Pass rush still rates as a concern for the Baltimore Ravens, despite the decision to use a second-round pick to draft David Ojabo. He’ll miss the early portion of the 2022 NFL season recovering from a torn Achilles, while fellow edge-rushers Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh are also on the mend following surgery.
The uncertainty surrounding their main edge-rushers ought to encourage the Ravens to dip into the veteran market to bolster a pass rush that logged 34 sacks in 2021. Bringing Justin Houston back remains an option, but another pass-rusher who used to ply his trade in the AFC North may be the better option.
This free agent spent over a decade with one of the Ravens’ main divisional rivals. He also proved last season he’s still highly productive, despite being in the winter of his career.
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2-Time Pro-Bowler Should be on Ravens Radar
Carlos Dunlap is still on the market and he should be on the Ravens’ radar. It’s not as if the franchise doesn’t know all about the versatile defensive end who used to dominate for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Dunlap went to a pair of Pro Bowls and logged 82.5 of his 96 career sacks during his time in Cincy. He spent the best part of the past two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, and his performances in 2021 rated him a spot on a list of “20 free agents that could interest the Ravens.”
The list appeared on the team’s official site and named Dunlap among a clutch of edge-rushers also featuring Anthony Barr and Jason Pierre-Paul. Dunlap outplayed both last season: “Dunlap had a strong 2021 season with Seattle, registered 8.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in a full 17 games of work.”
Dunlap recorded seven sacks during his final four games with the Seahawks. Those QB takedowns offered ample proof of how well he’d taken to a scheme that should appeal to the Ravens.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll likes to use versatile edge-rushers who can attack from either side of the formation. They can also rush from a standup position or a three-point stance.
It’s a hybrid role Dunlap knows well, and one sure to fit the Ravens, who still operate a multiple defense that mixes 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. Dunlap would be an excellent fit, not least because of how he’d settle concerns about injuries in the Baltimore pass-rush department.
Dunlap a Safer Choice Than Houston
Although he knows the defense from last season, Houston coming back wouldn’t be as strong a move as signing Dunlap. Houston appears to be on the decline: “Houston’s sack production dipped again, down to 4.5 last season. However, he still had 17 quarterback hits and got consistently good pressure.”
His stats weren’t gaudy, but it’s fair to say Houston did help some of the Ravens’ younger edge defenders thrive, like last season’s team sack leader, Bowser. Houston created problems that cleared the way for Bowser to make big plays, like this sack against the Green Bay Packers from Week 15:
There’s still a chance Houston returns for a second season in Baltimore. The team used the UFA tender on May 2, meaning the Ravens will get a compensatory draft pick if Houston “signs with a new team before July 22 or the first day of training camp,” per ESPN’s Field Yates.
If not, the Ravens would have a clear path to re-sign Houston. It sounds like a simple option, but there’s a reason general manager Eric DeCosta should look beyond Houston to Dunlap.
Houston’s sack numbers weren’t the only thing on the wane last season. He started just 15 games, while Dunlap completed a full season, a strong endorsement of his enduring durability.
It’s a quality the Ravens lacked, even before they rolled the dice on former Michigan standaout Ojabo. Bowser underwent surgery in January to repair a torn Achilles, while Oweh confirmed he also had surgery to fix an injured shoulder.
Putting Dunlap back into familiar surroundings would give defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald a roving pass-rusher who fits his scheme and still generates pressure at a prodigious rate.
Those things have got to be worth at least a one-year deal on favorable terms.