The Baltimore Ravens entered the 2022 free agency period with a large number of needs. However, a lot has changed, especially in the AFC, since the NFL’s legal tampering period began last Monday. Multiple starting quarterbacks have found new homes and a number of teams that will be competing with the Ravens for the AFC crown have made key acquisitions via trades and free agency.
While Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta did not make the biggest splash amongst the AFC contenders, the Ravens spent their fair share of money. Baltimore is mainly known for its budget spending during the NFL off-season. Instead, DeCosta came out swinging early and often. To this point, the Ravens have spent $112.75 on new signings and retaining their own players. They also still have roughly $10 million in cap space available per Over the Cap.
DeCosta and the Ravens are typically louder during the draft than free agency but the four marquee free agents Baltimore has signed so far in 2022 look to be huge parts of their team next season. With the AFC becoming a gauntlet, the Ravens have not backed down and are keeping up with the elevated competition level. These are the free agency grades for each of the Baltimore Ravens first week free agent signings.
Baltimore Ravens Free Agency Grades 2022
Marcus Williams (Safety) – Five-year(s)/$70 million
The 2022 NFL off-season has been crazy for the better part of two weeks. However, one day into the legal tampering period, the Ravens were yet to add a player. Prior to the start of free agency, the team released Tavon Young, and Alejandro Villanueva elected to retire at 33 years old — setting the table for the Ravens to make a splash when they felt right.
That splash came in the form of signing former-New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams to a five-year(s)/$70 million contract. Williams is perhaps best known for a rookie gaff, but he has become one of the best safeties in the NFL over the past five seasons. Since 2017, Williams has not received an overall grade of lower than 74.0 by Pro Football Focus and has the highest ball hawk rate (pass defense or interception) per target according to Next Gen Stats. He also recorded career-highs in completion percentage, yards per target, and passer rating when targetted in 2021. Williams has played and started in all but five of the Saints’ past 81 games.
Hey @Ravens fans.
— NFL (@NFL) March 15, 2022
Baltimore went into the off-season set to lose DeShon Elliott and has come out with a significant upgrade. While Elliott was an impact player when on the field, he managed just 22 starts over four years with the Ravens. Baltimore has been a home for safeties to flourish since the days of Ed Reed, and Williams could pick up right where Earl Thomas and Eric Weddle left off.
The Ravens ranked dead-last in the NFL in pass defense last season and Williams will more than likely help them significantly improve not only in 2022 but over the next half-decade.
Morgan Moses (Tackle) – Three-year(s)/15 million
While Villanueva entered 2021 as the Ravens projected starting right tackle, Ronnie Stanley’s failure to recover from a knee injury meant the former-Pittsburgh Steeler would be moving to the left side in his first year in Baltimore. Villanueva registered an overall PFF grade of 65.2 but faced consistency issues throughout the season. He committed a career-high 10 penalties and surrendered nine sacks over the 17 game season.
Assuming Stanley is back and healthy in 2022, Moses will now try and stabilize the Ravens right tackle spot. He is one of the NFL’s most consistent run blockers and is still just 31 years old. However, the biggest selling point on Moses has to be his contract. Right tackles may not be as highly valued as left tackles but Moses’s average annual value of $5 million per year ranks just the 12th-highest in the NFL.
The Ravens signed OT Morgan Moses to a three-year, $15M deal per @jeffzrebiec.
😈 83.8 run-blocking grade since 2020 (12th among OTs)
😈 PFF’s #4 free agent OT
— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) March 16, 2022
The Ravens saw seven different players take a snap at tackle in 2021 and are hoping Moses can help them find stability. Orlando Brown Jr. played 2,893 consecutive snaps over three seasons in Baltimore and Moses brings a similar record of durability. His iron man streak of 113 games extends over two teams and seven seasons.
Moses may not have been the splash signing that Williams was but after the Ravens slew of injuries in 2021, the ability to stay consistent and healthy can not be understated going into 2022.
