The Baltimore Ravens made a wise move bringing Pernell McPhee back:
Pernell McPhee is a well-known quantity around Baltimore. Having been part of the Super Bowl 47 championship team, he was a welcomed sight heading back in to Baltimore for the 2019 season. He had a four-season absence in Baltimore (three with the Chicago Bears and one with the Washington Redskins).
Perhaps there were some questions about his recent production, but McPhee was a safe bet for the Baltimore Ravens for a few reasons: McPhee knew the culture and the system fairly well, was still young enough to make splash plays and stay on the field for at least 50% of the defensive snaps, and was a locker room vet/leader by the time the 2019 season began.
So, how did McPhee fair last season? He amassed three sacks, 19 tackles (17 solo), seven tackles for a loss, and six QB hits across seven games. Those stats don’t light the world afire, I know. However, they aren’t small potatoes, either.
I also argue that if you actually go back and watch the games in which McPhee started in in 2019, most of those QB hits and sacks came at pretty crucial moments of the games. As far as “declining with age” is concerned, McPhee’s 2019 7-game return to Baltimore had basically matched or exceeded his production from the 2018 and 2017 seasons, in which he played 13 games both years, depending on which statistic you’re looking at. Especially when you compare his 2019 season with the Ravens to his 2018 season with the Redskins: McPhee had more tackles and sacks with the Ravens, in just about half the number of games.
While I love the fact that the Ravens received three sacks and 19 tackles from McPhee in seven games in 2019, I think the solo tackle numbers and QB hit numbers are the most telling: 17 and six, respectively. Remember, he had been playing most of his season without the revamped defense that Ravens general manager, Eric DeCosta, had started to build heading into the Week five game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With pathetic linebacker work, a questionable defensive line, and even playing against three of the most elusive quarterbacks in the NFL (Kyler Murray in Week two, Patrick Mahomes in Week three, and Russell Wilson in Week seven), Pernell McPhee racked up some decent numbers.
To be fair, as far as sacks are concerned, McPhee seemed to feast on the less-mobile quarterbacks. Out of the three aforementioned mobile quarterbacks, he only got a sack on Kyler Murray. However, the QB hits and pressures are what is consistent in his play. Remember, these numbers were produced even with a decent compliment on the other side of the line getting some nice numbers: Matthew Judon.
So, what is my ultimate opinion on the re-signing of McPhee? It’s a win! McPhee can still produce, even with the very questionable 2019 supporting cast. Imagine the game-wrecker he could still be now that he has a far superior defensive line and linebacker corp to work with in 2020. Remember, he’ll only be 31 years old through most of the duration of the 2020 regular season. I believe McPhee has a lot of good football left, and will especially thrive with a beefed-up defense surrounding him on every play.
I also think McPhee brings leadership to the defense that already has Matthew Judon, Earl Thomas, and Calais Campbell; that’s a heck of a group ready to lead these men to gridiron war. Clay Matthews and Everson Griffen are popular fan options for pass rushers, but both are older than McPhee, and neither know the system like the former Super Bowl champion. I also believe McPhee is the cheapest option of the three. He’s a great fit all-around.
Even if the Ravens use McPhee more as a rotational piece, I believe he’s a steal compared to the premium the Ravens would have to pay for other name-value pass rushers on the market right now. That said, I believe he will start on the opposite end of the line from Judon, in front of Jaylon Ferguson and Jihad Ward on the depth chart.
Obviously, we would hope he has fully recovered from his triceps tears from the Week seven game against the Seattle Seahawks, but I’m not concerned. The Ravens don’t officially announce signings until a physical has been passed by the prospective player, so I believe Pernell McPhee will be ready to roll, and will be looking for a second ring.