I know the Super Bowl was just a couple of days ago, but now that another season has come and gone, it’s time to start speculating about next season.
The Baltimore Ravens have their fair share of guys ready to hit the open market, guys who will end up being cap casualties, and of course, those that will hang up the cleats for good. If they clear up enough money, which they will by parting ways with QB Joe Flacco and possibly several other players who haven’t been playing up to their contracts as of late.
The Ravens desperately need help at the safety and pass rusher positions, and they should be buyers for defense only in free agency and build around Lamar Jackson through the draft. This is not a bad year to try to acquire those pieces. I put together a list of who the team should target, barring the use of the franchise tag and other circumstances out of the team’s control.
- Adrian Amos, Safety, Chicago Bears – At only 26 years old and ranked in the top eight of active safeties according to Pro Football Focus, Amos makes the most sense to fulfill the need on the back end of the secondary. Landon Collins of the Giants is also available, but Amos has much more speed and range, which is something Baltimore has lacked since the halcyon days of Ed Reed. Statistically speaking, Amos is coming off his best season yet, with two interceptions and 73 combined tackles. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Amos is a local kid as well, as he attended Calvert Hall College High School in Towson (Yeah Hall!). Coming back home may be alluring for him, and it would certainly be a match made in heaven for both Amos and defensive coordinator Don Martindale.
- Jadeveon Clowney, OLB, Houston Texans – The Houston Texans are bound to put a competitive offer on the table for the 26-year-old edge rusher, but he possesses the kind of freak athleticism that opposing coordinators must game plan around. The Ravens haven’t had a game wrecker like Clowney on the defensive side of the ball since Ray Lewis and Ed Reed prowled the field. Clowney has compiled 18.5 sacks and 42 quarterback hits in the last two seasons, which is the exact same amount that Za’Darius Smith has for his entire career. No doubt Clowney benefitted from playing with his teammate J.J. Watt, but when Watt was injured, Clowney took over as leader and saw the Texans defensive unit really gel.
- Dante Fowler Jr., DE, LA Rams – One of the talented pass rushers for the Super Bowl runner-up is likely to hit the market after having a career resurgence following the trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this season. Fowler finished with two sacks and five quarterback hits for the Rams, but his presence was consistently felt. Fowler, as a first-round pick, still has latent talent for sure, and he’s still just 25 years old. Fowler played a typical 3-4 scheme linebacker in Wade Phillip’s defense, so it would be a near-seamless transition if he arrived in Charm City.
- Kwon Alexander, ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Yes, I am aware C.J. Mosley is a fan-favorite, I’ve had his jersey since his rookie season and the reality hits that the former Alabama product’s time in Baltimore is ending. Kwon Alexander has spent the last few years as a successful pass defending linebacker with teammate Lavonte David in Tampa, though he tore his ACL this past October. The combination of the injury and being overshadowed by a talent like David would certainly make his asking price less than that of Mosley. If the Ravens truly want to revamp this team and get with the times, a faster linebacker would be a way to go. Alexander had three interceptions and 97 combined tackles through only 12 games in 2017, if he can come back healthy, the Ravens could have another defensive cornerstone.
- Tyrann Mathieu, Safety, Houston Texans – I would LOVE to see the Honey Badger in Baltimore, the range, speed, and ability to play virtually any position on defense would certainly leave Don Martindale salivating. Whereas in previous seasons, Mathieu had trouble staying on the field, he has hit a stream of consistency, as he has played 16 games in two consecutive seasons and has accumulated four interceptions as well as 163 combined tackles. He could easily replace former Arizona Cardinals teammate Tony Jefferson, who currently holds a hefty $12.66 million cap hit for the 2019 season. Cutting Jefferson would trigger $9.3M in dead money and a 2019 cap savings of $3.3M. Mathieu’s contract demands coupled with the cap consequences of Jefferson’s twice restructured deal probably makes such a move cost prohibitive given the team’s other needs. But Mathieu’s versatility and playmaking ability should inspire the Ravens front office to at least consider it.