Ravens Should Sign ‘Really Good Third-Down Guy’ in Free Agency

Arden Key

Getty The Baltimore Ravens should sign a third-down pass-rushing specialist in free agency.

Rushing the passer is an area where the Baltimore Ravens need to improve in 2023. The process must start on the edges, where a collection of over-the-hill veterans and youngsters struggling to fulfil their potential have delivered middling results.

Fortunately, general manager Eric DeCosta can bolster the pass rush by signing third-down specialist Arden Key in free agency. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Edge is a fit for the Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, according to Heavy’s Senior NFL Reporter Matt Lombardo.

He praised Key for possessing the “versatility to stop the run on the way to the quarterback and explosiveness off the snap.” Lombardo also spoke with an NFC personnel executive who described Key as a “really good third-down guy who can really rush the passer. He’s a tweener, but definitely on the bigger end as far as smallish linebackers go.”

Key could become a star in Baltimore, given how often the Ravens have built defensive fronts around flexible hybrid rushers who can operate as both outside linebackers and defensive ends.

Ravens Need Roving Pressure Specialist

Speed, power and versatility helped Key enjoy a productive year with the Jags. He logged 4.5 sacks in a situational role, including this one against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos in Week 8:

The play showed how effectively Key can wreck protection whenever he lines up inside. His 6’5″, 240-pound frame means he has the bulk, length and quickness to maul guards one on one or create havoc on stunts and twists.

Key can also win off the edge, the way he did for this sack against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15, highlighted by Touchdown Wire’s Laurie Fitzpatrick:

Plays like this are what the Ravens need more of from their current edge-rushers. Justin Houston delivered by leading the team with 9.5 sacks, but he’s 34 and a free agent, a dual status he shares with Jason Pierre-Paul.

It would help if the younger pass-rushers on the roster stepped up, but the Ravens are still waiting.

Ravens Have Room for Situational Pass-Rusher Ready to Break Out

Odafe Oweh has recorded a mere eight sacks since being drafted in the first round back in 2021. He needs to finish plays more often, while last year’s second-round pick David Ojabo must stay healthy after missing most of his rookie year thanks to tearing his Achilles at Michigan’s pro day.

There are questions about the Ravens’ cadre of edge-rushers, but some of those doubts will go away if DeCosta adds to the position during free agency. Key makes sense as a target because he’s still just 26. He’s also valued at a modest $11.3 million annually for two years by Spotrac.com.

It’s a contract worth paying to get an ascending player who also registered 15 quarterback hits, 10 knockdowns and 20 pressures last season, per Pro Football Reference. Those are the underlying numbers of a pass-rusher capable of elite production in a bigger role.

There’s a reason Lombardo noted “several teams are lining up to make their pitch to the Jaguars EDGE.” The Ravens should be at the front of the queue of those teams ready to give Key a heavier workload, after their edge-rushers accounted for just 18.5 of the team’s 48 sacks.

Coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense needs to make life uncomfortable for quarterbacks more consistently in 2023. Pairing Key with a fully recovered Ojabo would give the Ravens a pair of potential stars on the edge capable of keeping heat on the pocket from multiple positions.

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