants, Hawks

Once the draft moves past its quarterback stage, wide receivers are expected to be the focus. This draft also features a few high-level tackle prospects that should go off the board soon after, potentially breaking up the QB-WR string that could lead off this year’s event. Arguably the top tackle available, Joe Alt, has begun his run of pre-draft visits. The Jets and Titans used “30” visits on the Notre Dame tackle this week,’s Ian Rapoport tweets. A first-team All-American in back-to-back years and the top tackle on Daniel Jeremiah’s big board (No. 8 overall), Alt should not need to wait long before his name comes off the board.

The Titans (No. 7) and Jets (No. 10) figure to be two prime suitors. The Jets are not as needy here compared to the start of free agency, having reacquired Morgan Moses via trade and signed Tyron Smith. The All-Decade blocker is among the NFL’s most injury-prone players, and with both Smith and Moses going into age-33 seasons, a tackle-in-waiting would benefit a Jets team that has encountered regular issues up front over the past several years. The Titans cut Andre Dillard and have not added a tackle, potentially making them the Alt floor. Though, the Chargers should not be entirely ruled out — now that Jim Harbaugh is running the show — of a first-round tackle investment to pair with Rashawn Slater.

Here is the latest from the O-line ranks around the league:

Ravens Sign OL Josh Jones

The 2024 offseason has seen three starters from the Ravens’ 2023 offensive line depart. Additions up front will thus be a priority for the team, and a move in that regard has been made.

Josh Jones has signed with Baltimore, the team announced on Thursday. The 26-year-old has seen time at both guard and tackle spots between his time in Arizona and Houston. That positional versatility could could lead to him seeing at least depth usage on the inside or outside with the Ravens.

A third-round pick in 2020, Jones made 47 appearances during his three-year Cardinals tenure. That stretch included 21 starts, most of which came in 2021 when he played primarily at right guard. Arizona then used him on the blindside the following year, and Jones drew strong PFF reviews. He earned a 75.8 grade on the back of strong play both in the run game and with respect to pass protection.

Jones was traded to the Texans last offseason as Houston aimed to find quality depth amidst multiple injuries up front. He wound up starting three games in 2023, splitting time at left tackle, left guard and right tackle. The Houston alum surrendered one sack and nine QB pressures in that limited action, which led to his PFF evaluation (49.3) landing in line with that of his first two seasons. This Ravens agreement will no doubt represent a short-term, low-cost investment as a result.

Still, Jones could find himself occupying a notable role in 2024. The Ravens have lost both starting guards from last season (Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson) to free agent departures; the team also traded away right tackle Morgan Moses in a cost-shedding move. None of those developments came as much of surprise, but they have added urgency to the need on Baltimore’s part to bring in replacements via free agency and next month’s draft.

Adding another blocker early in April will remain a priority even with Jones’ arrival. The latter will nevertheless likely have the chance to compete for the swing tackle role or playing time on the inside. At a minimum, Jones will be capable of serving as depth and a spot-starter at multiple positions up front. Considering the turnover Baltimore has experienced on the O-line, that could make this second-wave free agent addition an effective one.

OL Notes: Smith, Texans, Rams, Bears

The Cowboys are going with a “best five” configuration up front, shifting course months after Jerry Jones discussed a plan of keeping Tyler Smith at tackle. Smith is back at guard, but he may not be a lock to start the season on time. The second-year blocker suffered a hamstring strain, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Jones expects Smith to play in Week 1; the 2022 first-round pick did not miss a game last season. Dallas has lost its starting left guard in free agency in each of the past two offseasons, seeing Connor Williams and Connor McGovern defect to the AFC East.

One of the backup options, Josh Ball, is on IR. Ball is battling hip and groin pain, and the Morning News’ Michael Gehlken notes he is expected to miss around two months. A 2021 fourth-rounder, Ball is not expected to need surgery. The Cowboys kept eight O-linemen, with rookies Asim Richards and T.J. Bass joining Chuma Edoga as backups.

