Of course right guard Kevin Zeitler wants to play for the Ravens next season. The answer to that question, to him, is obvious.

But for general manager Eric DeCosta, who has a list of 19 contributors (as well as seven players either limited by injury or opportunity this year) who will be free agents, the answers won’t be so obvious. Especially since the Ravens only have about $16 million in cap space for the 2024 roster, according to Russell Street Report.

To make matters more difficult, the Ravens have six players on PFF’s list of Top-100 free agents, and many are starters. Among the team’s free agents are 11 defensive, six offensive players, three major special teams contributors, five depth players and one who spent the season on injured reserve.

The priority will most likely be signing Justin Madubuike, who had a historical breakout season where he became the first Raven since Terrell Suggs to finish with 10 or more sacks in a season (he finished with 13). Should the Ravens use the franchise tag on Madubuike, it would cost them a projected $21 million.

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Here are some of the players set to hit free agency:

PlayerPositionGamesStarts
Justin MadubuikeDT1717
Patrick QueenILB1717
John SimpsonG1717
Kevin ZeitlerG1515
Geno StoneS1711
Jadeveon ClowneyOLB1715
Kyle Van NoyOLB143
Odell Beckham Jr.WR146
Gus EdwardsRB179
Brent UrbanDE173
Nelson AgholorWR167
Ronald DarbyCB143
Arthur MauletCB148
Malik HarrisonLB171
Del’Shawn PhillipsLB131
Devin DuvernayKR/WR141
Rock Ya-SinCB141
Daryl WorleyS122
Tyler HuntleyQB51

Some of Madubuike’s teammates on the defense were not as decisive as Zeitler.

“This is where I started it at, it would definitely be nice to come back, but at the same, I just got to do what’s best for me, what’s best for my family,” linebacker Patrick Queen said. “And then they gotta do what’s best for them on the other side, too, as well. So whatever that leads to, it’s up to God.”

The Ravens drafted Queen in the first round of the 2020 draft. Ahead of this season, DeCosta said he wanted to sign Queen to an extension. That didn’t work out, and Queen followed up his breakout 2022 campaign with another impressive season. He finished second on the team in tackles (133) to his partner, Roquan Smith, who will have a $13.5 million cap hit next season followed by a $22.5 million cap hit in 2025, according to Spotrac.

Following Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship, Queen took extra time in the locker room. He hugged his teammates and had a long conversation with quarterback Lamar Jackson when they were the only two players remaining.

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He said, with the exception of Sunday’s loss when he wished he could have forced at least one turnover, he’s proud of what he’s done in Baltimore. His one regret is that he was one game away from the Super Bowl with a group he really thought could get there.

Safety Geno Stone, who was drafted six rounds after Queen in 2020, was similarly vague about his future.

Ravens linebacker Jadeveon Clowney walks through the locker room with his belongings after cleaning out his space on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

“That’s something I’m just waiting to see what happens,” Stone said. “I’m not really trying to look into it right now. Just trying to really just get over this game and enjoy the time I have with my teammates right now. I’m just happy with everything we did this season. Just fell a game short. But I’ll figure all that stuff out whenever it’s time to figure it out.”

Stone already made the decision to return to Baltimore ahead of this season when he signed a one-year deal as an unrestricted free agent. Although he wishes things ended differently for this team — especially for his fellow 2020 draftees who are now free agents, such as Queen and Madubuike — he is proud of how he played.

“I feel like this is kind of my breakout year,” Stone said. “And I’m happy it was this year and the year that we had as a team. So I’m appreciative of everything I’ve been through this year.”

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Stone finished second in the league in interceptions. He finished with 68 tackles, 30 more than the year before, and he started 11 of 17 games.

“I didn’t think I was going to have this type of season, break out like this and have the type of year I had and the impact I had on this team and this defense,” Stone said.

While he feels he’s proved he can be a starter, that means that it will be more difficult for him to return to a team that already has safety Marcus Williams signed to a contract with an $18.723 million cap hit.

Zeitler, meanwhile, joined the Ravens at age 31, following nine seasons with three other teams. Unlike teammates looking for their first big free-agent payday, he’s contemplating how his career will end.

“Kinda [realized] this is my last shot,” Zeitler said of signing with the Ravens in 2021. “If I screw up here, it’s probably over. This place being a career resurgence, I’d say, being competitive again, is everything I could ever want. They see the big picture well here. It’s a dream to play here. And definitely don’t want to go anywhere else.”

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Outside linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney also revitalized their careers in Baltimore and became a big part of the Ravens’ success this season. Both said they have to talk to their families before making a decision, although Clowney specifically said he hopes he can return to the Ravens.

Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen cleans out his locker on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

“I sure hope so, man,” Clowney said when asked. “Like I said, man, I enjoyed coming to work. It made my life a lot easier this year — probably why I played at a high level, because I wouldn’t have no pressure. It was just, ‘Come in and have fun and be yourself and just play ball.’”

One way the Ravens could create cap space would be to restructure deals or release veterans who have a manageable dead cap figure if they’re released.

Right tackle Morgan Moses is one of those veterans whose release comes with a low charge, but he’s played very well. Even though he’s leaving those decisions to the people “upstairs” at the Ravens facility, he said he has some things to work through regarding his health and surgery options for the shoulder injury he dealt with all season.

He believes the Ravens are at the beginning of building something great. But he’s also happy he’s not in DeCosta’s shoes.

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“Thank God I don’t have to worry about those situations, those are not situations that I need to figure out,” Moses said with a laugh. “That’s for upstairs. We’ll leave that up to them. But just like they did this year, bringing in guys like Clowney and Van Noy, guys to contribute, Darby, guys midway through training camp ... I’m pretty sure, whatever may happen, we’ll figure it out.”

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