The Ravens 2018 season saw a dramatic switch in quarterback and offensive styles and it worked well enough to propel them into the Playoffs. The move to Lamar Jackson also likely saved John Harbaugh’s job.
Baltimore emphasised the running game almost to the point of excess, averaging 229.6 yards a game for the last seven games of the year. However, it was their defence that made the low scoring, smash mouth style of football possible. The unit allowed a league best average of 243 yards per game, including averages of 154 yards per game passing and 89 rushing yards a game.
Both Michael Crabtree and Eric Weddle were released prior to free agency and Joe Flacco was traded to Denver. As a result of these moves the Ravens have room to manoeuvre in Free Agency 2019 but are unlikely to make a splash. The salary cap has been set at $188.2 million for 2019, leaving them with $25,565,157 in cap space.
With a significant number of free agents the Ravens have their work cut out to return to the playoffs in 2019.
Players who will become free agents
Unrestricted free agents
(Free to sign with any team)
Earlier this week, the Ravens re-signed tight end Nick Boyle, a player Harbaugh described as “the best blocking tight end in the league,” to prevent him from the market. Boyle’s new contract is reported by Adam Schefter to be worth $18 million over three years. The tight end had just 75 catches for 613 yards and zero touchdowns in 4 years, but his blocking skills perfectly compliment what the Ravens will look to do on offence.
QB Robert Griffin III, RB Ty Montgomery, RB Javorius Allen, WR John Brown, TE Maxx Williams, DE Brent Urban, OLB Terrell Suggs, OLB Za’Darius Smith and MLB C.J. Mosley
Restricted free agents
(Free to sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Ravens have the right to match it)
RB Alex Collins, DT Michael Pierce, LB Patrick Onwuasor and CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Exclusive free agents
(Can only sign with the Ravens, unless the team decides not to make an offer by March 13)
RB Gus Edwards, RB De’Lance Turner, C Matt Skura, G Jermaine Eluemunor, T Steven Moore and WR Quincy Adeboyejo,
Possible Free Agent Targets
1) In Baltimore, a strong set of linebackers isn’t just expected, it’s a way of life. Problematically, the 2019 Ravens are in a situation where they could see Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley playing elsewhere. While the both Mosley and the team have expressed a desire to continue their relationship its highly like Mosley at least explores his value.
Assuming the Ravens decide they can only afford to re-sign Suggs, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Kwon Alexander would be a good addition. Alexander is rehabbing from an ACL tear suffered in October but flashed star potential and is still young (24). Former Vikings middle linebacker would also be a decent fit. However, I’ve saved the most intriguing player until last. A former top three pick, Dante Fowler is also only 24 and could be used as an edge rusher by the Ravens. He is also flashed a real disruptive ability against the run while playing for the Rams.
2) Replacing Eric Waddle’s 68 tackles and leadership abilities must also be a priority. I’d expect the Ravens to make a play for one of the star safeties available. Twenty-six-year-old Tyrann Mathieu played last year with the Houston Texans is still one of the better safeties in the league (89 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions in 2018), despite recovering from numerous injuries.
The player I’d love to see them land is Landon Collins, who the New York Giants decided not to re-sign. What has Collins done that makes him such a desired free agent? He led the Giants in tackles the last four years, made the Pro Bowl in three of those four years and was a team captain in 2018. Whilst he’s more of a thumper than a cover safety he’d be a great fit for Baltimore.
3) When Crabtree released, and John Brown headed to free agency, wide receiver is a huge need for the team, despite attempts to re-tool last year. Interestingly, the drop in wide receiver targets with Jackson at the helm means they are unlikely to be attractive to top free agent receivers.
With this in mind, veterans Cole Beasley or Pierre Garcon could fit the bill. Beasley has an ability to find soft spots in the coverage that would serve the Ravens well. The addition of Tyrell Williams, who saw his playing time drop after a 2016 when he went over 1,000 receiving yards, would give Baltimore a weapon to stretch the field.
4) Even before Alex Collins was released following an arrested, the Ravens looked primed to add a feature back. Le’Veon Bell is the top free agent available but will command top dollar. There’s no doubt that he’s a difference maker and the Ravens may feel they have the locker room to work with Bell. Behind the Ravens offensive line Bell’s patient running style would be a true danger.
Aside from Bell, Mark Ingram is the name most often linked with Baltimore and he makes a lot of sense. He’s a punishingly effective runner with less wear on his tires than some after sharing the backfield for most of his career. One left field option is Jay Ajayi. Ajayi has injury concerns (he tore his ACL in October) but was a key part of the Eagles Super Bowl campaign and would likely accept a one-year deal to prove he’s healthy.
Make no mistake, the Ravens face a pivotal off season as they look to retool the offence for Lamar Jackson while addressing the free agents on defence. It will be interesting to see which side of the ball they favour more in Free Agency 2019.