The Baltimore Ravens desperately need to find a pass rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Ravens had been the organization of Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs. They had often drafted outside linebackers well. Now the Ravens need to find the next Suggs. They need to find a difference-maker on the edge in the worst way.
Let’s be realistic about free agency, shall we? The following players are free agents:
If the Ravens keep two of these players in any combination, they still need a pass rusher. If the Ravens have learned anything in the aftermath of their post-Suggs world, it’s that outside linebackers are expensive.
Say for the sake of conversation that the Ravens keep just Ngakoue and Bowser at outside linebacker, and maybe they keep Jihad Ward for the defensive front as well. Ngakoue is going to play on passing downs but isn’t the complete outside linebacker. Bowser is a good player, though he’s probably not putting up double-digit sacks.
In this scenario, the Ravens need someone opposite of Ngakoue who can play a high number of snaps and balance the pass rush out.
If the Ravens find a way to keep Judon and Ngakoue they are going to be spending through the roof. Could you sell me on a dominant year for Ngakoue? Sure. Could you sell me on the idea that Judon will have anything more than seven to nine sacks? Nope.
There are no cheap scenarios for the Ravens. Pass rushers are expensive and almost all of their edge players are pending free agents. The Baltimore defense didn’t reach 40 sacks in either of the last two seasons. Just staying at the level they are at is going to take a significant chunk of cap space.
The Ravens ideally need to find two edge rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft. They need to draft one in the first round. This is the stab at finding the next Suggs. Then they need to find a solid player in the third or fourth round who could turn into the next Jarrett Johnson.
The point is that Baltimore has to build a future on the edge that is a little more affordable and way more profitable. Ngakoue is the only man in the group that is a feared pass rusher in his prime. The rest, even Judon are just solid. It’s amazing that Don Martindale has had so much success at the defensive coordinator position, considering what he has to work within the pass rush department.
The Ravens have a troubled history with drafting receivers. They can do that later when the risk isn’t overbearing. Baltimore has a habit of finding value on the offensive line after everybody else, so there’s no hurry at center or tackle. The one position that the Ravens don’t want to wait on is edge rushers.
With the 27th pick, the Ravens can get the first-round pass rusher who falls too far. One often drops as teams look for offensive tackles, quarterbacks, and cornerbacks. Look at Montez Sweat. The Washington Football Team got him two years ago with the 26th pick. Now he has 17 career sacks and keeps showing an upward trajectory.
The Bottom Line:
The Ravens must draft an edge rusher with their first pick. It’s that simple. The Ravens have lacked a difference-maker at a pass-rushing position. With the secondary the Ravens have, and the defensive coordinator calling the plays, a young pass-rushing stud could get this team over the hump.
It’s pass rusher or bust for the Ravens in the first round. Tyus Bowser was a second-round pick. Judon was a third-round pick out of a small school. Za’Darius Smith was the raw player opposite Bud Dupree at Kentucky.
Tim Williams was from Alabama but had red flags that made him drop. When was the last time the Ravens made a concerted effort to get a star at outside linebacker in the NFL Draft. Eric DeCosta must go for it. We’ll get into prospects very soon. Right now, we just have to identify the issue.