The Ravens are entering a new era.
Joe Flacco is out, having been jettisoned to Denver, and Lamar Jackson enters the season as the number one quarterback. The team flirted with parting ways with head coach John Harbaugh, but instead brought him back on a four year deal. The team was forced to replace lots of talent on the defensive side of the ball, and needed to bring in offensive talent to help their young quarterback grow.
Lamar Jackson is a completely different player than Joe Flacco, so the Ravens needed to adjust to match his style. While Jackson can absolutely sling the rock, the team morphed into a run-heavy team with Jackson under center. Mark Ingram, who the team brought in from New Orleans, will help bring stability to the running back position, and he has shown he can flourish as both the number one option, and as part of a rotation.
The wide receiver position is one of the weaker units on the team coming into next season. They brought in Seth Roberts as a free agent, and drafted Marquise Brown from Ole Miss in the first round, which should help the unit but may not be enough. Brown has the potential to be a number one target, but the team can't afford to bring him along slowly if they want to compete this year.
The tight end position was weak last year for this team and it is again this year. Mark Andrews enters the year as the number one option, which is less than ideal. The offensive line remains a strength of the team. With veterans Orlando Brown, Marshall Yanda, and Ronnie Stanley still holding it down, this unit should be one of Harbaugh’s least concerns.
On defense the team lost a lot of talent, but they did a solid job of plugging the holes left by their departing free agents. Along the line, the team lost both of its starting defensive ends in Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs. They replaced them with Shane Ray and rookie Jaylon Ferguson out of Louisiana Tech. Ray flashed his potential with the Broncos, but will need to put it all together and stay healthy to revive his career in Baltimore. Ferguson who was arguably a first round talent who the Ravens snagged in round three. That's tremendous value for a guy who could start right away.
At linebacker the team took another hit losing C.J. Mosley. The options to replace him are Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young, which is to say not great! Losing the quarterback of your defense and not finding a viable replacement is a recipe for major regression for what was one of the league's best defenses last year.
The team also lost Safety Eric Weddle, but brought in All Pro Earl Thomas. If Thomas is healthy, he helps negate a lot of the losses on the defensive side of the ball, because he is just that good. The defensive unit that is the most stacked for Baltimore is the corner group. With Jimmie Smith and Marlon Humphries headlining the group, the team has a formidable duo to line up against opposing teams wide outs. If the team can get decent play out of some of its younger players, this could be a strong unit, but it will depend on how quickly the new faces can adapt.
Offseason Grade: C+ | Expected AFC North Finish: 2
The Ravens brought in Earl Thomas, which is the only reason for a passing offseason grade. They lost key contributors on defense and didnt have replacements in place to fill the void. On offense they failed to bring in a true number one targets for their young quarterback and brought in a 29 year old (albeit a still productive 29 year old) running back to be their workhorse. Despite this, they still have the best coach in the division and a promising young Quarterback. If the defense can be league average and Jackson progresses as he should, this team could compete for a wild card spot.
Graduate of Loyola Maryland and die hard Boston sports fan. "I rub it in pretty good when I win" - Tom Brady