Some of the Ravens’ best moves last offseason came after the NFL draft. That was by design.

By waiting out the league’s early waves of free agency, general manager Eric DeCosta could add a handful of unrestricted free agents without hurting the team’s haul of compensatory draft picks.

A year ago, the Ravens signed outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy and cornerbacks Arthur Maulet and Ronald Darby, among others, well after the draft. Where will they look this year? With free agents no longer counting against the team in the compensatory-pick calculus — and flexibility to make a move — here are five who could help the Ravens in 2024.

G Dalton Risner

News flash: The Ravens don’t have a sure thing at left guard. Andrew Vorhees hasn’t played in a game in 17 months, Sala Aumavae-Laulu hasn’t played since an unimpressive preseason last year, and Josh Jones hasn’t lined up at guard since Week 1.

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Risner, 29, is the best option remaining in a depleted guard class. He finished ninth among interior linemen in ESPN’s pass block win rate in 2023 and has started 73 games over the past five seasons. In 11 starts at left guard for the Minnesota Vikings last year, he graded out poorly as a run blocker on Pro Football Focus. According to Sports Info Solutions, the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Risner fared far better as a blocker on gap runs (1.7% blown-block rate) than zone runs (3.9%).

He’s used to waiting for a deal, too. Risner didn’t sign his one-year, $3 million deal with Minnesota until mid-September last season. According to PFF, he entered free agency projected to earn a contract worth $5.5 million annually.

“Just In case anyone was wondering… I’ve started 73 games over 5 years in the league… missing only 4 games due to injury… earning the starting spot amongst 3 different coaching staffs,” Risner wrote in March. “I’ve never asked for a bag, simply just a starting guard contract.”

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WR Michael Thomas

Depending on his price tag, Thomas could fit the Ravens’ mold for a low-risk wide receiver signing. The three-time Pro Bowl selection hasn’t finished with more than 450 receiving yards in a season since 2019, when he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Injuries have limited Thomas, 31, to 20 games with the New Orleans Saints over the past four seasons. An ankle injury sidelined him in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, it was a foot injury. Before a season-ending knee injury in Week 10 last season, Thomas had 39 catches on 64 targets for 448 yards and a touchdown — but he was averaging a career-low 1.38 yards per route run, according to TruMedia.

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In his prime, Thomas was one of the NFL’s best “X” receivers. Even with his diminished athleticism, he lined up out wide on more than 75% of his snaps last season, according to PFF. Odell Beckham Jr. was by far the Ravens’ most efficient wideout on isolated routes last season, and Thomas could replace him as the team’s sure-handed possession receiver. He certainly wouldn’t cost as much. Entering free agency, PFF projected Thomas to earn a one-year, $6 million contract, with $4.5 million guaranteed.

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TE Marcedes Lewis

Lewis, who will turn 40 on May 19, would be the new elder statesman in Baltimore. (Backup quarterback Josh Johnson turns a relatively spry 38 this month.) But age hasn’t been an impediment to availability. Lewis has appeared in at least 16 games the past five seasons, and in that span he’s played 332 to 487 offensive snaps every year.

The 6-6, 265-pound Lewis is more lineman than receiver at this stage in his career; he had six catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns in 2022 and four catches for 29 yards and one score last season. But Lewis would be perhaps the best pure in-line blocking tight end on the Ravens’ roster, an important role in coordinator Todd Monken’s offense. Lewis had a lower blown-block rate last season than fullback Patrick Ricard at the tight end spots as both a run blocker and pass blocker, according to SIS.

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EDGE Carl Lawson

Lawson’s one of a handful of notable edge rushers available, along with Bud Dupree (6.5 sacks in 2023), Emmanuel Ogbah (five), Yannick Ngakoue (four) and Markus Golden (four). The return of Van Noy will give the Ravens a veteran presence at the position, but Lawson could be another low-cost renovation project. With David Ojabo and Malik Hamm combining to play just three games last year, the team’s depth at the position is a question mark.

Lawson, 28, finished last season without a sack for the first time in his career. He dealt with a back injury that sidelined him for much of the New York Jets’ training camp, and after returning he played just six games, stuck behind a deep group of pass rushers. In 2022, when Lawson played in all 17 games, he had seven sacks and 24 quarterback hits. The Ravens should know Lawson well, having faced him regularly during his early years with the Cincinnati Bengals.

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S Adrian Amos

The Ravens were interested last year in Amos, a Baltimore native and Calvert Hall graduate, but after former Ravens and current Jets safety Chuck Clark tore his ACL in June, Amos signed a one-year deal with New York. The 31-year-old played 11 games for the Jets, starting three, before being released in early December at his request. He finished the season with the Houston Texans.

Amos, who also played a career-high 265 special teams snaps last season, could help replace Geno Stone in Baltimore. Amos lined up regularly in the box, in the slot and as a deep safety last season for the Jets and Texans, finishing with 28 tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass defense. The Ravens drafted Purdue’s Sanoussi Kane in the seventh round Saturday, but the battle for backup snaps at safety is open.

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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