Ravens putting building blocks in place to defend AFC North title

OWINGS MILLS – Eric DeCosta is usually a patient general manager for the Ravens.

This year, he deviated from his usual strategy by re-signing defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and adding running back Derrick Henry in the opening days of free agency.

Both of those deals should help the Ravens stay a step ahead of the competition in the AFC North.

Since those signings, DeCosta has been more methodical,  re-signing five other players from last year’s roster in addition to Madubuike.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but DeCosta is confident the Ravens will be ready for a playoff run by the start of the regular season.

“I say this every year, but as a wise man once said, ‘We don’t play games until September.’ We’ll be ready.”  

Ravens cornerback Arthur Maulet (10) breaks up a pass intended for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Allen Robinson II (11) during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. By Tommy Gilligan, USA Today Sports

Over the past two weeks, the Ravens re-signed linebacker Malik Harrison, defensive lineman Brent Urban, backup quarterback Josh Johnson, defensive back Ar’Darius Washington and cornerback Arthur Maulet. These deals reinforce the Ravens’ depth at those respective positions.

The Ravens need to replace both starting guards. John Simpson signed with the Jets and Kevin Zeitler signed with the Lions. It appears that DeCosta was ready to move on from both players because he was not aggressive in trying to bring them back.

The Ravens also might need to replace outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, who combined for 18 sacks last year. Clowney is testing the free-agent market and made visits to Tennessee and the Jets, but he liked his time in Baltimore and might allow DeCosta to match or exceed an offer from another team. Van Noy has not been active in the free-agent market and still could be an option next season.

As far as the offensive line, DeCosta will wait for the free-agent market to settle and then look at bringing in an offensive guard or two to compete with Ben Cleveland, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Andrew Vorhees for the starting job.

There are high expectations for Vorhees, a seventh-round pick in 2023, after he sat out last season with a knee injury.

“He’s a guy that I think is a plug-and-play starter at guard this year,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.

Offensive tackles are generally expensive on the free-agent market because there is such a need among all teams for that position. DeCosta said this is one of the deepest drafts in years for offensive linemen and he sees an opportunity to add players with the team’s nine selections.



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