We go through this seemingly every year.
(Some) Ravens fans think the team is falling apart because free agents signed elsewhere. (Some) fans start making the case for their favorite free agents and give up on the upcoming season when those players sign elsewhere.
When discussing the Ravens moves this time of year, I always remind people that the season doesn’t start for another six months. The roster is far from being complete and it’s just the very beginning of free agency. We still have the draft, cap casualties, possible trades etc.
More than likely, some of these holes may be filled by players that are already on the roster. There are some younger Ravens that are not being mentioned much but may be in store for much larger roles this season. Let’s take a look how the Ravens could handle the losses of guys like Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, and Terrell Suggs.
Weddle was a leader of the defense, but his physical decline since arriving in Baltimore is undeniable. Of course, his intelligence and mastery of the defense seemed to only increase during the same period.
Did signing Earl Thomas allay your fears a bit?
Let’s move right along then, to some guys who are already on the roster, and about whom you may have forgotten.
Anthony Levine is a Raven that hasn’t been mentioned much this offseason. For a good portion of the season, Levine was the best defender on the team. He found his niche as a dime linebacker and his versatility is very valuable to the Ravens. He has played corner, safety, special teams, and linebacker and has a very good understanding of the defense. Nicknamed “Co Cap” behind former Raven Albert McClellan for his leading of the special teams unit, Levine could help fill the void left by Weddle and Mosley.
Next up, Chris Board, who quietly found his way onto the 53-man roster last year as an undrafted free agent. Hmm, an undrafted linebacker making the Ravens roster…that sounds familiar. Do I really need to go down the history of the long list of successful middle linebackers the Ravens have developed? No? I didn’t think so.
Will he be the latest Zach Orr? Maybe Bart Scott? The fact that he made the 53-man roster last year tells me there is hope he could even end up as a starter this year. We haven’t seen enough from him yet but the potential is there.
Looking at the offense…oh hey, while I was writing this, they signed Mark Ingram.
De’Lance Turner may still be a part of the plan in 2019, but the backfield just got a little crowded.
Back to defense then…
Jaylen Hill was a 2017 preseason superstar who never got a chance to showcase his skills much in a very deep and talented Ravens secondary. In 2018, many were excited to see if he could take the next step. His injury kept him off the field though, and not many have thought about him much as a result.
Maybe 2019 is the year he emerges as a breakout player. He doesn’t need to be a starter, but depth at corner is imperative. We’ve heard the saying many times: “you can never have too many corners.” Hill’s versatility – he can play inside or outside – is also important for depth players. If he is healthy, he could be a talented backup and maybe a starting-caliber corner on another less talented secondary.
Finally, Bam Bradley is another undrafted middle linebacker that made his way onto the 2017 roster. While the Ravens have struggled to draft wide receivers, they could draw a name out of a hat and still land a great middle linebacker. Is it luck when it happens over and over? It really doesn’t matter, as long as it keeps happening.
Bradley suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2017 season that ended his 2017 and kept him out for much of 2018 (he was placed on the PUP in August); however, he was able to practice during the end of the 2018 season. In 2019, he should be healthy and he adds another body in the competition to help fill the void left by Mosley’s departure.