OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens didn’t make a high-profile signing on defense during the first phase of free agency, and they didn’t address that side of the ball in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.

The biggest addition for the Ravens defense happened during the middle of last season.

Baltimore traded a second-round pick to the Chicago Bears for middle linebacker Roquan Smith at the end of October, which meant the team faced a long wait on Day 2 of this year’s draft. During the down time, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta FaceTimed Smith in the draft room.

“That was just to remind the whole room … here’s your second-round pick,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

After acquiring Smith last year, the Ravens gave up the second-fewest points (14.6) and the third-fewest yards (288.8). Baltimore then rewarded Smith by making him the NFL’s highest-paid middle linebacker with a five-year, $100 million contract.

With training camp starting in late July, are the Ravens better, worse or the same on defense?

Here is a position-by-position analysis for 2023:

Defensive line

Returners: Justin Madubuike, Michael Pierce, Broderick Washington, Travis Jones, Brent Urban, Rayshad Nichols

Loss: Calais Campbell (Atlanta Falcons)

Additions: Angelo Blackson (Bears), Kai Caesar, Trey Botts

Better, worse or the same? Worse.

The loss of Campbell is a big one in terms of leadership. Washington, one of the team’s more underrated players, gets the chance to step up to fill the void in the starting lineup. It’s unknown how much Baltimore can count on Pierce, who hasn’t played more than eight games in a season since 2019. Blackson joins the rotation after receiving a strong endorsement from Smith, who played with Blackson for two seasons in Chicago.

Inside linebacker

Returners: Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, Kristian Welch, Del’Shawn Phillips, Josh Ross

Losses: None

Additions: Trenton Simpson

Better, worse or the same? Same.

Smith and Queen believe they are the best inside tandem in the league. Baltimore brings back all of its depth and adds Simpson, a rookie third-round pick.

Outside linebacker

Returners: Odafe Oweh, David Ojabo, Tyus Bowser, Jeremiah Moon

Losses: Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul

Additions: Tavius Robinson, Malik Hamm, Kelle Sanders

Better, worse or the same? Worse.

This position has the potential to be better if Ojabo has a breakout season. A second-round pick from a year ago, Ojabo is looking like a playmaker after fully recovering from an Achilles injury. The big question is how the Ravens absorb the loss of Houston and Pierre-Paul, who combined for 923 snaps last season. Moon and Hamm flashed during spring workouts, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Baltimore brings in a veteran pass-rusher.


Returners: Marlon Humphrey, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Pepe Williams, Kevon Seymour, Ar’Darius Washington

Losses: Marcus Peters, Kyle Fuller

Additions: Rock Ya-Sin (Las Vegas Raiders), Trayvon Mullen (Dallas Cowboys), Kyu Blu Kelly, Jeremy Lucien, Jordan Swann, Corey Mayfield Jr.

Better, worse or the same? Same.

It feels like a negligible difference with the Ravens signing Ya-Sin to replace Peters, who never seemed like his old ball-hawking self last year. The only other notable additions were Mullen, a former-second-round pick of the Raiders and cousin of quarterback Lamar Jackson, and Kelly, a rookie fifth-round selection. This group could still use another experienced cover guy.


Returners: Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton, Brandon Stephens, Geno Stone, Daryl Worley

Losses: Chuck Clark (New York Jets)

Additions: Jaquan Amos

Better, worse or the same? Little worse.

The Ravens traded away the dependable Clark, who was one of three defensive backs to record over 250 tackles and 3,000 snaps over the last three years. Baltimore is banking on Hamilton, the No. 14 overall pick from last year, to carry over his strong finish to his rookie season. The Ravens were looking to add Adrian Amos before he signed with the Jets, which means the team has some interest in bringing in another veteran safety.

Special teams

Returners: K Justin Tucker, P Jordan Stout, LS Nick Moore

Losses: None

Additions: None

Better, worse or the same? Same.

The Ravens return the NFL’s top kicker and their second-year punter. Baltimore should have one of the top special teams units once again.

Source link

Better, worse or same: Ravens’ defense looks to build off Roquan Smith – ESPN – Baltimore Ravens Blog