Here is the latest from NFL O-lines:

  • Texans right tackle Tytus Howard returned to practice earlier this week, working out with a cast on his injured left hand. While the fifth-year lineman is on the verge of returning, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes George Fant is expected to play in place of Howard in Week 1. Howard, who signed a Texans extension in July, underwent surgery to repair a broken hand in early August. Fant worked as a regular Jets starter — at left and right tackle — throughout the 2020 and ’21 seasons; injuries limited him to seven games last year.
  • Josh Jones filled in for D.J. Humphries as the Cardinals’ left tackle last season, but the recently traded blocker is back at guard. The Texans have Jones in place as their starting left guard going into the season, Wilson tweets. Jones is replacing 2022 first-rounder Kenyon Green, who is on season-ending IR. Jones spent the 2021 season as a primary Cardinals starting guard. The Texans will also be without center Juice Scruggs to start the season; the second-rounder is on short-term IR with a hamstring injury.
  • The Rams gave Joseph Noteboom a three-year, $40MM deal to replace Andrew Whitworth in 2022, but after another season-ending injury, Whitworth’s would-be heir apparent lost his job. The Rams are going with Alaric Jackson at left tackle, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, who adds Noteboom is back at guard (subscription required). Noteboom worked at guard early in his career and was mentioned as a guard option this offseason, but he had played on the outside since becoming Los Angeles’ swing tackle in 2020. The Rams also added Kevin Dotson from the Steelers, and while Dotson has started 30 career games (including 17 last year), Rodrigue adds the team views him as a depth piece. A former UDFA, Jackson started six games last season before becoming one of the many Ram blockers forced off the field due to health issues. Blood clots ended Jackson’s 2022 slate.
  • Previously set to shift back to center, Cody Whitehair is at guard to start his eighth Bears season. Teven Jenkins‘ injury will shift Whitehair to left guard and Lucas Patrick to center, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes. Recent trade acquisition Dan Feeney is in place as Chicago’s backup center. Jenkins is on IR to start the season. Whitehair spent the past four seasons at guard but began his career with three slates at center. Patrick has played both guard and center. The 2022 free agency addition was ticketed to start at center last season, but injuries limited the ex-Packer to seven games.

Rapoport’s Latest: Becton, Murray, RBs

Here is the latest on the upcoming virtual draft, courtesy of’s Ian Rapoport:

  • D’Andre Swift profiles as many teams’ top-graded running back, and some are viewing the No. 26-32 range as the sector where he could land or even multiple running backs could go (Twitter link). Holding the No. 26 pick, the Dolphins are perhaps the most notable running back-seeking team in that range. They have been the team most closely connected to backs thus far. The Seahawks, Ravens, Titans, Packers, 49ers and Chiefs pick behind them.
  • Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray may be one of the highest-floor players in the draft, with Rapoport noting (via Twitter) no team has come through with a black mark against him. This represents obvious good news after Murray suffered a hamstring injury at the Combine. Before the NFL nixed pre-draft workouts and visits, Murray was scheduled to meet with 15 teams. It’s likely he spoke to many via video chat. Scouts Inc. grades Murray as the draft’s No. 25 prospect.
  • On that note, mammoth tackle Mekhi Becton has generated the most excitement from scouts, per RapSheet. The Louisville blocker goes 6-foot-7, 364 pounds. While his frame reminds of Raiders right tackle Trent Brown, the latter was a fifth-round selection. Becton, who somehow ran a 5.1-second 40-yard dash at that size, may well land in the top 10 and probably has the highest ceiling of all the tackle prospects.
  • A less exciting player, but one that might be a safer pick: Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas. Teams are calling the ex-Bulldogs blocker the most overlooked player who will go the highest, per Rapoport. Thomas could wind up in the top five, with Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline noting he is the favorite to be the Dolphins’ pick if they surprise most by not going quarterback at No. 5.
  • After the top four tackles go off the board, there figures to be a gap until the next one is picked. Houston tackle Josh Jones may be the player with the highest variance, with teams viewing him anywhere from a first- to a third-round choice, Rapoport adds. Jones grades as Scouts Inc.’s No. 50 overall prospect and seventh-ranked tackle — also behind Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland and USC’s Austin Jackson.
  • Going into what’s viewed as a deep draft at wide receiver, at least one GM views it as a historically deep all-around class. Said GM placed first-round grades on more than 32 prospects for the first time in his tenure, RapSheet notes.