Seven months ago, in the most important offseason of his tenure as Ravens general manager, Eric DeCosta finalized the richest contract in NFL history. He knew then how important it was to re-sign quarterback Lamar Jackson. He also knew what a megadeal would mean for offseasons to come.

“The landscape of this team has changed a little bit because we struck a contract with Lamar,” DeCosta said in September. “And so the way that we operate will be a little bit different in the future.”

Even as the Ravens enter the homestretch of their regular season with a conference-best 9-3 record, they have made it difficult not to look past their AFC North race, past the playoffs, past even the Super Bowl and toward another intriguing offseason. Because the 2023 Ravens wouldn’t be where they are without several players who’ll likely be playing elsewhere in 2024.

After signing Jackson to a five-year, $260 million extension, DeCosta has significantly less spending power. According to Spotrac, the Ravens would project to have just $12.8 million in space next offseason under a $240.5 million cap — and that’s with just 43 active players on their roster.

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Difficult decisions loom for the front office. Here’s a look at eight key players with uncertain futures and what to watch over the next few months. (All projected contracts and 2023 valuations, which reflect on-field performance and positional value, are courtesy of Spotrac and Over The Cap, respectively.)

LT Ronnie Stanley

Status: Under contract through 2025

Contract details: $26.2 million cap hit ($17.8 million in dead money incurred and $8.3 million in savings created if released before June 1; $11.2 million in dead cap and $15 million in savings if released after June 1)

Big question: How much faith do the Ravens have in Stanley returning to All-Pro form? He was one of the NFL’s best left tackles in pass protection after making his long-awaited return from injury last year. He’s impressed for stretches this season, too, especially when healthy.

But knee and ankle injuries have compromised Stanley’s ability to hold up against power rushes in recent weeks. He’s allowed four sacks and 28 quarterback pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus, after allowing just one and 16, respectively, in a nearly equal number of pass-blocking snaps in 2022.

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Stanley’s injury history and pedigree could put the Ravens in a bind. They need to protect Jackson’s blind side, but a sure-thing upgrade won’t come cheap. A reworked contract might work best for both sides.

DL Justin Madubuike

Status: Pending free agent

Projected contract: Three years, $55.4 million ($18.5 million annually)

Big question: How desperate are the Ravens to keep Madubuike for another year? He leads all interior linemen in sacks (10) and, according to PFF, ranks fourth in pressures, behind only the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald, New York Giants’ Dexter Lawrence and Buffalo Bills’ Ed Oliver. That’s an upscale neighborhood for NFL general managers; Donald’s deal averages $31.7 million annually, Lawrence’s averages $22.5 million and Oliver’s averages $17 million.

A franchise tag wouldn’t offer a heavy discount, either. According to Over The Cap, the 2024 tag for a defensive tackle would cost about $20.9 million. And, if Madubuike had another Pro Bowl-level season on the tag next year, his market value would only increase. The value of a compensatory pick if he left, however, would remain relatively unchanged.

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ILB Patrick Queen

Status: Pending free agent

Projected contract: Four years, $67.8 million ($16.9 million annually)

Big question: How much of a force multiplier is Roquan Smith? Queen’s ascent began before the Ravens traded for his running mate at inside linebacker, but the duo has moved almost in lockstep in the 13 months since Smith’s arrival. The Ravens’ win Sunday over the Los Angeles Chargers marked perhaps their finest hour. Queen (seven tackles) and Smith (eight tackles) graded out as PFF’s top- and fourth-ranked off-ball linebackers, respectively, for Week 12.

A franchise tag, with a projected cost of $23.2 million in 2024, is also unlikely here. Smith, who signed a five-year, $100 million extension last season, has a $13.5 million cap hit in 2024, with steep raises over the deal’s final three years. If Ravens officials believe in the potential of third-round pick Trenton Simpson, another gifted athlete who’s played mainly on special teams this season, as well as the guidance of Smith and inside linebackers coach Zach Orr, a slight downturn in production could be worth the significant savings in spending at the position.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (24) gats away with a face mask against Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss (21) in a 22-19 loos to the colts.
Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (left) could be driving up his price with his strong play this season. (Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)

