Ravens Can Take Former No. 1 Overall Pick from Division Rival

Jadeveon Clowney

Getty The Baltimore Ravens can sign a former No. 1 overall pick from an AFC North rival.

Experienced and versatile edge-rushers are usually among the favorite targets for the Baltimore Ravens in NFL free agency, and 2023 should be no different. Not when Jadeveon Clowney is set to be on the market and represents a perfect fit for the Ravens and coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense.

The player drafted first overall in 2014 “still has the physical tools of a straight-line power rusher who can win defined one-on-ones and set a hard edge against the run out of the Ravens’ multiple fronts,” according to ESPN’s Matt Bowen.

Snagging Clowney would have a two-fold benefit for the Ravens. Not only would it mean beefing up a pass-rush rotation ageing at one end and beset by injuries and undeveloped potential at the other.

The deal would also weaken Baltimore’s AFC North rival the Cleveland Browns.

Well-Travelled Pro Bowler Perfect for Ravens

Clowney fits the mold of the pass-rushers the Ravens have recruited in recent years. Veterans like Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Both are able to win off the edges, either as outside linebackers rushing from a standup position or defensive ends from a three-point stance. This flexibility is key to the “multiple fronts” Bowen referenced.

It’s also the same quality embodied by Clowney during stops with the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Browns. He played outside linebacker in 3-4 defenses for the Texans and Titans before transitioning to D-end in Seattle and Cleveland.

The latter stop is where Clowney has proved he still has what it takes to get to quarterbacks and make big plays. That’s exactly what he did against former Ravens Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco against the New York Jets in Week 2:

Although this was one of only two sacks Clowney logged last season, down from nine in 2021, the 30-year-old still impacts both phases of an offense. His impact included still being a nuisance in and around the pass pocket, registering 12 pressures, seven hurries and two knockdowns, per Pro Football Reference.

Clowney has also been a force against the run since he entered the NFL and he stayed strong setting the edge in 2022. Four tackles for loss and no missed tackles prove Clowney hasn’t lost the knack for filling running lanes and getting to the football.

While his numbers were down, Clowney’s enduring strong performances were summed up by this grading from Pro Football Focus:

Breaking up the Clowney and Myles Garrett double act would weaken the Browns. It would also give the Ravens another proven scheme fit for a potentially loaded front seven.

Ravens Need New Look Up Front

Houston and Pierre-Paul are both 34 and both free agents. Maybe Houston comes back, the way he did last offseason, since he led the Ravens with 9.5 sacks in 2022, but his return is just one way of helping the team’s pass rush.

Macdonald also needs youngsters like Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo to step up. Ojabo was drafted in the second round last year, despite tearing his Achilles at Michigan’s pro day, so he’ll get the chance to prove his worth when fully healthy.

It’s a different story for Oweh, who has notched just eight sacks in two seasons since being drafted 31st overall in 2021. The Ravens need more from their edge defenders because there’s talent along the interior, thanks to defensive tackles Calais Campbell, Justin Madubuike and Travis Jones.

This trio can cause havoc in the middle and keep roving inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen clean to make plays, but the Ravens won’t be a truly dominant defense without more oomph on the edges.