Ravens biggest positional needs this offseason: Retooling O-line No. 1 priority

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Ravens biggest positional needs this offseason: Retooling O-line No. 1 priority

The Baltimore Ravens maintained one of the league’s best and deepest rosters in 2023, and that showed in their ability to withstand a few front-line injuries to win 13 regular-season games and advance to the AFC championship.

That roster, however, is primed to undergo some significant offseason changes. With more than two dozen free agents, a few potential salary-cap casualties and limited cap flexibility, the Ravens will undoubtedly absorb some notable personnel losses.

They are seemingly set at tight end and with their specialists. Otherwise, just about every position will demand the attention of decision-makers and potentially trigger the need for an offseason addition or two.

Free agency is still about a month away. But with the 2023 season now in the books, it seems like a good time to take stock of Baltimore’s roster and rank its position groups in terms of need (from biggest to smallest).

1. Offensive line

Under contract: Ronnie Stanley, Morgan Moses, Tyler Linderbaum, Patrick Mekari, Daniel Faalele, Ben Cleveland, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Andrew Vorhees, Tykeem Doss, Tashawn Manning

Pending free agents: Kevin Zeitler, John Simpson, Sam Mustipher

The two starting guards, Zeitler and Simpson, are free agents. The two starting tackles, Stanley and Moses, bring age and injury concerns — and at least one, if not both, could be salary-cap casualties. The cupboard isn’t bare. Between Cleveland, Aumavae-Laulu and Vorhees, the Ravens should be able to find a serviceable starting guard. Mekari is a solid tackle, even if he’s better suited for the swing role, and Faalele could put himself in position to step in with a solid offseason. But Baltimore needs to find a bookend tackle for the future, if not the present. It could use another starting-caliber guard as well. This is being touted as one of the top offensive line drafts in recent memory. It would be a good time for the Ravens to start retooling this group.

2. Outside linebacker

Under contract: Odafe Oweh, Tyus Bowser, David Ojabo, Tavius Robinson, Malik Hamm

Pending free agents: Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Van Noy, Malik Harrison

Baltimore relied heavily in 2023 on Clowney, who was signed halfway through training camp; and Van Noy, who was signed before Week 4. Either one of them could be back, but the price would have to be right and they probably won’t come as cheaply as they did this past season. Bowser, who missed the entire season with a mysterious knee injury, is the most obvious potential cap cut the Ravens have. Oweh took a small step forward, and the Ravens believe Robinson and Hamm have potential. Ojabo has missed most of his first two seasons, and it would be hard to pencil him in for a significant role until he shows he can stay on the field. There is room for one proven veteran. With the importance of the position, the Ravens should pounce if a pass rusher they covet falls to them in the draft.

3. Wide receiver

Under contract: Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr., Tylan Wallace, Sean Ryan

Pending free agents: Nelson Agholor, Devin Duvernay, Laquon Treadwell

Beckham may not technically be a free agent, but he might as well be with the level of his guarantee for 2025 if he’s not cut. The Ravens will have to adjust his contract for him to return. Beckham and Agholor were extremely popular in the locker room and mostly delivered when given an opportunity. At the team’s season-ending news conference, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t sound like he expects to make another offseason overhaul at receiver. Re-signing either Agholor or Beckham, adding a veteran on the cheap and then drafting a pass catcher within the first three rounds would do the trick.

4. Running back

Under contract: Justice Hill, Keaton Mitchell, Owen Wright

Pending free agents: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Dalvin Cook, Melvin Gordon

Mitchell’s recovery — he had a major knee surgery in December — further complicates things. If the Ravens are confident he’ll be ready for the start of the season, he and Hill would comprise a nice start to the projected running back corps. They can’t possibly bank on that, though. With injuries annually limiting this group, it would be a good year to use a Day 2 or early Day 3 pick on a running back. It also makes sense to sign a veteran to a modest deal. Dobbins, Edwards and Cook would all be candidates, but you can’t blame Dobbins if he’s looking for a fresh start elsewhere — and the Ravens didn’t show much desire to get Edwards the ball in the second half of the 2023 season.

