Michael Pierce is returning to the Baltimore Ravens after two years with the Minnesota Vikings. The free-agent nose tackle returns to a Ravens defensive line possibly set to lose as many as three key veterans during this market.
Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams are both free agents and remain unsigned. Pierce fits more as a replacement for the latter, and the Ravens have paid him starter’s money, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
Securing this deal will offer a boost to the Ravens, who have already seen another former defensive player change his mind about returning to the team.
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Pierce Reunion Necessary for Depleted Front
Campell, Williams and Justin Ellis are all among the Ravens’ free agents this offseason. They represent three experienced and battle-tested run stuffers who were key to the Ravens fielding the stingiest rush defense in football last season.
Baltimore allowed just 1,436 yards on the ground, largely thanks to size in the trenches. Size is something Pierce brings back to the fold at 340 pounds.
He never quite fit with in Minnesota, where Pierce opted out of his first season in Minnesota, staying away from football in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He returned a year later but played only eight games before being waived ahead of the start of this free-agency period, per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.
The Ravens won’t care about Pierce’s struggles. In truth, the Vikings’ four-man-front defensive schemes didn’t suit his natural, space-eating tendencies. Pierce is a classic 0-technique able to play over the center, absorb double teams to keep linebackers clean and fill running lanes.
Those are exactly the qualities the Ravens need in the AFC North, where the Cleveland Browns can unleash Nick Chubb on defenses. Then there’s second-year workhorse Hajee Harris, a budding star for the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Not to mention Cincinnati Bengals’ all-round Joe Mixon.
The Ravens had been linked with other nose tackles, including former Chicago Bears‘ starter Eddie Goldman, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, who reported this signing probably rules out any other additions at the position:
Having Pierce around will help a defense that might’ve got even stronger, had another former Raven followed suit.
Pierce Addition a Necessary Tonic After Smith Reversal
The Ravens thought they had a suspect pass rush fixed by welcoming back Za’Darius Smith. Yet, the versatile edge defender had a change of heart on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, who cited Rapoport as the first to report the news:
Smith was supposed to add oomph to a pass rush that only felt the collars of opposing quarterbacks 34 times a year ago. The 29-year-old would have also helped the Ravens get younger up front, with pass-rusher Justin Houston, 33, also still on the market.
At least Pierce has come back and is six years younger than Campbell and four years Williams’ junior.