Free agency is always a crazy time in the NFL and is an important stage for every team in order to build their roster. The Ravens, coming off a 14-2 season and a loss in the divisional round to the Titans did not have a lot of weaknesses on their roster, but they needed to improve at a couple of positions, most notably in the front 7, which is exactly what they did.
The Ravens made a couple of minor moves, bringing back Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward, who were both added in the middle of last season. I don’t mind either of these moves, they bring back guys that can step in and play at a replacement level if needed to but neither should make big impacts on a week to week basis.
The Ravens also placed the franchise tag on edge rusher Matthew Judon. Judon is worthy of the money he is getting in the tag, which is 15.8 mil as the pass rusher market has been getting expensive, with players like Yannick Ngakoue and Jadaveon Clowney asking for over 20 mil a year. Judon totaled 63 pressures and 10 sacks as Baltimores #1 pass rusher this past season, both more than what Ngakoue and Clowney put up, and is a very versatile player who is excellent against the run and dropped back in coverage frequently, so it makes sense that Baltimore would want to take this deal. However, 56% of his pressures were cleanup pressures or unblocked, which is an extremely high rate. His ProFootballFocus 1 on 1 block grade was also very poor, so while his stats do look good, they can be misleading, and have led many Ravens fans, including me to want to tag and trade him similar to what Miami did with Jarvis Landry. After the tampering period, the Ravens have yet to trade the former 5th round pick, but rumors have swirled around regarding a trade with the Seahawks involved so I would be surprised to see him go.
Possibly the biggest move the Ravens made, was to trade for Jaguars defensive lineman, Calais Campbell in exchange for a 5th round pick. The Jaguars were in a difficult situation with the Nick Foles contract and had to dump cap space, and the Ravens were willing to give up little compensation to bring in the Pro Bowler and 26th ranked player from 2019 per ProFootballFocus. Campbell put up a 90.3 total grade and also won PFFs “Run Defender of the Year” award in 2019. Campbell also put up 71 pressures which ranked top 5 in QB pressures in the NFL. Campbell, who will turn 34 next season, may not be as dominant as he once was in 2017, when the Jaguars had the leagues best defense and nearly took down Tom Brady in the AFC championship, he can still be a teams #1 pass rusher and be very valuable. I also think he fits in a 3-4 well and can play a versatile role for the Ravens defense. The Ravens will be paying him 13.5 mil a year for 2 years and he should be a very nice piece in the defense at a position of need.
Adding more help to the D line, Decosta signed Michael Brockers to a 3 year 30 million dollar contract. Brockers produced 36 pressures last season on the Rams on a line that included Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler. As a result of this, the Ravens let Michael Pierce walk and traded Chris Wormley in a package to move from a 7th round pick up to a 5th. The Ravens defensive line, which totaled 46 pressures last season, will now feature 122 pressures from the previous season. With Wink Martindale scheming up exotic blitzes and finding one on one matchups for these guys, the pass rush should be improved in 2020. In my opinion, I think we paid a little much for Brockers, but I do think he can be productive and be a nice versatile piece in the Ravens defense.
In the cornerback room, the Ravens declined Brandon Carr’s 2020 option, and resigned Jimmy Smith. Smith was a 1st round pick from 2011 and has been very good when he has been on the field, however he has been plagued by injuries and has played one full season since 2013. Carr has been the opposite as he has started 192 straight games and has been an iron man throughout his career. Smith and Carr are 31 and 33 years old respectively and both project as starting corners in the NFL. With Smith on a 1 year 6 million dollar contract, which I really like, the Ravens corner room looks very deep and star studded, with all pros Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, along with a returning Tavon Young in the slot.
The last move you guys should know about is the trade the Ravens made with the Falcons, with the Ravens sending tight end Hayden Hurst as well as a 4th rounder in exchange for a 2nd and 5th round pick. The Ravens tight end room, which included pro bowler Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, didn’t have the room to utilize Hayden Hurst, a former 1st round pick effectively. The Ravens will get a late 2nd in return, which isn’t terrible value, however it leaves 2 proven tight ends on the roster. The Ravens love using 13 personnel, using and rotating 3 tight ends, and there likely won’t be a tight end in the 2nd that is as good as Hurst, however, Hurst seemed like he was getting wasted, stuck in a crowded tight end room. The Ravens can use the 2nd round pick on a more valuable player and add another tight end potentially later.