After striking gold with veteran offensive guard Kevin Zeitler in 2021, the Baltimore Ravens will be looking to take advantage of another cap casualty as the NFL’s 2022 free agency period approaches in March.
Zeitler’s release saved the New York Giants $12 million in 2021, per Spotrac, allowing the Ravens to swoop in and sign the 2012 first-rounder to a three-year, $22.5 million contract to be Baltimore’s next starting right guard.
The investment paid off, with Zeitler finishing the season as the Ravens’ second-highest-graded offensive player by Pro Football Focus –behind only All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews – despite playing a team-high 1,221 snaps.
With some teams – including the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams – more than $20 million above the 2022 salary cap, according to OverTheCap, there could be a few premium players hitting the open market. While the Ravens aren’t flush with cap room of their own – extending Marcus Peters would certainly help – they do have a history of snagging proven veterans at affordable prices, like Pro Bowl pass rushers Justin Houston and Elvis Dumervil.
“General manager Brett Veach plans to revamp the Chiefs’ defensive line, and Clark likely doesn’t fit such a plan,” wrote The Athletic’s Nate Taylor, noting that the seven-year veteran had only produced 10.5 sacks in the past two seasons.
PFF’s Brad Spielberger agreed, writing that midseason acquisition Melvin Ingram “recorded more quarterback pressures and earned a better grade than Clark during the Chiefs’ run to a fourth-straight AFC Championship Game.” That could lead to an extension for Ingram and a pink slip for Clark, adding him to a free agent class of edge rushers that includes Von Miller and Chandler Jones.
Clark Might Fit Well in Baltimore
While the Ravens likely wouldn’t be able to afford one of those All-Pros, they might be able to afford Clark, a three-time Pro Bowler coming off the worst two seasons of his career.
The 28-year-old struggled in run defense, earning just a 45.0 grade from PFF with 13 missed tackles, but still managed to put up 53 quarterback pressures in 525 pass rushing snaps. At a clip of about one pressure per 10 snaps, that’s Clark’s sixth-straight year with at least 49 pressures, with an average of 8.5 sacks per season.
With veterans like Houston, Calais Campbell and Pernell McPhee hitting free agency – and Tyus Bowser recovering from a late-season torn Achilles – the Ravens could use an infusion of Clark’s pass-rushing juice. His deficiencies against the rush can be hidden in the Ravens’ league-best run defense, especially with the huge strides made by Odafe Oweh and Patrick Queen in 2021.
Ravens Could Also Target Trey Flowers
Detroit Lions outside linebacker Trey Flowers is in a similar situation. After four straight years of at least 6.5 sacks and three straight years of at least 60 pressures, Flowers’s 2020 and 2021 were miserable. Both seasons were cut short by injury, with the two-time Super Bowl champion producing only 3.5 sacks and 19 quarterback pressures in 14 games.
His $23.2 million cap hit in 2022 might be too high for the Lions to bear, putting another proven edge rusher on the market for the Ravens to snag.
Signing either Clark or Flowers would require a hefty pay cut from their previous contracts – both of which carried an average annual value of at least $18 million – but after such disappointing stretches in their careers, either player might take a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal to cash in on their next contract.