The goal every offseason, John Harbaugh said last week, is to improve. The realities of the NFL don’t always oblige.

Harbaugh’s Ravens were, by most metrics, the league’s best team entering the playoffs last season. Then they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, and that argument became a lot harder. Then the offseason came, and self-improvement got a lot harder, too.

The league’s salary cap has limited the Ravens’ spending. Coaching turnover elsewhere has shuffled their staff. Their AFC championship game appearance has stuck them near the end of the draft order.

Almost three weeks since free agency opened, maybe no team has lost more than the Ravens — not only in terms of ability but brainpower and leadership, too. Harbaugh will enter next season with a remade offensive line, a first-year defensive coordinator and a lot more questions than he did a few months ago.

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Here are the Ravens’ 10 biggest losses this offseason, as measured by their value to last year’s team, and their likely or actual replacements in 2024.

1. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald

Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald walks the sidelines during a playoff game against the Houston Texans. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Throw in the assistant coaches the Ravens’ defense lost this offseason — associate head coach and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver (Miami Dolphins) and defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson (Tennessee Titans) — and this is an easy one. Maybe no unit’s staff last season was more impressive.

“Everyone in the NFL is going to go after defensive coaches from Michigan & Baltimore,” NFL Network analyst and former Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah tweeted in January, referring to a Wolverines system that Macdonald himself had helped install. “That scheme is generating so much buzz.”

Under Macdonald, the Ravens became the first team in modern NFL history to lead the league in scoring defense, sacks and takeaways in the same season. Their defensive staff married impressive player development — none of the Ravens’ four All-Pro players over the past two seasons had been so honored — with schematic complexity.

The Ravens could defend the run with light boxes, pressure the quarterback with four-man rushes, and limit passing attacks underneath and downfield. Macdonald had premium ingredients, but he was a gourmet chef, too.

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Replacement: This one’s a sure thing: Zach Orr. After Macdonald was named the Seattle Seahawks’ coach in January, the former Ravens inside linebacker was promoted from inside linebackers coach to coordinator. Orr has no play-calling experience, but he’s intimately acquainted with the Ravens’ scheme, personnel and culture.

2. OLB Jadeveon Clowney

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney finished last season with a career-high-tying 9.5 sacks and career-high 71 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Clowney was the best pass rusher on the NFL’s best defense last season, finishing with a career-high-tying 9.5 sacks and career-high 71 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, 13th most in the NFL. The Ravens generated a significantly higher pressure rate with Clowney on the field (43.3%) than without him (36.4%), according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, despite blitzing far less often. He signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Carolina Panthers.

Replacement: Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo have promising pedigrees — Oweh was a first-round pick in 2021, and Ojabo, if healthy, would’ve been one in 2022 — but neither has delivered a star-making season. Oweh has 13 sacks over three years; Ojabo has two over five games. Even if the Ravens draft a pass rusher late in the first round, such as Penn State’s Chop Robinson or Missouri’s Darius Robinson, or re-sign outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, Oweh would project as the breadwinner out wide.

3. ILB Patrick Queen

Linebacker Patrick Queen started every game of his Ravens career. (Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)

It’s not just Queen’s ability as a blitzer (four sacks, 26 pressures and plenty of picks set for defensive lineman Justin Madubuike) that earned him All-Pro honors and a three-year, $41 million deal from the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s also his availability. Queen started every single game over his Ravens career and played at least 94% of the defensive snaps each of the past two seasons. Roquan Smith is a force multiplier in the middle of the defense, but there’s no guarantee that his 2024 partner will have Queen’s competitiveness or instincts against the run.

Replacement: Trenton Simpson has impressive physical gifts — at 6 feet 2, 235 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and did 25 repetitions on the bench press — but he fell to the third round last year after an inconsistent junior season at Clemson. Simpson’s strong performance in the Ravens’ regular-season finale (seven tackles, including two for loss) offered a glimpse at what he could become. Still, success at the position can elude young players. Just ask Queen.

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4. RG Kevin Zeitler

Kevin Zeitler graded among the top 15 guards in each of the last three seasons. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Zeitler was Mr. Reliable for the offensive line. One of the team’s hardest workers, he started all but four games at right guard after arriving in 2021 and led the team in total snaps over that span. Zeitler graded out as a top-15 guard each of the past three seasons, according to PFF, and earned Pro Bowl honors last year after allowing just two sacks in 574 pass-blocking snaps. He signed a one-year, $6 million deal last month with the Detroit Lions.

Replacement: Ben Cleveland stepped in for Zeitler when injuries sidelined the veteran late last season, and he graded out well. A third-round pick in 2021, Cleveland has started just seven games over his career. He could be in the mix at left guard, where the Ravens also need to replace John Simpson, but he has far more experience on the right side of the line. Second-year linemen Andrew Vorhees and Sala Aumavae-Laulu, offseason signing Josh Jones, and a Day 1 or Day 2 pick could also be in the mix.

