OWINGS MILLS — As the Ravens packed their bags on Monday and headed into the offseason, the players and coaches knew the roster could look dramatically different when training camp convenes in July.
The Ravens have 22 unrestricted free agents, including seven starters and two All-Pros, eligible to sign with an opposing team when the new league year begins on March 13th.
The Ravens finished 13-4 and advanced to the AFC Championship Game as the top seed. However, their 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium was a huge disappointment, compounded by mistakes on offense and a loss of composure by a team that had been the best during the regular season.
It could be difficult to repeat that regular-season success next season with the potential roster turnover.
“Each and every offseason presents a whole new set of challenges, and one of those could be roster turnover,” kicker Justin Tucker said. “That’s something pretty much every team in the league deals with year in and year-out. That’s not necessarily for me to speculate on or to weigh in on, but what I can say confidently is that our front office, our coaching staff, and the core of the team will continue to stick around.
“We tend to do a really good job of establishing culture early, getting guys on the same page, getting guys that are meant to be Baltimore Ravens, and then just going to work. And that’s something that I expect to see from everybody around here this offseason.”
The Ravens could lose most of their depth at running back with Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, Melvin Gordon III and Dalvin Cook eligible for free agency. Justice Hill and rookie Keaton Mitchell, who was placed on injured reserve after injuring his knee against the Jaguars on December 17th, are the only running backs under contract.
Both of their starting guards — Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson — also can test the market.
Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and inside linebacker Patrick Queen were named Second-Team All-Pro and the Ravens will be challenged to re-sign both. There is speculation that the Ravens will place the franchise tag on Madubuike, which could cost them about $19.7 million, according to overthecap.com.
Queen would like to remain with the Ravens, but he understands the business side of the NFL and how the salary cap creates change. The Ravens signed fellow inside linebacker Roquan Smith to a record five-year, $100-million deal last season.
“It’s where I started, so it would definitely be nice if I’m back,” Queen said. “At the same time, I just have to do what’s best for me [and] do what’s best for my family. Then, [the Ravens] have to do what’s best for them on the other side, as well. Wherever that leads to, it’s up to God.”
Other high-profile players who could land with other teams include wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor, outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Malik Harrison, and defensive ends Kyle Van Noy and Brent Urban. Long-snapper Tyler Ott is also a free agent.
Before the season, the Ravens were able to sign quarterback Lamar Jackson to a five-year, $260 million extension. His teammates believer the Ravens will always be contenders with Jackson at quarterback.
“Lamar is a top-notch competitor, first of all,” right tackle Morgan Moses said. “It’s not about starting back over or starting from Day One. It’s about how can we grow from what we did this year, and I think when you have a collective group and mindset of guys who are coming back and willing to sacrifice those things, you always have an opportunity to play in [championship] games.”
The Ravens’ 22 unrestricted free agents:
Melvin Gordon III
Odell Beckham Jr.
Kyle Van Noy
Long snapper Tyler Ott
Safety Ar’Darius Washington is the Ravens’ sole restricted free agent, which means that he is free to negotiate and sign with any team, but the Ravens can counter with a qualifying offer that comes with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation.