What the Michael Pierce signing means for the Ravens defense

Ravens, Michael Pierce (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Ravens, Michael Pierce (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens officially (for real this time) agreed to terms with nose tackle Michael Pierce on Thursday reuniting with their former defensive lineman.

And unlike what happened with the expected Za’Darius Smith reunion, this one is for real. Pierce has signed his contract and will be playing for the Ravens in 2022.

The Ravens signed Pierce to a three-year, $16.5 million contract on Thursday adding a big (in multiple ways) piece to their defense and filling one of the team’s biggest holes.

But what does the Michael Pierce reunion mean for the Ravens’ defense? And what does it mean for the team’s plans, both in free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft, going forward?

Michael Pierce fills a massive void at nose tackle in the Ravens’ defense

The Ravens went into the season with a significant need to address their defensive line. Brandon Williams and Justin Ellis were set to hit free agency, as was Calais Campbell.

Campbell is still a very effective player, but it was obvious that the Ravens needed an upgrade at nose tackle after Williams’ disappointing 2021 campaign. They’re hoping that Pierce could be just that.

Pierce spent the first few years of his career in Baltimore where he developed from an undrafted free agent into a rock-solid nose tackle. He left to join the Vikings prior to the 2020 season signing a three-year, $27 million contract.

Unfortunately, Pierce would play just eight games in Minnesota as he opted out of the 2020 season and suffered through an injury-riddled 2021 campaign.

When Pierce was on the field, however, he was very effective. The 29-year-old recorded three sacks in those eight games showing significant improvements as a pass rusher since his time with the Ravens.

He didn’t play enough snaps to qualify, but if he did, his 78.5 Pro Football Focus grade would have been one of the highest of any interior defensive lineman in the NFL. The same goes for his excellent 84.5 pass-rush grade.

If Pierce can stay healthy in Baltimore, he would undoubtedly provide an upgrade over Brandon Williams, someone who certainly appeared to be a shell of his former self this past season.

This move also signals that the Ravens won’t be looking to draft a player like Jordan Davis early in the NFL Draft. It remains to be seen if they plan to bring back Calais Campbell and what other changes they’ll make to their defensive line.

But it’s probably safe to say that they don’t plan to use any more significant assets on the nose tackle position. Pierce is their upgrade.

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After the Za’Darius Smith deal fell through, it’s at least nice to see one Ravens reunion work out. Michael Pierce is back in Baltimore, and he’ll be expected to anchor the middle of his team’s defense once again.