For a long time, the Baltimore Ravens have been built on the defensive side of the ball. Since 2000, the team’s calling card has been toughness in the trenches and on the back end. Offseason expenditures have often reflected this.
Perhaps in 2021, that will be set to change more than a bit.
As the team gets set to move into a new season, they will begin pondering the best free agency approaches they can make. One such thought is that the team should ignore their defensive needs in order to fill the potentially gaping hole at wide receiver.
In a recent Pro Football Focus piece, Anthony Treash took a look at explaining the best-case and worst-case scenarios for every team’s offseason. As he wrote, the Ravens will have some tough choices to make soon, and the best choice could be for them to target a wide receiver to spend their cash on rather than the worst-case scenario of spending on the defensive line.
“Baltimore doesn’t have a lot to work with this free agency period. They have $17.7 million in cap space — a lot more than most teams — but no impactful cut candidates and a lot of impending free agents, which include Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, Willie Snead IV, Dez Bryant, Derek Wolfe and D.J. Fluker. Based on that list alone, it’s quite clear that Baltimore will have to do something at the edge position this offseason.
However, they shouldn’t use what cap space they have for the pass rush. They must use that to get a true WR1.”
Considering the strong players the Ravens have had on defense and given they’ve grown many of them, this might not be such a bad idea. Still, it’s a risk considering how solid the Ravens have been on the defensive side of the ball the last few seasons thanks in large part to their pass rush.
The offense needs some major help, and it will be on Eric DeCosta to figure out the proper balance at this point in time. Some see it needing to be more on one side of the ball than the other.
Ravens Defense Could See Significant Defensive Changes
The Ravens had a solid season under Don ‘Wink’ Martindale on defense, finishing as a top 10 unit and also finishing with a solid 39 sacks on the year. That was due in great part to the work of several free agents, including Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee. Odds are, however, that all of those players will not come back, especially with Baltimore’s limited funds. It’s more than possible the defense is going to take the hit in a major way given the number of players that could leave, so prioritizing who to bring back will be key, as will be drafting the right pieces this coming season.
Letting the majority of these free agent defenders walk while drafting a younger crop may be the way the Ravens look to go about solving their problems this offseason. That’s especially true given the team seems to need a bit more help on the offensive side of the ball to give their squad the needed boost.
Ravens Offense Struggled During 2020
If there was one thing the Ravens were missing, it was the ability to have explosive plays in the passing game most of the season. Many will cast the blame toward Lamar Jackson, but the team struggled to get anything going consistently at the wideout spot, which cost them the ability to do damage much of the year. This season, the Ravens only collected a paltry 27 passing touchdowns, 26 of which were credited to Jackson. The team’s biggest strength remains their ground game, but it’s clear given the damage they can do there, the Ravens should be able to pass the ball much better than they have recently.
That might be why many see wideout as the team’s biggest need over anything Baltimore could do to help the pass rush or defensive line this offseason. That could be why the Ravens elect to have this approach when all is said and done.