The Baltimore Ravens were forced to release six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell as a salary cap casualty. They also didn’t select an interior defensive lineman in the 2023 NFL Draft although fourth-round edge defender Tavius Robinson will likely see some snaps lined up inside at five-technique.
On Wednesday, May 24, 2023, the team made their first outside veteran addition to their defensive line during the first week of Organized Team Activities with the signing of journeyman defensive tackle Angelo Blackson.
He spent the last two seasons as a rotational piece for the Chicago Bears. Last season he appeared in 15 games, made four starts, and recorded 22 total tackles including one for a loss, one quarterback hit, and one batted pass according to Pro Football Reference.
“He’s a big, physical, hard-playing, tough, rugged, defensive lineman,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “[He’s] also another guy that really wanted to be here. He wanted to play for the Ravens [and] likes the way we play. So, we like that. He can help us.”
The eight-year veteran was originally drafted by the Tennessee Titans at No. 100 overall in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Auburn. In his career, he has appeared in 120 games and made 44 starts including the postseason with career totals of 166 combined tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 27 quarterback hits, eight batted passes, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one interception per PFR.
The Ravens are the fifth team he has signed with during his career and he will join nose tackle Michael Pierce and defensive end Brent Urban as the elder statesmen on a defensive line depth chart that now has a nice blend of youth and experience. It also features fourth-year pros Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington as well as 2022 third-rounder Travis Jones.
Veteran Addition Comes With Ties to the Team Already
Blackson will be reuniting with a pair of familiar faces in Baltimore who he played with and was coached by at previous stops during his career. Prior to being traded to the Ravens from the Bears at the midseason deadline last season, First-Team All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith was teammates with the team’s newest addition for a season and a half and also spoke highly of him on Wednesday.
“I have a great deal of respect for him,” Smith said. “The guy runs to the ball, plays hard, so I’m excited just to be back out here with him, hang out with the guy, another familiar face. I know it’s a great addition to our defense, and I think he’s going to help us.”
His second stop in the league was with the Houston Texans from 2017-2019 where he was coached by Ravens assistant head coach and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver who was his position coach during his time there. Blackson got to be a full-time starter for the first and only time in his career under Weaver in 2019 where he appeared and started in 17 games including the playoffs.
Smith Praises Former First-Rounder For Professionalism
The 30-year-old defensive lineman wasn’t the only player that the Ravens’ field general on defensive spoke glowingly about during his press conference on Wednesday. He also had very kind words to say about the maturity of fourth-year inside linebacker Patrick Queen and how much he enjoys playing next to him.
“I truly enjoy working with that guy [Queen],” Smith said. “I think he’s a pro at the end of the day. He’s out here to get better with the guys. He’s just trying to make this year his best year thus far, and talking with him, I think [he has a] heck of a talent. I’m excited to just be next to him, playing with him, and making each other better.”
Despite not joining forces until midway through last season, by the end of the year, the two of them had established themselves as one of if not the best inside linebacker tandem in the entire league. Smith made a seamless transition into the starting lineup and helped raise the level of play for the entire defense but especially Queen who had the best season of his career to date.
The Ravens declined the fifth-year option of the former first-rounder in the 2020 NFL Draft but expressed a desire to want to possibly work out a long-term deal at some point. With a full offseason working together and building even better chemistry, Smith and Queen could become the unquestioned top duo in the league at their position.
In the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the team took what many believe to be Queen’s eventual replacement in former Clemson standout Trenton Simpson at No. 86 overall. Smith has already been impressed with the rookie’s work ethic and eagerness to learn from him and others.
“From the first day, the guy is just so eager to learn. He’s busting his tail,” Smith said. “Whatever it is, he’s just trying to get better. If there are little things, he’s always asking questions, so I have a great deal of respect for a rookie coming in like that. [He’s] just trying to get better and be the best rookie he can be. So, I’m excited about his future and I think there are a lot of great things in store [for him].”