Realistic Free Agent Targets for the Ravens on Defense

Raiders CB Anthony Averett

Getty Raiders CB Anthony Averett is one of a handful of options that could be a prime and attainable for the Ravens in free agency.

The start of the new league year is nye and officially begins on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, at 4 pm EST while the legal tampering period opens up on Monday, March 13.

Given that the Baltimore Ravens are still currently over the cap as a result of placing the nonexclusive franchise tag tender on their star quarterback, Lamar Jackson, they will likely be one of the quiet if not inactive teams during the first wave of unrestricted free agency even after becoming cap compliant.

While they are set at linebacker and well stocked at safety, the team might need to find a new No. 2 cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey if they are not able to retain three-time Pro Bowler Marcus Peters and still need more quality depth even if he does stay.

They also need more depth on the edge with a pair of veteran outside linebackers slated to be free agents in Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul. Bringing back one or both of them is certainly within the realm of possibilities.

Much to the dismay of the team’s fans, Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta and the rest of the front office likely won’t make any splashy signings or swing any big trades this offseason.

However, there are several supplementary players at both of their positions of need on the defensive side of the ball that should and probably still will be available in the second and third waves of free agency before and after the draft that the Ravens can pick from.

CB Anthony Averett

Bringing back their former fourth-round pick out of Alabama in 2018 makes too much sense not to happen. It’s possibly the most affordable and likely option given the familiarity between the two parties and the team’s glaring need at the corner.

When Averett departed in free agency last year, he didn’t garner the contract or interest many expected him to after he played well in his first opportunity to be a full-time starter in place of Peters during the 2021 season. He opted to sign a one-year prove-it-type deal with the Las Vegas Raiders and only appeared in seven games due to injuries, landing on injured reserve twice.

During his four-year first stint in Baltimore, he appeared in 51 games, made 27 starts, and recorded 114 total tackles, 21 pass deflections, and 3 interceptions, all of which came in 2021 according to Pro Football Reference.

Averett will likely once again not command a lucrative contract and could possibly be had for even less than the one-year contract worth $4 million he signed last year with the Raiders.

CB Troy Hill

Even though the Ravens have a three-time Pro Bowler that can lineup and dominate inside and out, adding more depth at slot corner needs to be a priority. Since 2022 first-rounder Kyle Hamilton is likely transitioning into the starting strong safety role following the trade of Chuck Clark to the New York Jets, signing a veteran nickel like Hill makes perfect sense.

Not only would he provide them with additional insurance in the slot and not force them to put all their eggs in the Damarion ‘Pepe’ Williams basket barring an addition in the draft, according to the, but he’s also only expected to garner an average annual salary of $3.6 million.

Hill appeared and started in 12 games in his return to the Los Angeles Rams after a one-year stint in the AFC North with the Cleveland Browns and recorded 67 total tackles including 1 for a loss, 4 pass deflections, and an interception per PFR.

DB/LB Tony Jefferson

Had it not been for the team’s surplus at safety ahead of the 2021 season, the 10-year veteran’s second stint with the team would’ve likely been extended. He opted to join former Ravens defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale with the New York Giants and sign onto their practice squad instead of remaining with Baltimore.

It ultimately paid off as he would go on to get elevated to the active roster, appeared in 9 games, and even started a game. Jefferson recorded 23 total tackles including 16 solos and a pass deflection in 2022.

With Clark now with the Jets, the Ravens could explore the option of bringing back Jefferson for a third time and it likely would be a very affordable deal around or at the veteran minimum.

He’d make an ideal inside linebacker in dime sub-packages and has even expressed that he is fully willing to make the transition to linebacker for any teams interested in his services.

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EDGE Justin Houston

Bringing back the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer that led the team in sacks makes perfect sense but it can also be easier said than done given their current cap situation and the fact that he’s coming off a resurgent 9.5 sack season in 2022.

However, given that Houston will likely not want to make his decision to continue his playing career in Baltimore or elsewhere or just walk away from the game entirely until the summertime. That buys the Ravens more time to clear more cap space by hopefully signing Jackson to a long-term deal as well as giving themselves a chance to try to address the position in the draft.

“The last two times we signed Justin, it was later in the process, and I can probably say that that will be the case this time, as well, with some of the unknowns that we have and that we’re faced with roster-wise,” DeCosta said at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine on March 1.

EDGE Melvin Ingram

The former three-time Pro Bowler had a somewhat resurgent season with the Miami Dolphins in 2022 with 6 sacks which were three times as many as his previous two seasons combined. He is also a stout edge setter in the run game with some underrated athleticism in underneath coverage.

Even with his bounce-back year, at 33 years old, Ingram likely won’t command a hefty salary on the open market. He could deploy a similar wait-and-see tactic as Houston did before he initially signed with the Ravens in 2021 and not sign until just before or at the onset of training camp and bypass the offseason program.

EDGE DeMarcus Walker

Instead of getting into a bidding war with cap space, they don’t currently have to pursue the likes of Samson Ebukam or Arden Key who they have been linked to as a good fit, the Ravens could go after the former second-rounder out of Florida State in 2017. Walker has played for three different teams since entering the league but is coming off a career year where he quietly recorded 7 sacks in 17 games and just 6 starts for the Tennessee Titans in 2022.

Unlike Ebukam and Key who are projected to garner an average annual salary of $7.7 and $11.3 million respectively, Walker who recorded more sacks than both of them last season is only expected to command $3.2 million annually on a short-term deal per

EDGE Charles Omenihu

Staying in the same vein of a young prospective player flying under the radar, the 25-year-old former fifth-round pick of the Houston Texans also recorded a career-high in sacks last season with 4.5. He too was a rotational pass rusher albeit on a much better team with the San Fransico 49ers and their top-ranked defense but could still likely be had for an affordable contract.

EDGE Markus Golden

This veteran cap casualty is certainly one name to monitor as he would not count against the compensatory pick formula, provides veteran leadership, and is coming off a down year where he recorded just 2 sacks but is only a year removed from an 11-sack season in 2021, both with the Arizona Cardinals.

If the Ravens strike out on bringing back Houston whether it’s because of they got outbid or he decided to retire, signing Golden who is just 31 years old and has 47 career sacks with three double-digit sacks seasons under his belt could yield similar fruit at a low cost.