Difficult roster decisions loom for GM Eric DeCosta; WR Rashod Bateman nearly ready to run

Published on: January 20, 2023 9:40 AM EST|Updated on: January 23, 2023 10:11 AM EST

Head coach John Harbough and GM Eric DeCosta will address the media today.  The Baltimore Ravens enter their 2023 offseason with plenty of questions to answer. After a season of high expectations fell flat in 2022 following the team’s Wild Card loss to the Cincinnati Bengals
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Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta met with a lot of players this year, not just Lamar Jackson. He estimated having over 20 conversations, up from the half-dozen or so players he normally sees.

“I think [coach] John [Harbaugh] was trying to create some time for himself, and he would send some guys over to me,” DeCosta joked at Thursday’s end-of-season news conference. “They were really good conversations; I enjoyed my time with the team this week.”

Some of them might’ve been tough talks, too. As the Ravens figure out their future with Jackson, the prospect of a franchise tag tender or record-breaking contract extension for their star quarterback could prompt some difficult roster decisions this offseason.

DeCosta didn’t tip his hand when addressing the respective futures of four key Ravens on Thursday, but he acknowledged the importance of each.

Safety Chuck Clark

Clark has played every defensive snap over the past three seasons. He’s been an emotional leader, a defensive signal-caller and a reliable tackler.

He also represents $3.6 million in potential cap savings and happens to play a position the Ravens bolstered last offseason with the first-round selection of Kyle Hamilton and the signing of Marcus Williams. Geno Stone’s emergence as a reliable stopgap starter could also make Clark expendable.

“Chuck had a phenomenal season, and we haven’t made any decisions about any players right now; the season just ended,” DeCosta said. “Again, we’ll make those decisions later on. Chuck has proven to be an outstanding safety in this league. He has been probably one of the most consistent guys we’ve had. He’s probably started as many games as anybody over the last, what, three or four years? He’s been a great [special] teams player in the past; he’s an excellent safety. He’s tough, he’s a competitor, he’s a leader and he’s a player that we’re very proud of.”

Defensive lineman Calais Campbell and outside linebacker Justin Houston

This photo shows Ravens player Justin Houston celebrating with a teammate.

Campbell had 5 1/2 sacks in 14 games in 2022, his most over his three years in Baltimore, and ranked 19th among all interior defensive linemen in win rate on pass-rush snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. The 36-year-old said Monday that he hasn’t decided whether he’ll return for a 16th season, when his cap hit would be $8.9 million. If he’s released, the Ravens would create $6.5 million in savings.

Houston had 9 1/2 sacks in 14 games, his most since 2019, and ranked 13th among all edge rushers in win rate, according to PFF. A pending free agent who turns 34 on Saturday, Houston said after the Ravens’ playoff loss that he doesn’t plan to retire and that he’d “like to be back” in Baltimore.

“A lot of respect for both those guys, the way they played this year and just their whole careers, really, and the respect that they command in the locker room and on the field,” said DeCosta, who met with both players. “Those are the kind of guys you want to have on your team, those veteran presences who play well and really back it up by how they play.”

Cornerback Marcus Peters

In his first season back from a torn ACL, Peters played a career-low 13 games and struggled at times in defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s zone-heavy system. He allowed 48 completions on 68 targets for 559 yards and five touchdowns, according to PFF, with two passes broken up and one intercepted.

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Peters, a beloved teammate whose insights on film study helped Marlon Humphrey’s development, is a pending free agent. The 30-year-old told The Ringer this past season that he wanted to stay in Baltimore, calling it “the best thing for me.” The Ravens are thin at the position, with little returning starting experience beyond Humphrey and Brandon Stephens, whose play was also erratic in 2022.

“I have crazy respect for Marcus, one of my favorite guys on the team,” said DeCosta, who hadn’t yet met with the three-time Pro Bowl selection. “Tremendous competitor. … Regarding the corner position, we’re a team that always feels like you can never have enough good corners. So I would expect that at some point in free agency and/or the draft, we’ll try to augment that position.”

Left guard Ben Powers

Among NFL guards, Powers finished 10th in ESPN’s pass-block win rate and second in run-block win rate. He also didn’t miss a snap on offense, playing all 1,096 in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

“Ben has probably improved as much as anybody on our team,” DeCosta said. “And Ben is a guy who we’d love to keep.”

But with more pressing roster needs elsewhere, and capable reserves who could step in next season — Patrick Mekari, Ben Cleveland, Trystan Colon — DeCosta seemed resigned to losing Powers in free agency.

“My feeling is, Ben is probably going to be sought after in free agency, based on the way he played this year,” he said. “We would never close the door on a player like Ben. We would always want to keep as many good players as we can. We’ll have discussions at some point with Ben. I’m just really happy and proud of Ben for the way that he played and the way that he’s really come on and matured over his time with us. I’m very happy for him and his family. They put themselves in a great position, and he’s a player that I think is going to do really well.”

Notes

Rashod Bateman #7 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a touchdown alongside Demarcus Robinson #10 of the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
  • Greg Roman’s departure as offensive coordinator has left one vacancy on the Ravens’ 2023 staff, but Harbaugh said there were no other changes planned. “Guys get opportunities, things happen,” he said. “It’s never predictable. We’ll see where it goes.”
  • Harbaugh said wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who underwent season-ending Lisfranc (foot) surgery in November, is “going to be ready really soon to run full speed.” The surgical screws in Bateman’s left foot can be removed, Harbaugh said, “if it’s the best thing for them to come out.” A first-round pick in 2021 who’s played in just 19 games over his first two seasons, Bateman had 15 catches for 285 yards and two touchdowns in seven games this past season.
  • DeCosta said inside linebacker Patrick Queen “made a jump” in his third year in Baltimore, becoming “the player that we kind of envisioned him being” when the Ravens took him in the first round in 2020. But he declined to comment on whether the Ravens would exercise the fifth-year option on Queen’s rookie contract by the May 1 deadline, a move that would cost them $11.6 million in 2024. Still, even with inside linebacker Roquan Smith now signed to a five-year, $100 million deal, DeCosta didn’t rule out an extension for Queen. “If he’s a great player,” he said, “we’ll find a way to make it work.”