DeCosta: Foundation of Ravens defense remains strong

OWINGS MILLS — With Friday’s contract extension for defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, the foundation of the Ravens’ defense is solid as NFL teams head into free agency and prepare for the April draft.

In addition to Madubuike, the Ravens have two other Pro Bowl players in the middle of the field — inside linebacker Roquan Smith and safety Kyle Hamilton.

General manager Eric Decosta needs to add depth in the secondary and at outside linebacker, but he is encouraged by the state of the defense with the new league year set to begin on Wednesday.

DeCosta is also eager to see the players’ development under new defensive coordinator Zachary Orr.

“We feel really good about those guys,” DeCosta said about Madubike, Smith, and Hamilton. “We feel really good about where the defense stands overall … We’re excited to see Zach orchestrate this whole thing. I think the thing that stands out about Justin is just his ability as a three-down player. … He’s a great example for the younger players who can see him and see his progression from 2020 to now.

“That’s exciting for those guys to see, and we’re thrilled that we have him up front. We have Roquan [Smith]. We have some good, young players with Roquan at the linebacker position, and also in the secondary, we feel like we’re very strong.” 

Madubuike signed a four-year deal worth $98 million, but the first-year salary cap number will be about $11 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The new contract came just three days after the Ravens placed the franchise tag on Madubuike, which would have cost them $22.1 million next season.

The extension locks in Madubuike and gives DeCosta more flexibility to add a free agent when the market officially opens. However, he acknowledged the Ravens still have challenges because of the salary cap.

Even with Madubike’s extension, the Ravens are just $184,701 under the cap, according to Brian McFarland, a Ravens salary cap and organizational analyst.

DeCosta can still make several cost-cutting moves, such as restructuring contracts or pay cuts, to create financial flexibility.

“We need all the help we can get,” DeCosta said. “It helps. Every little bit helps. These are things that we just don’t look at in a vacuum. We try to consider all the different consequences of these types of things.”

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