The Baltimore Ravens finished the 2022 season with a heartbreaking loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Round. With the Ravens now looking to improve for the 2023 season, it seems a good time to look at what positional needs the team has.
Note: this list is built on the assumption the team retains Lamar Jackson for at least one more season.
7 Baltimore Ravens Team Needs, Ranked
Tier 1: Must Address
1. Wide Receiver
It is perhaps the NFL’s worst-kept secret that Baltimore is in desperate need of quality wide receivers. The team has struggled with receiver talent for as long as Jackson has been their quarterback. This was exacerbated by the fact that GM Eric DeCosta traded away Marquise Brown in 2021 without any adequate replacement lined up. With injuries to Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, the team was forced to field a starting three of Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and James Proche in the playoffs. With a new offensive coordinator on the way, the Ravens will likely revise their wide receiver usage and place more importance on the position.
The Ravens should look to acquire a high-end receiver this offseason. The free agent pool of receivers is weak, but the team could take a flyer on Odell Beckham Jr., a player they were interested in during the season. The team could also look to trade for a top receiver, such as Brandin Cooks or DeAndre Hopkins. The 2023 NFL Draft also boasts some enticing receiver prospects with late-first-round talent. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, and Quentin Johnston could all be names to watch.
I'm really starting to dig picking Jordan Addison at 22. Even though he's 6'0'' that dude is gritty as hell. Insane after catch skills, ain't afraid of taking a tackle and yet has a lot of explosiveness. Great option for deep throws and also screen passes at the LOS. pic.twitter.com/NBW8WilxQV
— Pedro H. Rhormes (@rhormes_) February 1, 2023
In fairness to the Ravens, they have a very solid starting cornerback tandem, but every team needs more cornerbacks in today’s pass-happy age. They also had a very deep cornerback room entering 2022. All-Pro Marlon Humphrey was quietly one of the league’s best shutdown corners all year. While Marcus Peters hits free agency this year, the Ravens should look to re-sign him. The team went into the season with Kyle Fuller as their starting slot corner. However, he suffered a season-ending injury early on. It left the team in a tough position trying to replace him. The team largely used Kyle Hamilton in the slot at the end of the season. However, to get the most out of him, he needs to be more ‘positionless’.
To improve their defense even more, the Ravens ought to find a long-term solution at slot cornerback. Fuller hits free agency this year. Depending on his recovery, the team could give him another go. Another option is to bank on Damarion Williams, who impressed in camp. He has the right build and physicality to work the slot effectively. Should the Ravens want an upgrade at slot, they need to look in the first or second round of the draft. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Clark Phillips III would be good selections. Eli Ricks would also be an interesting pick given Baltimore’s affinity with Alabama.
Tier 2: Could Upgrade and Deepen
On the assumption that the Ravens will be able to get more out of Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo, the team will only need to find some rotational pieces at edge. Justin Houston was very effective in limited snaps and Jason Pierre-Paul was also a good signing. However, the team will want to get some more starting quality depth that can compete with Oweh for the starting role. If Oweh and Ojabo do not show much improvement, the team will need to reassess their options for the 2024 season.
Former Michigan EDGE David Ojabo has returned from his Achilles injury and just got his first NFL sack. pic.twitter.com/PwSk4krH8r
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) January 8, 2023
4. Offensive Guard
Kevin Zeitler was a massive snub for the Pro Bowl yet again. He was arguably Baltimore’s best offensive lineman, alongside rookie Tyler Linderbaum. However, the team faces a dilemma with their other interior spot. Ben Powers hits free agency this year and so the team must either re-sign him or roll with Ben Cleveland and find some depth. Cleveland, a former third-round pick, was highly rated when he was drafted. It remains to be seen whether the team would prefer Cleveland or Powers for the 2023 season.
Tier 3: Backup Depth Required
5. Interior Defensive Line
The Ravens run defense was significantly bolstered by the trade for Roquan Smith. However, even before, it was solid. A breakout season from Justin Madubuike as well as good performances from Travis Jones, Calais Campbell, and Broderick Washington meant that Baltimore boasted some of the best defensive line play in the NFL. Campbell has an out option in his contract this offseason. Letting him walk would save a lot of cap but both he and the team seem keen to keep him around. The likeliest solution is that the 36-year-old restructures his contract.
Even if Campbell stays, the team should look for some reinforcements in case of injury. Jones and Michael Pierce are very solid nose tackle options, but the team could look to develop some depth while Campbell sticks around. A late-round pick or cheap, young free agent makes most sense.
6. Running Back
Gus Edwards is a potential cut candidate this year. Given J.K. Dobbins’ eagerness to take on a featured role, Edwads’ exit would make sense from a cap perspective. Both Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill are also impending free agents. As such, the team could undergo a small makeover of their running back room. Given the injuries that this position group suffered over the last year, it would be wise for the Ravens to draft a late-round running back with low mileage. Kenny McIntosh would be an intriguing pick, as would Mohamed Ibrahim. Depending on who they re-sign (if anyone), the team could also dip into free agency for a more experienced back too.
Alright Kenny McIntosh, more than just a pass catcher, doing work in the pass protection drills well in Mobile pic.twitter.com/nXWPpiO1Vt
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023
For the time being, this Ravens team needs a backup, not a starter. While the broad assumption is that Jackson will either be extended or tagged for the 2023 season (at the very least), the team still faces a dilemma at quarterback this offseason. Tyler Huntley is set to become a free agent. While he has been an adequate backup the last few years, his stock seems as high as ever given his surprising Pro Bowl selection.
The team should move on from Huntley if his asking price is too high. A late-round quarterback with mobility in the draft could make sense. A field general from free agency would also be a smart choice. It largely depends on how John Harbaugh and the new offensive coordinator want to build their quarterback room. Will they keep three quarterbacks on the matchday squad? Or will they gamble with two? More questions need to be answered before knowing how the Ravens will approach their backup quarterback situation this year.
Main Photo: Brian Fluharty – USA Today Sports