Over his two years in Baltimore, Mike Macdonald established himself as one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators. Now the Ravens have to find his replacement.
With Macdonald expected to be named the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Ravens coach John Harbaugh faces another important offseason staffing decision. A year ago, the Ravens lured Todd Monken away from Georgia to help remake a talent-rich offense. Now Macdonald’s successor is set to inherit an NFL-best unit that could return three All-Pro performers: defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, inside linebacker Roquan Smith and safety Kyle Hamilton.
The Ravens’ best coordinator candidates might already be in Baltimore, but Harbaugh could look to make an outside hire. Here are seven names to watch.
Anthony Weaver, assistant head coach and defensive line coach: Weaver, 43, interviewed with the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Commanders for their head coaching vacancies this month. In Baltimore, he’d be the only in-house coordinator candidate with play-calling experience. He served as the Texans’ defensive coordinator for one season, in 2020; Houston, which entered the year with a lightly regarded defense, ultimately ranked 30th in DVOA, FTN’s measure of overall efficiency.
Weaver joined the Ravens’ staff in January 2021 as run game coordinator and defensive line coach and was promoted to assistant head coach after one season. He also led the search committee last offseason for the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator, which ended with the hiring of Monken, and helped in the recruitment of free-agent outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who had a career year in Baltimore.
Weaver, a former Ravens defensive lineman himself, has helped oversee the development of young linemen Madubuike, Broderick Washington and Travis Jones. Madubuike was named an All-Pro this season after leading all interior defensive linemen in sacks. Weaver has also worked with outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith and the team’s edge defenders.
“You’re not going to find a better leader, better defensive coach than Anthony Weaver,” Harbaugh said in September. “He’s going to be a head coach very soon.”
Chris Hewitt, pass game coordinator and secondary coach: Hewitt starred at the University of Cincinnati when Harbaugh was the Bearcats’ special teams coordinator, and no current defensive assistant has served under the Ravens’ head coach longer. Hewitt, 49, started in Baltimore as an assistant special teams coach in 2012 before being named an assistant secondary coach in 2014. He was promoted to defensive backs coach in 2015, pass defense coordinator in 2020, and pass game coordinator and secondary coach in 2022.
The Ravens’ secondary has been one of the NFL’s most consistent units in that span, producing five Pro Bowl defensive backs since 2015: cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and safeties Eric Weddle, Earl Thomas III and Kyle Hamilton. In 2023, the Ravens led the NFL in yards per pass attempt allowed, finished third in interceptions and had the league’s most efficient pass defense against deep shots, according to FTN.
The Ravens’ coverage schemes have evolved over the years, too, transitioning from a man-to-man-heavy approach under former coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale to a more balanced diet, featuring man- and zone-match play calls. Ravens players told The Baltimore Banner in October that Hewitt, a former NFL defensive back himself, was instrumental in communicating Macdonald’s vision for the defense.
“Chris, I would say he’s very motivational and technical in the way we are moving our feet, moving in the post [as a safety], how we do stuff on the field,” Hamilton said.
Hewitt reportedly interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive coordinator position, which ultimately went to Ryan Nielsen.
Dennard Wilson, defensive backs coach: Wilson, a standout safety at Maryland, landed in Baltimore last offseason after he was passed over for the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator position. Eagles Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay told the Philadelphia Inquirer last month, after Philadelphia’s defense collapsed over the back half of its season, that Wilson “should have stayed.”
Without Wilson, the Eagles’ secondary struggled. With Wilson, the Ravens’ ascended. Harbaugh said in September that Wilson “added so much to the secondary in terms of ideas and technique coaching.” Hamilton said in October that Wilson is “very meticulous, very calculated” in his approach to the game.
“Dennard did a great job, him and Chris together,” safety Geno Stone, who finished second in the NFL in interceptions, said Monday. “I feel they kind of helped me break out. They gave me a lot of tips and how to play and be more fundamental, stuff like that. So I give those guys a lot of credit to help me go be the best person I am.”
Wilson, 41, has reportedly interviewed for defensive coordinator positions with the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans, and on Tuesday he received a request to interview for the Green Bay Packers’ vacancy.
Zach Orr, inside linebackers coach: Orr was one of only three positional coaches in the NFL to have multiple players earn All-Pro honors this season — and the only one on defense to do so. Roquan Smith, a first-team selection for the second straight year, led the Ravens with 158 tackles in 16 games, five shy of tying his career high. Patrick Queen, a second-team honoree, had a career-best 133 tackles.
