The Baltimore Ravens have some pressing contract decisions during the 2023 season and its ensuing off-season.
While the 2023 off-season will be heralded a success thanks to Lamar Jackson’s contract, Eric DeCosta’s work is far from over. The success of Jackson’s negotiation has overshadowed some other major, upcoming contract decisions.
5 Tough Baltimore Ravens Contract Decisions for 2023
1. J.K. Dobbins
The Ravens have a J.K. Dobbins problem currently. The star playmaker is after a pay rise, but it appears that Baltimore are reluctant at this moment.
Dobbins is another victim of the league’s devaluation of running backs. Dalvin Cook, Saquon Barkley and Jonathan Taylor have all recently been victim of this too.
When healthy, Dobbins can be a game-changing running back. He currently averages around six yards per carry over his career, which is elite efficiency given how run-heavy Baltimore’s offensive scheme is.
However, DeCosta has good reason t be cautious. It is true that the lifespan of running backs is very short. Given Dobbins’ injury history, this does not bode well.
It is also worth noting that the arrival of Todd Monken has already resulted in a slight change of guard. This year, DeCosta revamped Baltimore’s receiver group to align with Monken’s vision. Could Dobbins thus be shown the exit door if Monken views that the former Ohio State Buckeye is not a suitable fit for his system?
DeCosta has proved to have some unique contract priorities in recent seasons. Paying Dobbins would only further this reputation.
2. Justin Madubuike
National media do not realise how important Justin Madubuike is for the Ravens. The young defensive lineman managed six sacks last year and was graded at 63.6 by PFF.
While those numbers do not set the world alight, it is clear that Madubuike has a lot of room to grow. With the departure of Calais Campbell, Madubuike becomes a key player for the foreseeable future. His growth is paramount to Baltimore’s success on the defensive line.
Madubuike is due to hit free agency in 2024. However, many fans and beat writers believe that Baltimore should try to lock up Madubuike earlier rather than later. He is a valued member of the team whose lack of league-wide appreciation should mean that DeCosta can retain the 25-year-old on a cheap deal.
Justin Madubuike flying in as a free rusher after Aumavae-Laulu pulls and Linderbaum doesn’t get to Madubuike on a reach block (?)
— Kyle Phoenix Barber (@KylePBarber) July 29, 2023
3. Rashod Bateman
Since entering the league, Bateman has been nothing short of underwhelming. The 23-year-old receiver has just 800 yards and three touchdowns over two years.
Despite the lack of production, Bateman certainly passes the eye test. When he went down last season, the Ravens passing offense took a notable step back. He was the Ravens’ primary wideout and opened things up for other receivers, while also making some impressive plays himself.
The injuries remain a concern for Bateman. But can the talent surpass these concerns? Bateman’s fifth-year option will sit north of $13 million. If he hits the Pro Bowl, that number increases to $18 million. Both these figures seem steep for a player that has never surpassed 600 yards receiving in a year.
4. Odell Beckham Jr.
Part of whether Baltimore elect to hold onto Bateman could depend on what happens with Odell Beckham Jr.’s situation.
Should Beckham retire, the Ravens’ decision is made for them. However, if he wants to continue playing, will the Ravens be in a position to bring him back?
Part of this decision will come down to who performs better between Beckham and Bateman. But the core of this problem is that DeCosta can (and will) only keep one, if any.
5. Geno Stone
Like Madubuike, Geno Stone does not get his flowers enough. The 24-year-old safety was an effective player for Baltimore last year, hence why they re-signed him for another season.
In 2022, Stone stepped up when Marcus Williams went down. He played as a starting safety, opposite Chuck Clark. This allowed Mike Macdonald to utilize Kyle Hamilton in the slot, where he excelled.
It is unclear what the plan for Hamilton is this year. However, whatever happens, Stone will have a big part to play.
Given Stone’s familiarity with the system as well as his underrated playmaking ability, expect the Ravens to try to extend him on a short-term deal. As Stone is not a household name, DeCosta may wait until the next off-season to do this.
GENO STONE TAKES IT BACK 🔒 pic.twitter.com/KVKf72MbMy
— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) January 9, 2022
Other Baltimore Ravens Contract Decisions in 2023
While those are the five major Ravens contract decisions for 2023, there are others too. On the defensive side of the ball, Odafe Oweh and Patrick Queen come to mind.
Like Bateman, the Ravens must decide on Oweh’s fifth-year option this year. Oweh has been more available than Bateman, but the production just has not been there. The young edge rusher will have a lot of responsibility this year and he has said that he wants to be “dominant”. Whether that will translate into a fifth-year option remains to be seen.
Queen, meanwhile, recently had his fifth-year option declined. This off-season, the Ravens re-signed Roquan Smith to a mega deal, leaving no cap space for Smith. Although Queen and Smith are arguably the best off-ball linebacker duo in the league, Queen’s chances of staying are slim. A large part of this is down to the Ravens’ selection of Trenton Simpson in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Ronnie Stanley might be another name to watch. The franchise left tackle has a few years left on his deal. However, his injury history could prompt DeCosta to make a move early. If Stanley has a bad year, he and his $24 million cap hit could be cut or traded. A more likely scenario, however, is that the Ravens offer Stanley an extension or restructure to spread out the finances a bit more.
Nelson Agholor and Devin Duvernay add further confusion to the pending receiver problem. Agholor has looked great in camp and appears to be an excellent scheme fit for Baltimore. Will he be worth keeping around again?
Duvernay, meanwhile, comes to the end of his rookie deal. He has looked good in spurts but will see his role diminished in 2023. Will the Ravens pay up to keep Duvernay, who will primarily be a return man? Does the drafting of Zay Flowers suggest that Duvernay has no long-term future in Baltimore?
The final name to watch is Ben Mason. For a fullback, Pat Ricard is on a lot of money. This could urge the Ravens to look to promote Mason. Mason has been with the Ravens for a couple of years but has remained sidelined by Ricard. If the Ravens see Mason as fit to take over, he would offer the Ravens some minor cap relief. However, Mason becomes a free agent in 2024 so the Ravens will need to act fast if this is the avenue they are taking.
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
Main Photo: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports