As the start of the NFL’s legal tampering period draws near — starting at noon Monday, teams can discuss deals with representatives for pending free agents — there’s still unfinished business in Baltimore.
Before the Ravens can get to their waiting game with quarterback Lamar Jackson, before they can finalize anything with the 2023 free-agent class, they still have to get under the salary cap. With running back Gus Edwards’ contract reportedly restructured, the Ravens are expected to have less than $6.5 million to clear by the time the new league year starts at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The New York Jets’ pending trade for safety Chuck Clark would create another $4.1 million in cap space after free agency officially begins.
In a pivotal offseason stretch, the Ravens will have to be flexible, especially with Jackson free to negotiate offer sheets that could drive his salary cap hit in Baltimore above the value of his nonexclusive franchise tag ($32.4 million). They’ll have to be proactive about clearing cap space for their draft class and in-season budget. And they’ll have to be selective, not only in whom they part with — wide receiver Devin Duvernay and defensive lineman Calais Campbell are potential cap casualties — but also who they target in free agency.
Here’s a look at the team’s unrestricted- and restricted-free-agent classes, as well as the key decisions facing Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta.
Unrestricted free agents
OLB Vince Biegel: Was in line to make the Ravens’ 53-man roster before tearing his Achilles tendon in August for the second time in three years. Has played just six defensive snaps over the past three seasons.
RB Kenyan Drake: Averaged 4.4 yards per carry, his most since 2019, and had 17 catches for 89 yards, the most among Ravens running backs. But his rushing success rate, measured by how often he generated positive expected points added on carries, was just 33.9%, according to TruMedia — the lowest on the team.
CB Kyle Fuller: Tore his ACL in the Ravens’ season opener, ending his stretch of 80 straight games played for the Bears and Broncos. Had an up-and-down training camp in his return to his native Baltimore.
RB Justice Hill: Returned from a torn Achilles tendon to finish with career highs in offensive snaps (264) and special teams snaps (214). Ran for 262 yards and 5.3 yards per carry, also career highs. Role in the offense decreased over season’s second half, with just 10 carries and four catches after Week 10.
OLB Justin Houston: Led the Ravens in sacks (9 1/2) and finished behind only inside linebacker Patrick Queen in pressure rate (14.6%, according to PFF). Had nine sacks in his first seven games, but just one sack over his final seven games. Turned 34 in January.
OT Ja’Wuan James: Started at left tackle in the Ravens’ season opener, his first game since 2019, only to tear his Achilles tendon. Has played more than 10 games in a season just three times since being drafted in 2014.
OLB Steven Means: Played 28 snaps in the Ravens’ season opener, then tore his Achilles tendon in his first snap of Week 2. Turns 33 in September.
CB Trayvon Mullen: Claimed off waivers after the Ravens’ season ended. Former second-round pick, a cousin of Jackson, has played for four teams over his first four NFL seasons.
TE Josh Oliver: Used primarily as an in-line tight end (62.8% of snaps overall). Graded out as the NFL’s second-best run-blocking tight end, according to PFF. Finished with 14 catches on 25 targets for 149 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs. Caught Jackson’s final touchdown pass of 2022 but also allowed the sack that led to his season-ending knee injury.
CB Marcus Peters: Returned from a torn ACL to play in 13 games. Graded out as PFF’s No. 34 cornerback in coverage among players with at least 400 defensive snaps, after allowing 48 catches on 68 targets for 559 yards and five touchdowns. Mixed elite performances (two forced turnovers vs. Patriots in Week 3) with head-scratchers (whiffed tackle on Saints’ catch-and-run touchdown in Week 9).
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul: Finished with three sacks and 18 quarterback hurries in 14 games (13 starts); 21 total pressures were the fewest of his career, according to PFF. Helped solidify Ravens’ run defense, but his 7.1% pressure rate ranked 18th among the 21 Ravens with at least 100 defensive snaps.
G Ben Powers: Graded out as the NFL’s No. 10 guard in pass-block win rate and No. 2 guard in run-block win rate, according to ESPN. Allowed no sacks and just 12 quarterback pressures, according to PFF. Played every offensive snap for the Ravens (1,096) at left guard.
WR Demarcus Robinson: Led Ravens wide receivers in catches (48), targets (75) and yards (458), all surpassing or approaching his career-best numbers. Also dropped a team-high five passes and had a 6.8% drop rate, second worst on the team. Was the Ravens’ only receiver to play in all 17 games.
CB Kevon Seymour: Finished fourth on the team in special teams snaps despite missing three games. Played just six defensive snaps in 2022 after a rash of injuries led him to play 247 in 2021.
WR Sammy Watkins: Rejoined the Ravens in late December after he was released by the Packers. Had three catches on five targets for 119 yards in three regular-season games and one catch on three targets for 12 yards in the playoff loss to Cincinnati. Receiving yardage has dropped three straight years.
Restricted free agents
C Trystan Colon: Played in six games and started at left guard in Week 14 win vs. Steelers. Has appeared in 20 games, with four starts, over his three years in Baltimore.
QB Tyler Huntley: Named to the Pro Bowl despite starting just four games, posting a 77.2 passer rating and averaging minus-0.01 expected points added per drop-back, according to TruMedia. Finished with 109.7 passing yards per game and 5.9 yards per pass attempt. Battled tendinitis in his throwing shoulder throughout the season. Nearly led Ravens to a playoff win in Cincinnati.
LS Nick Moore: Earned second-team All-Pro honors in his second year as a starter.
ILB Del’Shawn Phillips: Finished sixth on the team in special teams snaps, but played just one snap on defense. Had five tackles in his first year in Baltimore.
S Geno Stone: Finished third on the team in special teams snaps and played 41.3% of the defense’s snaps. Started seven games at safety, grading out as PFF’s No. 26 safety among players with at least 400 defensive snaps. Had 38 tackles, one fumble recovery, one pass defense and allowed 13 catches on 18 targets for 203 yards in coverage.
ILB Kristian Welch: Finished second on the team in special teams snaps, but played just four snaps on defense. Has 21 tackles over three years in Baltimore, including three stops in 17 games last season.
Most interesting unrestricted free agent: CB Marcus Peters
The Ravens have the fourth-least draft capital this offseason, according to Tankathon. They have the seventh-least cap space, according to Over The Cap. If DeCosta is going to invest heavily at a position of need, it can’t be on a high-risk player. All of which makes Peters’ situation so compelling.
In 2022, he showed the rust expected from a player who tore up his knee only a year earlier. He also showed the ball-hawking skills (one interception, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries) that have helped him garner three Pro Bowl selections. Peters’ football IQ makes him a good fit for coordinator Mike Macdonald’s more zone-heavy schemes. His passion and charisma make him a beloved teammate. If Peters, 30, is willing to take a discount to re-sign — “I want to stay,” he told The Ringer last season, “I think that it’ll be the best thing for me to end up here” — the possibility of a bounce-back year could be too much to pass up on.
Most interesting restricted free agent: QB Tyler Huntley
In a dream 2023, the Ravens would need their backup quarterback to play only in the preseason and in blowouts. But with Jackson’s uncertain future and worrisome injury history, the Ravens have to take care with not only how much they invest at quarterback but who they invest in. Huntley has the dual-threat ability that the Ravens sought at the position under former coordinator Greg Roman, but his limited arm strength is a handicap.
Huntley could probably be re-signed with a right-of-first-refusal tender, worth $2.7 million. Would the Ravens be more comfortable offering him a cheaper free-agent contract? Or would they see more value in picking through the veteran market, where one-year deals for Marcus Mariota, Sam Darnold or Gardner Minshew would likely cost at least $4 million?
Most under-the-radar free agent: TE Josh Oliver
Oliver was one of the Ravens’ unsung heroes last season, giving the offense the in-line blocker it needed at tight end after Nick Boyle struggled to recapture his old form. Oliver played 46.9% of the Ravens’ offensive snaps in 2022, freeing up Mark Andrews and rookie Isaiah Likely to move around the formation. According to PFF, he’s in line for a three-year deal worth about $3.5 million annually. With the Ravens’ youth at the position — along with Likely, Charlie Kolar flashed in limited work as a rookie — Oliver could be a luxury in their spending plans.
Most unlikely to return: G Ben Powers
DeCosta all but wrote Powers a farewell message during his end-of-season news conference, saying in January that while he would “never close the door on a player like Ben,” he expected Powers to be “sought after in free agency, based on the way he played this year.” According to Spotrac and PFF, Powers’ projected contract is expected to be worth about $9 million to $10 million annually. The Ravens don’t have that kind of money available for a free-agent wide receiver, much less an interior lineman.
Most likely to sit out the first wave of free agency: OLB Justin Houston
Houston has been content to watch from the sidelines as teams splash their money around in March. After an eight-sack season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020, he didn’t sign with the Ravens until late July. After a 4 1/2-sack debut season in Baltimore, he didn’t re-sign until mid-July. DeCosta said at the combine that if the Ravens were to re-sign Houston — Spotrac and PFF have pegged his market value around $4 million to $5 million — it would happen later in the offseason. It should help that Houston’s said he wants to return.
Most reasonable outside signing: WR Darius Slayton
If the top free-agent wide receivers are out of the Ravens’ price range — Jakobi Meyers, JuJu Smith-Schuster and even Allen Lazard are all expected to command at least $10 million annually — they can still find help elsewhere. Slayton, a fifth-round pick in 2019, had at least 46 catches and 700 yards in three of his four seasons with the New York Giants. Last year, in a run-heavy Giants offense, he finished No. 30 overall among wide receivers in yards per route run, according to TruMedia, just behind the Seattle Seahawks’ DK Metcalf and just ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans. The 6-1 Slayton, who’s lined up primarily as an outside receiver, could be worth between $3 million and $5 million annually, according to Spotrac and PFF.