Baltimore Ravens pass rush will look completely different in 2021
With five pending free agents and minimal cap space to bring their top guys back, the Baltimore Ravens pass rush will look completely different in 2021.
There are few things more important than being able to effectively rush the passer in today’s NFL. A defense’s ability to disrupt plays upfront is pivotal for success and not being able to get after the quarterback should be every team’s top priority. For the Baltimore Ravens, this concept will be put to the test in 2021.
Baltimore hosts one of the league’s best secondaries with Pro Bowlers Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters patrolling the backend of the defense. It’s no coincidence that this secondary was ranked sixth-best in the league last season thanks to these two and other stud contributors. They accomplished this in spite of an average at best pass rush in front of them.
The Ravens racked up a decent 39 team sacks on the year. Not terrible, but very average at best. The team’s leading sack artist was Matt Judon with just six sacks. Judon is also set to hit Free Agency and it seems unlikely that he will be back in Charm City for the 2021 season.
Judon isn’t alone entering Free Agency, either, as his partner in crime, Yannick Ngakoue, is also slated to leave Baltimore and sign a lucrative deal elsewhere. Worse yet, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser, and Jihad Ward are also pending free agents. That’s 17 of the team’s 39 sacks, nearly 44% of the team’s total, set to leave in one offseason. It leaves the Ravens with just one outside linebacker/edge rusher remaining on the roster, Jaylon Ferguson, who had just two sacks in 2020.
With a shrinking cap and projected just shy of ~$20 million, it’s very likely we see most, if not all, of these players depart this offseason. Baltimore would be lucky to bring back one of these guys, let alone two or more regardless of the deals they may sign.
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The likely candidates to return are Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser, both of whom played very important roles for the Ravens last year. Neither are overly flashy guys but are very important for what the defense likes to do. Baltimore may be lucky enough to get these two back for cheaper deals this offseason.
Beyond those two, the Ravens will have to turn their attention to bargain hunting and the draft. Jadeveon Clowney will once again be a name heavily linked to Baltimore after a very disappointing season in Tennessee due to injuries. Clowney could be a great get if he’s fully healthy, and it was heavily implied that Baltimore was in the running until the last second to acquire him this past offseason. Considering he’s coming off the worst season of his career and has a lot of proving left to do, he could be a really solid pick up for cheap.
Some other names of note are Carl Lawson and Melvin Ingram, neither of whom would cost an arm and a leg. If the Ravens did want to spend big bucks on guys who aren’t on the team, Shaquil Barrett and Bud Dupree could top the list.
The 2021 NFL Draft isn’t exactly loaded with edge rushers, but there are three guys in particular who should interest the team: Gregory Rousseau, Jaelen Phillips, and Quincy Roche. Funny enough, they all played at the University Miami FL. in 2019 and 2020 (Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season). Rousseau is becoming a victim of overthinking season and could slip to Baltimore. Phillips is gaining momentum as of late and would be of good value for the Ravens near the end of round one. Roche isn’t a round one target, but he would be an excellent add on day two and could start right away.
With some big names entering Free Agency and some intriguing draft prospects, there are plenty of avenues for Baltimore to take in addressing its pass rush this offseason. With everyone we just talked about and tons of other options, it’s very likely we see a completely different looking pass rush in 2021.
The smartest way to attack the pass rush this offseason will be to try and do one of each. Ideally, if the Baltimore Ravens can resign McPhee and/or Bowser, bring in someone like Melvin Ingram, and then draft a guy like Phillips you would have yourself a combo that can at least maintain the same averageness the pass rush has had in recent years. It’s tough to picture a scenario better than that, but Eric DeCosta has proven to be as aggressive a GM as they come. We can’t count out him investing heavily into the pass rush this offseason to turn an average unit into a great one.