5. Cornerback

Under contract: Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion Williams, Ar’Darius Washington, Tre Swilling, Christian Matthew

Pending free agents: Ronald Darby, Arthur Maulet, Rock Ya-Sin, Kevon Seymour, Trayvon Mullen

This is a position where the Ravens feel they need to add both veterans and rookies every year. This offseason will be no different. It would help if they could re-sign either Darby or Maulet. Pairing one of those guys with Humphrey and Stephens would lessen the need to do anything else significant. Still, Baltimore can’t count on Armour-Davis and Williams, who have struggled mightily to stay on the field and remain healthy, so quality depth is needed. The Ravens also have to look toward the future. Stephens is entering the final year of his rookie deal and Humphrey has been unable to finish two of the last three seasons. Don’t discount the Ravens using their first-round pick on a cornerback. That’s always a consideration for them.

6. Interior defensive line

Under contract: Michael Pierce, Broderick Washington, Travis Jones, Rayshad Nichols, Bravvion Roy

Pending free agents: Justin Madubuike, Brent Urban

This would be a lot higher on the list if Madubuike, who had a breakout 13-sack campaign, was destined to hit the open market. That seems unlikely. The Ravens are expected to either extend Madubuike or use the franchise tag if they can’t reach an agreement. Neither option comes cheaply. If Madubuike is back, joining Pierce, Broderick Washington and Jones, there is room to add one or two more defensive linemen. But it wouldn’t be as much of a priority. The Ravens also could just re-sign Urban and opt to run it back with a group that had a strong year and remained healthy in 2023.

7. Safety

Under contract: Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton

Pending free agents: Geno Stone, Daryl Worley

Stone probably priced himself out of a Baltimore return after he led the AFC in interceptions. With Marcus Williams missing time with injuries in each of the past two seasons, the Ravens need to bring in a No. 3 safety who can be counted on. They also need to add more bodies at the position. They figure to do extensive homework on the safety class in the draft, but it makes sense to add a serviceable veteran on the cheap, too.

8. Inside linebacker

Under contract: Roquan Smith, Trenton Simpson, Josh Ross

Pending free agents: Patrick Queen, Del’Shawn Phillips

Unless a market for him doesn’t materialize in free agency, and it’s unclear why it wouldn’t, Queen will probably be signing elsewhere. The Ravens love him, and he was a key component of arguably the league’s best defense in 2023. But it would be prohibitive to pay two players at the top of the inside linebacker market. Trenton Simpson, a third-round pick last year, played well in Week 18 when Smith was held out. The Ravens need him to grow up fast and earn the job next to Smith this summer. They’ll probably bring in a veteran for depth. Phillips, one of their better special-teamers, is a candidate to re-sign. It’s hard to imagine, though, the team using a significant asset to replace Queen.

Patrick Queen is coming off a season in which he was a Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro selection. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

9. Quarterback

Under contract: Lamar Jackson, Malik Cunningham

Pending free agents: Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson

Adding Cunningham on a waiver claim late in the regular season was a move for 2024. It doesn’t completely squash Huntley’s chances to return, but it makes it less likely. The Ravens traditionally don’t spend on a backup quarterback, and Huntley is in position to get a bump in salary. The best guess is the Ravens sign a quarterback on a veteran minimum deal to compete with Cunningham for the No. 2 job, and then add an undrafted free agent signal caller to the mix.

10. Tight end/fullback

Under contract: Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Scotty Washington, Patrick Ricard (fullback)

Pending free agents: None

The Ravens have one of the top tight end groups in football. There’s been some outside chatter about trading from a strength, but given the position’s importance to their offense and how much Jackson likes throwing to tight ends, it seems unlikely the Ravens will do that. They may have a decision to make on Ricard, though. He’s one of the best in the league at what he does, and he was a key piece in Todd Monken’s offense. However, Ricard carries a $5.15 million cap hit and the Ravens could create $4 million of savings by moving on. It would be tough to lose the selfless fullback, but Baltimore’s salary-cap situation mandates that it considers everything.

11. Specialists

Under contract: Justin Tucker (kicker), Jordan Stout (punter), Nick Moore (long snapper)

Pending free agent: Tyler Ott (long snapper)

Ott did a nice job stepping in for Moore, who tore his Achilles before training camp last year. However, the Ravens added a year to Moore’s contract with the anticipation that he’d be their long snapper in 2024. He was in the building throughout the season rehabbing and he should be ready to go this summer.

(Top photo of Ronnie Stanley, Morgan Moses and Kevin Zeitler: Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)