Has there been less attention on one of the most lucrative outside free-agent signings in franchise history than Marcus Williams? Drafting fellow safety Kyle Hamilton with the 14th overall pick had a lot to do with it, but I’m really looking forward to watching Williams play on the back end of this secondary.
Baltimore made a record six fourth-round selections, but how quickly will they contribute on offense or defense in reality? With that question and the passing game in mind, I wonder if we’re a little too high on the rookie tight ends and too low on 2021 fourth-round receiver Tylan Wallace.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Ravens rank sixth in the NFL in 2022 offensive line spending. That’s perfectly fine, but I question how easily they can carry both Ben Powers and Ja’Wuan James — each owed roughly $2.5 million — as backups being so tight against the salary cap. Camp should provide clarity.
The No. 3 spot is up for grabs after the departure of Chris Board (Detroit Lions) in free agency. It’s possible that another safety, such as Chuck Clark, Kyle Hamilton or Tony Jefferson, could rotate in as an extra linebacker in some packages, but a third inside linebacker will still see significant time. Board played one-third of the defensive snaps. The contest is likely between Harrison and Welch. Harrison is a 2020 third-round pick who started the first five games last year but was replaced by Bynes and then missed a chunk of time due to a calf wound. He played only one defensive snap upon his return. This is a big training camp for the big-bodied linebacker, who did some cross training at outside linebacker last season. Welch is a former undrafted product from Iowa who is also entering his third season. He’s been a special teams standout who is looking to carve out a bigger defensive role.
Under the Radar
The Ravens have three undrafted rookies in camp: Fagot, McClain and Ross. Fagot is a Midshipman who earned a roster spot after a tryout and being cleared by the Navy. He’s the biggest of the three. Ross played under Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald at Michigan. McClain was a second-team All-SEC selection who led Auburn in tackles the past two seasons. Baltimore has a long history of finding a roster spot for undrafted linebackers who can excel on special teams and one of the three could be next.
New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is going to move the versatile Hamilton around, putting him in the box, matching him up with opposing tight ends and playing center field.
Clark is a steely veteran that brings toughness to the defense and has worn the green dot to relay defensive plays. Baltimore will continue to rely on Clark to keep the secondary organized.
Williams is only 25 years old and he should be able to help create turnovers, which is an area of focus for the Ravens.
“I think there’s a lot of talent,” Williams said about the Ravens’ secondary. “I think that everyone here works well together. You guys can see it out here, we can see it. We have to keep building, keep stacking days and stacking practices in the film room, on the field. All that comes into play when we start that game.”
Which offseason move could turn the 2022 divisional race?
Let’s set the Watson mess aside for the moment. The Browns made other important moves, trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper and bringing back defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but until their quarterback situation is settled, we’re talking window dressing on a smoldering house.
The Bengals did not rest on their laurels coming off their surprising Super Bowl run. They recognized that Burrow needed more protection — Cincinnati finished third-worst in the league with 55 sacks allowed — and added three above-average starters to their offensive line. Projected right tackle La’el Collins was one of the best linemen in the league in 2019 and very good in 10 starts for the Dallas Cowboys last season. He could be a substantial upgrade over Riley Reiff and Isaiah Prince. It’s scary to think of Burrow reaching another level as he works from a more comfortable pocket; that possibility is on the table.
The Ravens, meanwhile, operated like a team that will have to counter this growing aerial threat. They expect their secondary to improve with better injury luck in 2022, but that was not enough for general manager Eric DeCosta, who made his biggest offseason splash with a $70 million deal for safety Marcus Williams, one of the best back-line cover men in the sport. The Ravens have lacked a big-play threat on the back end of their defense for several years, but Williams, just entering his prime at 26, is expected to change that and give cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters more latitude to take risks.
Jackson’s contract talks have been difficult to report on because he and his mother, Felicia Jones, have been acting as Jackson’s representation. She doesn’t speak to reporters and they don’t leak information like most every player representative does, so if any leak comes out of any contract talks, it would obviously be coming from the Ravens. And Baltimore doesn’t want that to play out publicly.
But I don’t get the sense that Murray’s deal necessarily impacts Jackson, as many have said in the hours since the initial Murray numbers were reported. Jackson, a former unanimous NFL MVP with two playoff appearances and one playoff win, should still be aiming to match and top Watson’s guaranteed deal. That should still be the bar for Jackson.
Obviously, negotiations are what they are, so what one side’s starting point is doesn’t mean that will be the ending point. Perhaps Watson’s deal will remain anomalous as NFL team owners act as though it doesn’t exist. But I just don’t get the impression the Murray deal has much material impact on Jackson.