Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh started their week Monday with draft meetings, and they’ll end it Friday or Saturday with more draft meetings, too.

But for about 35 minutes Tuesday, the two broke down the Ravens’ roster needs, the organization’s draft philosophy and their takeaways from the 2024 draft class.

Here are seven takeaways from Harbaugh and DeCosta’s predraft news conference in Owings Mills.

Risking it for a running back

Newly signed running back Derrick Henry, center, stands with Head Coach John Harbaugh, left and General Manager Eric DeCosta as they pose for photos at a press conference at the Under Armour Performance Center on Thursday, March 14.
Running back Derrick Henry, center, stands with coach John Harbaugh, left and general manager Eric DeCosta as they pose for photos at a press conference on March 14. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The flurry of running back signings at the beginning of free agency last month was a good indication of how front offices around the league look at this year’s running back draft class, DeCosta said. Which is to say, it’s not great.

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This year’s draft is the perfect place for teams looking for quality offensive linemen and impact wide receivers. But if you’re a team desperately in need of a starting running back — like, say, the Ravens were at the start of free agency — then you probably should’ve signed a Derrick Henry instead of looking to draft a rookie high.

That’s exactly what the Ravens did, but even so, they need more depth. With Gus Edwards now signed with the Los Angeles Chargers, and J.K. Dobbins still on the market, the Ravens currently only have Henry, Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell on the roster. Mitchell is still rehabbing, so the Ravens need to add more depth.

Lucky for the Ravens, this draft class is good for that, DeCosta said. While there aren’t stars, there are decent mid-round options. And that’s where the Ravens will probably look, considering there aren’t many big names left on the market.

“There are a lot of those guys, particularly [in] third-, fourth- [or] fifth-round clumps, so we’ve looked at those guys very closely,” DeCosta said. “We’re excited about some of those players. There is probably a pretty strong chance that we will draft a running back at some point; [the] round is obviously to be determined, but we do think there is a chance for us to get a good, young player who can help us in different ways — as a running back, in the passing game and also on special teams.”

Keeping an eye on the corners

Baltimore Ravens safety Marcus Williams (32), cornerback Arthur Maulet (10) and cornerback Brandon Stephens (21) celebrate during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 6. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Brandon Stephens’ breakout season helped the Ravens a lot at cornerback last year, especially as they dealt with Marlon Humphrey’s injuries. So did the emergence of reserve cornerback Arthur Maulet, whom the team re-signed, and Ronald Darby, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Every year, the Ravens go into the draft knowing how important depth is in their secondary. That will be on their minds once again later this month.

“That’s a position, as you all know, that typically, you never have enough due to injuries and different things — guys will break down through the course of the season,” DeCosta said.

The secondary isn’t in as dire need of help as the offensive line and the receiving corps, but you’ll probably hear the Ravens call a cornerback’s name this draft.

“We would love to add a talented corner at some point in the draft, whether that’s first round or second round or third round, whatever that might be — a talented player who can help us,” DeCosta said.

Battling for a spot in the trenches

Baltimore Ravens offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris arrives at M&T Bank Stadium for the AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Between the loss of three starters and the strength of this draft class, DeCosta hasn’t been shy about the fact that he’ll be looking at offensive linemen in this draft. There are good options all over the board. He said it took them an entire day to go through all the prospects because there are just so many.

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When they choose an offensive linemen will really depend on who’s available when the Ravens pick.

“We see a lot of different opportunities in different rounds to get players at tackle, guard and center, and we’re excited about that,” DeCosta said.

While they will almost certainly be adding new faces through the draft, there are also options already on the roster. Harbaugh said some of the Ravens’ younger players who didn’t see much — or any — time last season have what it takes to be a starter. When training camps starts, Andrew Vorhees, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Daniel Faalele should all be competing for spots.

“Those guys [who are already on the roster] are going to be competing with whoever comes in here, and we’ll just see who does it,” Harbaugh said. “But I think those guys are ready to compete and do well.”

Mastermind Lamar

Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, AP Most Valuable Player, poses after winning the award at the NFL Honors award show on Feb. 8. (Matt York/AP)

Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s fingerprints were all over last year’s Odell Beckham Jr. signing and wide receiver Zay Flowers being drafted. He has never been shy about sharing his thoughts on free agents and draft prospects, Harbaugh said.

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Jackson isn’t just a great football player. He’s an avid football fan, and he watches college football closely. The Ravens respect his thoughts.

When the offseason began, Harbaugh said he and Jackson discussed what types of players the Ravens should add. They were in agreement, but as the draft preparation heats up, Jackson’s got some homework.