OLB Jadeveon Clowney

Status: Pending free agent

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2023 valuation: $9.6 million

Big question: How much does Clowney want to stay in Baltimore? When he signed with the Ravens in August, coach John Harbaugh called it a “perfect fit.” No one could’ve imagined Clowney’s fit would’ve been this perfect, though. The former No. 1 overall pick is on pace for career highs in sacks (7.5 in 12 games) and quarterback hits (17) and is eighth among edge rushers in ESPN’s pass rush win rate, ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt and Cincinnati Bengals’ Trey Hendrickson. With a $2.5 million cap hit, Clowney’s been one of the NFL’s best bargains.

It might not be a long stay in Baltimore, though. The Ravens are the fourth team the 30-year-old Clowney has played for since leaving the Houston Texans in the 2019 offseason, and his injury history could make DeCosta hesitant to re-sign him. Clowney has not been shy about expressing his admiration for the organization, from its culture to his teammates to the Ravens’ defensive coaches he’s known for years, but how much will that be worth in free agency? With a double-digit-sack season, he’d generate the kind of interest he didn’t have this past offseason.

The same goes for fellow one-year rental Kyle Van Noy (six sacks), who’s one sack shy of a career high.

RG Kevin Zeitler

Status: Pending free agent

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2023 valuation: $9.3 million

Big question: How much do the Ravens trust their young offensive linemen? If Zeitler, a stalwart up front, and left guard John Simpson, another pending free agent, aren’t re-signed, the Ravens could enter free agency next spring with two holes next to center Tyler Linderbaum. There are still high hopes for rookies Sala Aumavae-Laulu, whose stock fell after a disappointing preseason, and Andrew Vorhees, who was considered a potential midround pick until he tore his ACL at the NFL scouting combine. Ben Cleveland has had a disappointing two-plus seasons in Baltimore, but there’s still hope for a breakthrough. Ben Powers, after all, didn’t stand out until Year 4.

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Status: Pending free agent

Projected contract: One year, $3.9 million

Big question: What does Beckham still have in the tank? The offseason’s most high-profile free-agent wide receiver has 27 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns this season, somewhat underwhelming production for a star who signed a one-year deal worth $15 million guaranteed and then shined throughout training camp.

Then again, it’s easy to forget that Beckham had a quiet 2021 regular season, too. It wasn’t until his playoff run with the Rams that he looked more like his vintage self. If Beckham breaks out over the next two months, he could have a rejuvenated market in free agency. If he struggles to stay healthy, or fails to produce, he won’t have too many suitors at age 31. Either way, it’s hard to imagine a return to Baltimore is likely.

Running back Gus Edwards has 590 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing this season. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

RB Gus Edwards

Status: Pending free agent

Projected contract: One year, $3.6 million

Big question: How much are the Ravens willing to invest in running backs? Mark Ingram II signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Ravens in 2019, only to be waived after his second season. J.K. Dobbins, taken with a second-round draft pick in 2020, has appeared in just 24 games. Edwards, who signed a two-year, $10 million extension through 2023 before the 2021 season, missed all of that season and half of the 2022 season with injuries himself.

With the stress that Jackson puts on run defenses, the Ravens will always need complementary ball carriers. But the success of low-cost options such as the Ravens’ Keaton Mitchell (undrafted), the Steelers’ Jaylen Warren (undrafted) and the Los Angeles Rams’ Kyren Williams (fifth-round pick), among others, could point DeCosta in another direction. There are always good running backs available; the Ravens just need to know where to look.

S Geno Stone

Status: Pending free agent

2023 valuation: $2.2 million

Big question: Will Marcus Williams’ return diminish Stone’s free-agent value? Stone is second in the NFL in interceptions (six). He’s also no longer an every-down player in Baltimore. Since Williams rejoined the Ravens’ starting lineup in Week 10, Stone has played 66.7%, 65.6% and 81.8% of the defense’s snaps over the past three games, down from 100% over each of the previous three.

There’s nothing stopping an overqualified backup from getting paid like a starter, though. And, with Kyle Hamilton under contract through at least 2025, and Williams’ deal running through 2026, Stone’s days in Baltimore are likely numbered.

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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