Ravens latest LB movement sets up fierce competition for starting job

The Ravens will have serious competition for the ILB spot.

Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens
Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

One of the Baltimore Ravens' starting linebacker spots is as secure as humanly possible with All-Pro tackling machine Roquan Smith installed as the starter. Next to him, no one truly knows what the plan is. With how many linebackers hit free agency, Baltimore is just starting to put together a more concrete plan.

The Ravens could promote former third-round pick Trenton Simpson to the starting lineup, but they won't do that without getting him some internal competition. Baltimore seems to believe they have a quality potential starter already waiting in the wings.

The Ravens signed linebacker Malik Harrison to a one-year deal after establishing himself as both a core special teams player and a versatile backup who can handle inside linebacker duties in a pinch. They chose not to bring back Del'Shawn Phillips, who signed a one-year contract with the Houston Texans.

Patrick Queen is also gone, having signed a three-year contract with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in a shocking move. With available funds somewhat limited, Baltimore will head into 2024 with a very hot internal competition between two young players for one of their starting spots.

The Ravens are setting up a vicious competition between Harrison and Simpson, as their tight financial situation might make it more difficult for them to invest a ton of money into the linebacker position. As it stands right now, either Harrison or Simpson will be a starter next to Smith in 2024.

Malik Harrison, Trenton Simpson could fight for Ravens starting ILB job

Harrison and Simpson have very complementary skill sets. Harrison is one of the strongest linebackers in the league, using that versatility to line up just about everywhere. A throwback player with great run-stuffing skill, Harrison works best as a two-down thumper who prevents big runs from breaking off.

Simpson, thought by many to be one of the steals of the 2023 NFL Draft at No. 86 overall, is a premium athlete with 4.43 40-yard dash speed and the range to make plays in pass coverage. The winner could come down to scheme fit, as new DC Zach Orr will need to pick between the stockier Harrison and more athletic Simpson.

Both of these players have the benefit of one of the best defensive standouts in the game today in No. 0 right next to them, which should help create a smooth transition from backup to starter. Filling this linebacker role well could be what ultimately separates a great defense from a good one.