“He’s been tasked over the text world with a couple of assignments,” Harbaugh said. “So we’ll see who he likes, and he looks at guys on tape.”

“He hasn’t weighed in quite yet, but he will.”

Picking their spots

Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta takes questions during a news conference at the Under Armour Performance Center on March 14. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The Ravens have nine picks in this year’s draft. They’re projected to have 11 in next year’s: their original seven, plus four compensatory selections for their free-agency losses this offseason. As the team’s front office plots out a financial future where top-of-the-market deals (Jackson, inside linebacker Roquan Smith, defensive lineman Justin Madubuike and likely safety Kyle Hamilton, among others) will cut ever deeper into the team’s cap space, draft picks provide a necessary and cheap team-building resource.

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It’s one thing to acquire picks, though, and another to actually want them.

“You certainly have to have players that you covet and that you want to draft,” said DeCosta, who acknowledged that there are fewer “draftable” players this year on the Ravens’ board. “So that’s always a factor with every draft. You could have 15 picks, and sometimes you’re there at the end of the draft, and you’re looking at the [draft] board, and you have no idea who you want to pick.”

The Ravens shouldn’t have too much trouble on Day 1 or Day 2. The real intrigue comes on Day 3. They have two fourth-round picks, a fifth-round pick, a sixth-round pick and two seventh-round picks, the last three of which are all outside the top 200, where the Ravens’ hit rate in recent years has been suboptimal. Will DeCosta take his chances on late-round fliers? Will he package them to move up the board? Will he look to trade into next year’s draft, where there could be a deeper pool of talent?

“We see this year’s draft and we see next year’s draft as real opportunities for us to begin to build that depth up again,” DeCosta said. “This past year’s team, we had tremendous depth, and the challenge now, as for these younger players on the roster right now … [is] for us to find additional players who can come in and compete to start and be good depth players for us moving forward.”

No word on Bateman, Oweh (yet)

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman (7) runs onto the field for the game against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 31, 2023. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

A year ago, DeCosta was asked whether he expected to pick up the fifth-year option for inside linebacker Patrick Queen, who was then headed into the fourth and potentially final year of his rookie contract. DeCosta offered a polite non-answer.

“That will be a discussion we’ll have with Patrick,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to announce anything too premature with all you guys.”

On Tuesday, DeCosta heard a variation of the same question. With the May 2 deadline for wide receiver Rashod Bateman and outside linebacker Odafe Oweh’s fifth-year options looming, what were the Ravens’ plans? DeCosta’s non-answer wasn’t too different from the last one, which was telling. Queen’s $12.7 million option wasn’t exercised, and he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers last month after an All-Pro season.

“I think we’re about a month away from that decision,” DeCosta said of Bateman and Oweh. “So that’s probably when we’ll make that decision, I would think, but we’ll have more to say about that probably after the draft.”

Bateman and Oweh, the Nos. 27 and 31 overall selections in the 2021 draft, respectively, have shown flashes of their first-round talent in their three seasons in Baltimore. But their price tags could be prohibitive, even at premium positions. Bateman, who has 1,167 receiving yards in his injury-marred career, would be owed $14.3 million in 2025. Oweh, who has 13 career sacks, would be due $13.3 million.

‘The destination is September’

Head coach John Harbaugh and Executive Vice President and General Manager Eric DeCosta of the Baltimore Ravens watch play during training camp at Under Armour Performance Center Baltimore Ravens on July 28, 2021 in Owings Mills, Maryland.
Head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta of the Baltimore Ravens watch play during training camp on July 28, 2021. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

DeCosta joked that he’s “not a patient person.” But his patience has served the Ravens well in the draft, where their tolerance for staying put has been regularly rewarded, as well as in free agency, where the front office last year made several impactful signings months after the initial waves of player movement.

With the Ravens again eyeing a Super Bowl — “If you’re not all in,” DeCosta said, “then you’re all out” — DeCosta counseled patience this offseason. The Ravens’ roster will change substantially during the draft, and their search for help will continue long after.

“We’re in the same place as we were last year at this time,” DeCosta said. “Go back and look at what some of you wrote last year and see how we ended up. We have a lot of time to make moves. A lot of these players that we lost [in free agency are] excellent players. A lot of these guys were acquired in August, right? Some of these guys were acquired in September, so we’re still building, and a big part of that is going to be through the draft, which is why we’re all here today. There are a lot of different opportunities along the way to add players.

“We’ve traded for players, we’ve drafted players, we’ve signed guys, [like] unrestricted free agents, we’ve signed guys, ‘street’ players, who have made it, [and] we’ve worked guys out. ... I think we’re just really getting started. A big part of that is certainly going to be the draft, but the destination is September, not May.”

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