Adding More Pieces to the Puzzle Baltimore Ravens photo

Street Talk Adding More Pieces to the Puzzle

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The Ravens made another shrewd move by extending Chuck Clark on a three-year deal.

Clark has the potential to become one of the top safeties in the NFL and he will only get better with more playing time.

The move also ensures the Ravens will have the core group of their dominant secondary intact for the upcoming season.

Credit general manager Eric DeCosta as the architect of that plan.

Not only did DeCosta have the foresight to secure a deal with Clark, he also locked up a three-year extension for cornerback Marcus Peters, who played a key role in the revamped secondary.

Don’t forget about Tavon Young, who signed a three-Year, $25.8 million contract extension in February 2019 before a neck injury sidelined him for the season. Young is also emerging as one of the top slot cornerbacks in the league and he’s expected to get back on the field in 2020.

If DeCosta can manage to agree to a contract extension with Marlon Humphrey, that Ravens secondary will be an area of strength for years to come.

“It’s definitely exciting. We have a lot of pieces coming back and we jell together well on the field,” Clark said. “We play together well. So, I’m excited to have everybody coming back.”

The Ravens’ ability to play man-coverage also plays a vital part of the pass rush, which is a main area of focus this offseason.

While the Ravens obviously like to sign their own playmakers before they hit the free-agent market, linebacker Matthew Judon presents a challenge. He led the team with 9.5 sacks this season and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

In short, Judon came up huge in the walk-year of his contract, putting himself in position for a huge payday as an unrestricted free agent.

Judon is looking to secure a similar deal to former teammate Za’Darius Smith, the Ravens’ sacks leader in 2018, who signed a four-year, $66 million deal with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent last offseason. There’s talk that Judon is asking for even more money.

The Ravens could opt to place the franchise tag on Judon for about $16 million and that will give them some time and flexibility to negotiate a new deal or perhaps even trade him.

The Ravens are in an enviable position in that there aren’t that many holes they need to fill on their roster this offseason with the exception of the aforementioned pass rusher, a wide receiver and depth for the offensive line. DeCosta will look to fill several of these holes in the 2020 NFL Draft, where the Ravens have nine picks, including compensatory picks.

One of the biggest luxuries is that quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson is still playing on his rookie deal. The Ravens can’t even negotiate with him until next season.

Nonetheless, DeCosta has some heavy lifting ahead of him.

In addition to Humphrey, the Ravens likely want to finalize a contract extension for left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. No team wants to absorb the loss of a starting left tackle, especially one that is coming off a Pro Bowl season.

Further down the road, the Ravens will also have to negotiate a new deal with tight end Mark Andrews.

Nonetheless, DeCosta is getting rave reviews for his work thus far. He has walked a delicate balance of keeping the team competitive, while building a strong foundation for the future.

The hype is building for a Super Bowl run next season for the Ravens.

DeCosta sees a bigger picture. He wants to build a dynasty.

With the latest set of signings, the Ravens appear to be on the right track.

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich
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