Michael Pierce (Defensive Tackle) – Three-year(s)/$16.5 million
The Raven’s defensive line has been influx over the past three seasons. Following the 2019 season, DeCosta poured multiple resources into a complete facelift of the unit. Out was Pierce and in were veterans Derek Wolfe, Calais Campbell, and rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington. Now, it looks like the Ravens are turning to a familiar face to keep their top-ranked run defense strong despite losing a couple of prolific veterans.
While the Ravens failed to complete a reunion with pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, Pierce will now be returning for his second stint in Baltimore. He has never been a sexy defensive tackle but Pierce does one thing very well: run defend. The 6’0″ 340 lbs nose tackle has clocked in four seasons with a PFF grade of 78.5 or higher since 2016 and should fill the early-down role that Brandon Williams will vacate after nine years with the Ravens.
Michael Pierce was a disappointment in Minnesota, but there was a lot to like about his 2021.
When healthy, he graded out as one of the NFL's best interior defenders, per @PFF. Ravens had to like his career-high three sacks in eight games, too.https://t.co/leF9I188wT pic.twitter.com/TWLIiv01x1
— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) March 17, 2022
Adding a run stopper like Pierce probably isn’t going to drastically improve the Ravens from season to season. However, it adds an element of familiarity to a defensive line that struggled to find an identity throughout the 2021 season. Injuries to each Wolfe, Williams, and Campbell put a lot of pressure on Madibuike and Washington to break out in a time of desperation. Now with Pierce and a hopefully healthy Wolfe, the Ravens should once again have multiple reliable early-down linemen.
Patrick Ricard (Fullback) – Three-year(s)/$11.25 million
The fullback is a position that has slowly been fazed out of most NFL offenses. Only 11 fullbacks have an AAV over $1 million per season. However, few teams utilize their fullbacks in the same way the Ravens do. From Vonte Leach to Kyle Juszczyk, Baltimore has a prolific history of developing and using their fullbacks. Ricard will now be relied upon to continue that tradition.
Patrick Ricard is back in Baltimore pic.twitter.com/FlTFebMJNZ
— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) March 21, 2022
The Ravens made Ricard the second-highest-paid fullback in the NFL; signing him to a yearly salary of $3.75 million per year. Since being signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2017, he has turned into debatably the best fullback in the NFL and made three consecutive Pro Bowls over the past three seasons. Ricard handled only 10 touches for 67 yards in 2021 but was perhaps most valuable in the passing game to quarterback Lamar Jackson. “With Ricard-reliant formations: (Jackson had) 9.7 yards per attempt, 101.4 rating, 3.4% sack rate…Without: 7.1 YPA, 91.6 rating, 10.4% sack rate” Jonas Schafer tweeted.
It’s hard to quantify Ricard’s value to any team outside of Baltimore but the Ravens have never been afraid of retaining players that are valuable to their style of offense. Nick Boyle signed a three-year(s)/$18 million contract in 2019 due to his prowess as a run-blocking tight end. He had not even caught an NFL touchdown prior to signing his deal. Ricard will play a pivotal role in the Ravens offense for as long as they retain Greg Roman as their offensive coordinator.
Overall Ravens Free Agency 2022 Grade: B
The 2022 Ravens have once again done what they’ve done so many times before. Whether it’s DeCosta or former general manager Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore rarely spends recklessly in free agency. The Ravens remain close to the cap ceiling but made a number of key signings as opposed to multiple expensive long-term deals. Signing Marcus Williams was by far the Ravens biggest move but perhaps most importantly DeCosta inked three players to lower-value contracts that will prevent the Ravens from regressing.
The one glaring omission from Baltimore’s start to the 0ff-season is a starting center. Most of the prolific starting centers are off of the free agency market and Baltimore’s 2021 starting center Bradley Bozeman recently signed a one-year deal worth just $2.8 million with the Carolina Panthers. While it would be surprising to see the Ravens begin 2022 with Patrick Mekari and Trystan Colon-Castillo as the only centers on their roster, the options on the open market are dwindling by the day.
The off-season is not over in Baltimore but it is off to a strong start.
Embed from Getty Images