Ravens’ Michael Pierce may not be the answer to defensive line issues

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

The Michael Pierce signing pales in comparison to the Baltimore Ravens’ other offseason acquisitions, but nonetheless, Pierce was brought on to fill a crucial gap in the defensive line.

Heading into the 2022 season, though, Pierce carries more questions than answers and may not fulfill expectations or become a reliable member of the interior defense.

Pierce spent the first four seasons of his career in Baltimore and alternated between serving as a starter and backup piece as injuries kept him from turning into a mainstay on the defensive line.

After moving on from three aging D-linemen in Brandon Williams, Justin Ellis, and Derek Wolfe, the team picked up Pierce earlier this summer hoping he still had his most productive and consistent years ahead of him and could carve out a role as an effective run-defender and pass-rusher.

That may not be true this upcoming season given Pierce’s injury history and conditioning concerns — we wrote about how fans shouldn’t be so quick to judge rookie Daniel Faalele’s physical health issues, but Pierce presents more of a liability who is possibly entering the sunset of his career.

The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec discussed Pierce’s availability status moving forward:

"“There’s obviously some concern about his lack of offseason participation, given Pierce’s past injury and weight issues. Pierce should be familiar with the Ravens’ conditioning test, so there will be no surprises. It’s on him to come to camp ready to work, because he’ll certainly be scrutinized.”"

Ravens’ Michael Pierce could become part of the problem, not the solution in 2022

This offseason, Pierce was notably absent from Ravens’ minicamp, though Zrebiec does expect him at training camp later this month.

While the Ravens provided very little explanation as to why Pierce was missing, Pierce’s no-show behavior seems on-brand for him given how Pierce played out his final season in Baltimore back in 2019.

Prior to the 2019 season, Pierce apparently reported to minicamp so overweight that John Harbaugh asked Pierce to leave practice for safety concerns. Pierce got back into shape quickly after that and put together a respectable season for the Ravens with 35 combined tackles and 0.5 sacks in 14 games.

Still, in a then-pivotal contract year, Pierce didn’t perform well enough to earn an extension, got signed by the Minnesota Vikings in 2020, and now he returns to Baltimore with the opportunity to take a leap in his career and earn his place as a starter in a retooled Ravens’ defensive line.

Pierce posted a career-high three sacks last year on the Vikings, which likely played a large factor in Baltimore bringing him on for another ride. The fact that Pierce didn’t show up at this year’s team minicamp, however, should be considered concerning and doesn’t reflect well on Pierce’s overall work ethic.

A small silver lining for the Ravens is that the team has promising young talent behind Pierce in rookie Travis Jones and Broderick Washington, two players Harbaugh has since spoken highly about.

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If Pierce can’t handle the workload come September, hopefully Jones or Washington can step up and take rotational starting snaps.

We hope it doesn’t come to that, though, since that would mean Michael Pierce’s signing was essentially a waste of cap space and that Baltimore’s defensive line issues will remain unresolved.