Aug 19, 2020; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; A detail view of Baltimore Ravens helmet on the field during the morning session of training camp at Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Ravens are known for having one of the NFL’s best pass rushes. Coming off another disappointing season, though, it seems the Ravens are prepared to make sweeping changes on the defensive side.
Baltimore was aggressive last year with its efforts to bolster its front seven. It drafted linebacker Patrick Queen, signed defensive end Derek Wolfe, placed the franchise tag on Matthew Judon and landed trades for Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. Fast forward to 2021 and several of the marquee defenders from this defense could be playing for new teams next season.
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The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec broke down Baltimore’s options with the franchise tag this offseason. While he indicated either player might be a candidate to be tagged, the more likely outcome is both edge rushers are allowed to hit free agency and the Ravens find their replacements elsewhere.
After being shipped to the Minnesota Vikings before the season, Ngakoue was later flipped to Baltimore for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round selection in 2022. The Ravens hoped a change of scenery would unlock Ngakoue, unleashing the player who recorded 85 quarterback hits and 37.5 sacks in four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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Unfortunately for the team, things didn’t go as planned. Despite being used in the most blitz-heavy defense, Ngakoue racked up just three quarterback hits and three sacks in nine games for the Ravens.
Playing under the $16.8 million franchise tag, Judon didn’t quite play up to expectations. A year after he snagged 33 quarterback hits and 9.5 sacks in 2019, those numbers fell to 21 hits and only six sacks this past year. However, per Pro Football Reference, he did finish with more quarterback hurries (11) than the previous season.
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It’s not an issue of limited cap space for Baltimore. There is plenty of money for the front office to spend this offseason, but they have big needs at wide receiver and along the offensive line. Plus, talent like Shaquil Barrett, J.J. Watt and Carl Lawson could all be available in free agency. As a result, the Ravens might explore superior options before they return to contract negotiations with Judon and Ngakoue.