5. RT Morgan Moses

Offensive tackle Morgan Moses was traded to the New York Jets. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Harbaugh acknowledged last week that Moses, traded last month to the New York Jets as part of a pick swap, was a salary cap casualty. Despite playing through a torn pectoral muscle for much of last season, Moses left Baltimore with the 10th-best pressure rate allowed among qualifying tackles over the past two years (4.5%), according to PFF. Moses also impressed with his blocking ability in space and his durability, missing just three games over his Ravens career.

Replacement: Daniel Faalele, a third-round pick in 2022, dabbled at guard last preseason, but Harbaugh said last week that the Ravens wanted to “give him a chance to win the job” at right tackle. There are no obvious answers for the spot. Faalele has struggled in pass protection and might look out of place in a more zone-heavy running scheme. Patrick Mekari’s durability over a full season is a question mark. Jones barely played over the second half of last season with the Houston Texans. And some of the tackles linked to the Ravens late in the first round — Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton and BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia, among others — are more athletically gifted than technically refined.

6. S Geno Stone

Baltimore Ravens safety Geno Stone (26) catches an interception during the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023.
Safety Geno Stone makes one of his seven interceptions last season. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Stone finished second in the NFL in interceptions last season (seven), but even he acknowledged that many of his picks were right-place-right-time plays. Still, Stone was a mainstay in a Ravens secondary that almost never gave up big plays. He started 11 games and played 82% of the defensive snaps, stepping in for injured safety Marcus Williams when called upon and slotting in capably as a third safety. Stone, also a reliable special teams contributor, signed a two-year, $15 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals last month.

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Replacement: A healthy season from Williams, who’s appeared in just 21 games over two seasons in Baltimore, would help minimize Stone’s loss. After Williams and All-Pro Kyle Hamilton, though, the depth chart at safety is a bit iffy. Ar’Darius Washington lined up all over the field as a safety in college, but he played almost exclusively in the slot in his two starts last season, while Stone operated primarily as a deep safety. Daryl Worley, who transitioned to safety smoothly after moving over from cornerback last year, is a free agent after an injury-marred 2023.

7. WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) catches a pass as Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou (4) tries to block during the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catches a pass against Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Beckham’s production in his one year in Baltimore (565 receiving yards) was not exactly commensurate with his salary ($16 million, including incentives). But Beckham’s price tag reflected the scarcity of productive receivers available in free agency, and his underlying metrics in 2023 suggested he was unlucky not to be more effective. Beckham was also an important voice in the locker room for young wide receivers Zay Flowers and Rashod Bateman.

Replacement: Bateman, like Beckham, suffered from a lack of on-target throws last year. But the 2021 first-round pick got open — a lot — and showed he could withstand the rigors of a long season, playing in a career-high 16 games. The Ravens also re-signed Nelson Agholor to a one-year deal, but they’ll need to draft an instant-impact wide receiver to bolster the depth of a room that could be paper thin next year.

8. CB Ronald Darby

Cornerback Ronald Darby tackles Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Darby, signed 10 months after tearing his ACL and just days after a foot injury sidelined cornerback Marlon Humphrey in training camp, was an unsung hero last season. He started seven games; played 40% of the defensive snaps; allowed a passer rating of 72.2 when targeted in coverage, according to PFF; and ranked among the NFL’s best cornerbacks in limiting separation when targeted (2.3 yards from the target per attempt), according to NGS. He signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal last month with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Replacement: The Ravens’ depth at outside cornerback, where Darby primarily lined up, is shaky. Brandon Stephens and Humphrey are a solid starting pair, but Arthur Maulet and Washington are slot defenders. With Jalyn Armour-Davis’ struggles staying healthy, the Ravens will likely need to add another cornerback (or two) this offseason.

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9. RB Gus Edwards

Running back Gus Edwards ran for 13 touchdowns in 2023. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Edwards’ red-zone brilliance (13 rushing touchdowns) and handful of splashy catch-and-runs overshadowed a mildly disappointing 2023. Despite finishing with a career-high 810 rushing yards, he averaged a career-low 4.1 yards per carry and a career-low 2.71 yards after contact per rush, according to TruMedia, almost a half-yard worse than his 2022 mark. He signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal last month with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Replacement: Derrick Henry, signed last month to a two-year, $16 million deal, is bigger, faster and more durable than Edwards. He’s also older, with a lot more miles on his odometer. Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell, who’s still recovering from a torn ACL, round out a running back room with a diverse group of skill sets.

10. LG John Simpson

John Simpson (76) celebrates after a play against the Seattle Seahawks. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Simpson was the weak link in the interior of the Ravens’ line last season, but he was hard to keep off the field. Simpson led the team in offensive snaps (1,119) and graded out as PFF’s No. 43 overall guard among qualifying linemen, offsetting impressive “pancake” blocks with a handful of inopportune penalties (eight holding penalties). He signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Jets last month.

Replacement: If Cleveland is the Ravens’ more likely successor at right guard, the left guard battle could come down to Aumavae-Laulu, who battled for the starting job as a rookie, and Vorhees, who’s expected to be fully recovered from the torn ACL that sidelined him last year. Jones and a Day 1 or Day 2 draft pick could also vie for snaps.

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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