Orr, 31, who earned All-Pro honors himself in Baltimore in 2016 before retiring because of a congenital neck and spine condition, is the youngest assistant on the Ravens’ staff. He not only helped ease the workflow for one of the defense’s most high-pressure positions — “We do put a lot on those guys’ plates,” Orr said in August — but also helped develop depth at inside linebacker. Malik Harrison, Del’Shawn Phillips and rookie Trenton Simpson all contributed on defense when called upon this season.
“Heck of a young linebacker coach,” Harbaugh said in September. “Zach gets those guys rolling and teaches details at the same time.”
Orr, like Wilson, is reportedly expected to interview for the Packers’ vacant coordinator position.
Jesse Minter, Michigan defensive coordinator: With the Chargers hiring Jim Harbaugh, Minter is reportedly set to follow him as his defensive coordinator. But Minter does have a history with John Harbaugh, too. Before spending three years as a college defensive coordinator, first at Vanderbilt and then at Michigan, he worked for four years on the Ravens’ staff, rising from defensive assistant to defensive backs coach.
Minter’s emergence comes two years after Macdonald’s own in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines finished No. 1 in defensive efficiency last season, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, as they rolled to a College Football Playoff national title. Minter, 40, was praised for his creative play calling, including his simulated pressures.
Minter has a deep family history with John Harbaugh. Minter’s father, Rick, retained John as an assistant coach after he was named the Bearcats’ head coach in 1994.
D’Anton Lynn, USC defensive coordinator: Lynn, the son of former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, wasn’t on the Ravens’ staff long. He was hired in January 2021 to replace Minter as their defensive backs coach and served two seasons before he was named UCLA’s defensive coordinator in February 2023.
USC pried Lynn, 34, away from its crosstown rival in December after he oversaw a dramatic turnaround. In their first season under Lynn, the Bruins improved from 79th in defensive efficiency to sixth, according to ESPN’s FPI.
Leslie Frazier, former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator: Frazier served as the Bills’ coordinator from 2017 to 2022, overseeing a unit that finished first and second, respectively, in DVOA in his final two seasons. Before that, he worked under Harbaugh as the Ravens’ secondary coach in 2016.
Frazier, 64, stepped away from coaching this season after Buffalo announced he would not be returning as defensive coordinator. He has head coaching experience — he went 18-29-1 from 2011 to 2013 with the Minnesota Vikings — and interviewed with the Las Vegas Raiders and Chargers for their top jobs, but he was passed over. Frazier’s also reportedly set to interview with the Packers for their vacant coordinator position.
Joe Cullen, Kansas City Chiefs defensive line coach: The Ravens’ former defensive line coach is still well regarded in Baltimore — Harbaugh singled him out as a member of the Chiefs’ “great staff” last week — and has experience as a coordinator. Cullen, 56, oversaw one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2021 on Urban Meyer’s Jaguars staff, but Meyer himself lasted less than a year before he was fired. In Kansas City, Cullen has worked with defensive tackle Chris Jones, who’s earned first-team All-Pro honors over the past two seasons, and young players such as defensive end George Karlaftis, who had six sacks as a rookie and 10.5 in 2023.
Mike Caldwell, former Jaguars defensive coordinator: Caldwell was in the mix for the Ravens’ coordinator job two years ago. He ended up getting the Jaguars’ coordinator job, and he helped stabilize a rebuilding unit. Before getting fired this offseason, along with the rest of Jacksonville’s defensive staff, Caldwell, 52, had lifted the defense from No. 30 in efficiency in 2021 to No. 23 in 2022 to No. 10 this season, according to FTN. The former NFL linebacker also played for the Ravens in their inaugural 1996 season.
Joe Whitt Jr., Dallas Cowboys secondary coach and pass game coordinator: Whitt also interviewed for the job two years ago. Over the past two seasons, the Cowboys have ranked sixth and seventh in pass defense efficiency, according to FTN. Cornerback Trevon Diggs developed into a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and cornerback DaRon Bland, a fifth-round pick in 2022, led the NFL in interceptions this season. Whitt, 45, has experience in defenses based out of different fronts, having worked under former Green Bay Packers coordinator Dom Capers and current Cowboys coordinator Dan Quinn.