A Familiar Strategy

Street Talk A Familiar Strategy

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Ravens Offseason Has a Familiar Vibe

 

While much of the focus on the Ravens offseason has been the addition of defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers, general manager Eric DeCosta did not stray too far away from the team’s traditional script.

DeCosta maintained the Ravens strategy of re-signing their key players and this year was no different. He was able to recently reach agreements with four of the team’s unrestricted free agents — receiver Chris Moore, defensive linemen Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis, cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Anthony Levine Sr.

Each of those players will make an impact in 2020.

DeCosta’s early flurry of moves had the rest of the league trying to keep pace.

That was part of the plan.

“We wanted to get out ahead of the curve and make a move before free-agency starts,” DeCosta told the team’s website. “By doing so, you have a little bit of an advantage over these other teams who are all competing for the same players.

“My fear was that if we didn’t get out early to make a move, then there would have been a lot of multiple parts that we were trying to juggle and it becomes a lot more difficult,” DeCosta said. “We felt like a good strategy for us was to try and make a move before the period started and that would allow us then to fill in behind that player.”

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The Browns followed DeCosta’s lead and have also been aggressive. Cleveland added more pieces to its potentially high-octane offense by signing tight end Austin Hooper, who finished with 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns for the Falcons last season, and Jack Conklin, one of the top right tackles in the NFL.

Now, the onus is on quarterback Baker Mayfield to show he can lead the offense after last year’s dismal performance.

If the offense does falter, the Browns also added some playmakers on defense with the free-agent signings of linebacker B.J. Goodson, safety Karl Joseph, defensive tackle Andrew Billings and cornerback Kevin Johnson.

Pittsburgh has been limited with its tight salary-cap situation, but still managed to add fullback Derek Watt, guard Stefen Wisniewski and tight end Eric Ebron.

The Ravens and Steelers also managed to pull off a rare trade with DeCosta trading defensive end Chris Wormley and a seventh-round pick in 2021 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2021. Wormley became expendable with the additions of Campbell and Brockers. 

The Bengals are in full rebuilding mode and will likely continue the process by adding quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They also placed the franchise tag on receiver A.J. Green, who was expected to be targeted by the Ravens had he reached free agency. Cincinnati also added defensive tackle D.J. Reader, cornerback Trae Waynes, guard Xavier Su’a-Filo and cornerback Mackensie Alexander via free agency.

Despite those moves within the AFC North, the Ravens are are still the favorites to defend their title.

DeCosta will likely be limited the rest of the way in free agency because the team now lacks salary cap flexibility due to the recent signings. However, more help is on the way via this year’s draft.

DeCosta has nine selections to fill some of the other needs on the current roster, most notably at inside linebacker, edge rusher, wide receiver and on the offensive line. The draft also fits perfectly into DeCosta’s strengths so expect the Ravens to walk away with several players ready to make an immediate impact as rookies.

The hope now is that the 2020 regular season begins on time because the Ravens will certainly be a fun team to watch, especially with the NFL’s reigning MVP Lamar Jackson primed and ready to start his third season in the league.

 

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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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