Ravens should still strongly consider drafting a defensive lineman early

Ravens. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Ravens. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

After re-signing Calais Campbell, where does the D-line rank on the Baltimore Ravens’ list of priorities? Still pretty high up there.

The Campbell signing gives Baltimore much-needed draft flexibility in 2022, but it definitely doesn’t mean the team is done improving in the trenches. Campbell will slide right back into his starting spot on the defensive line likely alongside Michael Pierce and a rotation of Derek Wolfe and Justin Madubuike, and he no doubt fills a major position of need heading into the season.

Now, Baltimore can and should prioritize areas like the pass-rush and the offensive line, yet the team can’t ignore the fact that Campbell may not play at a high level all year round.

The 35-year-old lineman served a crucial role in the Ravens’ elite run defense in 2021 and adds some pass-rushing upside, having produced 5.5 sacks in the last two years.

With his best years far behind him, though, Campbell can’t reasonably be expected to play the majority of defensive snaps in a 17-game season, and Baltimore must find ways to maximize his production on the field.

One such way — and the most obvious one — is to limit his snaps, which means the Ravens should start looking for Campbell’s successor in this year’s draft.

Baltimore Ravens still need defensive line help, just not as badly as before

Consider the rest of the Ravens’ defensive line, too: Wolfe is still recovering from injury, and Madubuike may not be ready to take over starting duties just yet. Michael Pierce is the only healthy and seasoned tackle, but he may need some time adapting to the Ravens’ defensive scheme.

In short, the Ravens could draft at least one developmental defensive lineman on Day 2 of the draft, at the latest, for the extra insurance. They’ve needed to inject some youth into the unit for some time now, and 2022 is the year to start that transition.

Currently, the two most popular D-linemen prospects are Georgia products Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt. Both Davis and Wyatt could be available at pick No. 14, but it’s a question of whether the Ravens are willing to spend a first-rounder on the trenches when they arguably have much bigger needs at, say, the pass-rush.

As a best-of-both-worlds alternative, Baltimore could consider drafting a defensive lineman with superior pass-rushing abilities, and if so, Wyatt would probably be the smarter choice. Wyatt has been described as one of the most disruptive interior rushers of his class with “the quickness to win the edges inside and shoot gaps,” and he could gradually phase out Campbell or Wolfe as a starter on the D-line as early as Year 1.

If Eric DeCosta doesn’t want to pull the trigger early on a D-lineman, the team may still be satisfied with a Day 2 prospect who will at the very least add backup rotational depth.

14 Ravens free agents that remain unsigned by any NFL team. dark. Next

In the wake of the Campbell signing, the main takeaway for the Ravens is: don’t get cocky. The job’s not finished yet.