The Baltimore Ravens and general manager Eric DeCosta were quite busy this offseason and had one of the more successful yet underrated overall overhauls of their roster and coaching staff. While there are several members of the team that have a lot to prove in 2023, on the other end of the spectrum, there are those that will still be expected to be key contributors and even starters but aren’t under nearly as much pressure this year.
The lack of onus on them can be a result of the depth of their respective position or because they have already proven to be well worth the investment the team put in them.
Here are eight members of the team that have the least amount of pressure on them heading into the 2023 season:
WR Zay Flowers
The Ravens used a first-round pick on a wide receiver for the third time in the last five years and the dynamic weapon out of Boston College is a perfect fit for Monken’s scheme that will emphasize getting playmakers the ball in space.
However, unlike Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman who have a lot riding on having healthy and successful 2023 seasons, Flowers is projected to be the No. 3 option on the depth chart that will complement, rotate with, and play alongside them.
He could carve out a nice regular role for himself in the offense fairly early and might even use two-time Pro Bowler Devin Duvernay as the team’s primary punt and/or kick returner if he flashes and presents more of a threat in that role. Flowers could also start eating into his snaps as the offense’s gadget player that receives handoffs out of the backfield or on jet sweeps.
ILB Trenton Simpson
The Ravens didn’t have a glaring need for an off-ball linebacker when they were on the clock for the first on the Day 2 of the Draft but the according to DeCosta, the former Clemson star offered too much value to pass up. Since the Ravens have both Smith and Queen entrenched as their two starters, Simpson can learn from the two of them in a reserve role as a rookie while earning his stripes as a core special teams contributor.
His ability to fly around with great speed and physicality coupled with the schematic flexibility that he brings after lining up all over the front seven and even the slot in college will provide defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald with yet another versatile chess piece to add to his already impressive growing collection.
DB Marcus Williams
The veteran free safety was the Ravens’ prized free agent acquisition last offseason and looked worthy of every penny of the five-year deal worth $70 million that they inked him to despite missing seven games due to a dislocated wrist. He was on a torrid turnover pace prior to suffering his injury with three interceptions in the first four and a half games and finished with four in total as well as 61 total tackles, eight pass deflections, and a fumble recovery in 10 games per Pro Football Reference.
His elite ball skills and playmaking ability will help offset the loss of three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters if he ultimately does not return to the team and his prowess as a centerfielder in the backend will limit the number of deep shots opposing quarterbacks will complete or even dare to attempt.
TE Mark Andrews
With the influx of new playmaking pass catchers, the onus for being Jackson’s seemingly only consistently available and productive weapon in the passing game doesn’t fall squarely on the three-time Pro Bowler’s more than capable shoulders. While it will most likely lead to a reduction in the volume of targets he’s been accustomed to receiving, Andrews won’t be getting nearly as much attention as he’s gotten since breaking out in his second season.
As long as Ravens revamped wide receiver core stays relatively healthy, he will get double and triple covered far less often if at all outside of red zone situations or when they check into 12 and 13 personnel and run some sort of play-action passing play.
OL Patrick Mekari
While the veteran utility lineman is one of the candidates competing for the starting left guard spot, he is capable of playing all five sports at a starting-to-high caliber level. He has 32 career starts under his belt including the playoffs at three different positions which makes his experience and positional flexibility a tremendous asset well worth the cost-efficient investment of just $5.1 million annually per spotrac.com.
The value he brings includes being a primary backup, stop-gap starter, a potential starter, and making it a little easier to decide how many linemen to keep any given year of activation on any given game day.
DB Brandon Stephens
The 2020 third-rounder has bounced between cornerback and safety during his first two years in the league depending on where the Ravens needed depth and because he possesses the versatility to play multiple spots in the secondary.
Head Coach John Harbaugh recently said that he will be “focusing more on safety” in his third season following the team’s decision to trade stalwart starter Chuck Clark to the New York Jets earlier in March.
Since 2022 first-rounder Kyle Hamilton is slated to take over as the starting strong safety next to Williams, it could free up Stephens to either take over as the team’s hybrid nickel defensive back or just be a valuable depth piece in case of injury.
Injured & Developmental Rookie OL
The Ravens have a pair of rookie offensive linemen that they took late on the Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft that isn’t expected to be much of a factor or even play as rookies but could be contenders for starting jobs in 2024.
Sixth-rounder Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu has the positional flexibility to be a backup at the guard and tackle spots on the right side in year one. Seventh-rounder Andrew Vorhees will have essentially amounts to a medical redshirt year in 2023 after suffering a torn ACL at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.