Sizing up the Ravens’ 2024 class of free agents

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Already working to replace several departing assistant coaches, the Ravens have little time to waste with the start of free agency just over a month away.

Baltimore and the other 31 teams are still waiting for the NFL to set the 2024 salary cap, which is expected to exceed $240 million after standing at $224.8 million for 2023. What salary cap flexibility general manager Eric DeCosta has could largely depend on the status of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, who seems likely to receive the franchise tag — projected to be around $20 million for his position — if a long-term contract isn’t signed by early March. For what it’s worth, OverTheCap.com projects the Ravens to have just over $7 million in space based on a $242 million salary cap.

In other words, DeCosta has work to do to create flexibility by extending, restructuring, or even terminating the contracts of select veteran players. Teams must be in compliance with the 2024 salary cap by the start of the new league year on March 13.

A look back at last year reminds that most of the 2023 free-agent class didn’t return, which is just the nature of business in the NFL.

Below is a look at Baltimore’s 2024 class of free agents:

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The Ravens will have the opportunity to extend any of the following pending free agents before they are permitted to officially sign with any team in the new league year.

WR Nelson AgholorThe 30-year-old posted modest numbers, but he was a positive presence on and off the field and probably wouldn’t cost much to return as a complementary piece.

*WR Odell Beckham Jr.Though technically not a pending free agent before you examine his reworked contract, Beckham didn’t live up to his compensation on the field and labored through stretches of the season, but he had his moments and would probably be welcomed back at a cheaper rate.

OLB Jadeveon ClowneyOne of the great stories and bargains of 2023, the soon-to-be 31-year-old matched a career high with 9 1/2 sacks and was easily Baltimore’s best edge defender playing the run and rushing the passer, which should lead to greater demand for his services than last year.

RB Dalvin Cook Despite the buzz surrounding his January arrival, the four-time Pro Bowl selection saw only fourth-quarter touches in the divisional round and didn’t play in the AFC title game, indications that the Ravens weren’t enamored with what they saw despite the underwhelming state of their backfield.

CB Ronald DarbyDespite a mid-August arrival and questions about his health stemming from a 2022 ACL injury, the 30-year-old provided starting-caliber play as Marlon Humphrey missed extensive time, making seven starts and appearing in all but one game.

RB J.K. DobbinsAfter a disgruntled offseason that included a “hold-in” to open training camp, the talented 2020 second-round pick suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the season opener, continuing a brutal run of injuries that have derailed a promising career.

WR Devin Duvernay Though a two-time Pro Bowl selection as a return specialist, Duvernay saw his role in the offense all but disappear with the other additions at wide receiver, so it will be interesting to see what kind of free-agent market he has next month.

RB Gus Edwards Despite setting career highs in touchdowns, rushing yards, rushing attempts, and receiving yards in an expanded role, Edwards averaged a career-low 4.1 yards per carry, so it seems clear he’s better suited for a more complementary role if he returns.

LB Malik HarrisonSeeing most of his snaps as an early-down Sam linebacker with Tyus Bowser missing the entire season, Harrison offers some versatility and a good presence on special teams, so a return at a low cost wouldn’t be surprising.

QB Tyler HuntleyLamar Jackson’s backup has shown the ability to hold down the fort for limited stretches, so we’ll see how he’s valued elsewhere, especially with the Ravens having signed quarterback Malik Cunningham off New England’s practice squad in December.

QB Josh JohnsonThe No. 3 quarterback will be 38 in May and didn’t play a single snap in 2023, but his return is plausible if Huntley departs since Cunningham has much to prove before becoming the primary backup to Jackson.

DT Justin MadubuikeAfter putting together one of the best contract years in team history with 13 sacks to lead all NFL defensive tackles, Madubuike could be eyeing a nine-figure deal before it’s all said and done, which is why the use of the franchise tag seems likely.

CB Arthur MauletDespite missing much of training camp with a hamstring injury, Maulet played the second-most snaps in the slot behind versatile All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton and was an effective blitzer and solid run defender.

C Sam MustipherThe Owings Mills native filled in effectively for injured Pro Bowl center Tyler Linderbaum for two games in September and played sparingly after that, often finding himself inactive on game days.

LS Tyler OttThe 31-year-old was everything the Ravens needed after Nick Moore suffered a torn Achilles over the summer, but the latter remains under contract and seems likely to return for the 2024 season.

ILB Del’Shawn PhillipsA quality contributor on special teams who turned some heads with his defensive play in the 2023 preseason, Phillips could make his way back to the roster as a depth piece at the right price.

ILB Patrick QueenMaking the Pro Bowl in his contract year, Queen has positioned himself to earn a lucrative contract, but it’s very difficult to see the Ravens making another major investment at inside linebacker after signing Roquan Smith to a $100 million deal.

G John SimpsonThe only Baltimore offensive lineman to start every game this season, Simpson exceeded expectations and provided much-needed dependability at left guard, but the Ravens also have some younger guards who could provide more long-term upside.

S Geno StoneAfter leading the AFC with seven interceptions, Stone will likely seek a bigger role and payday elsewhere, but his presence allowed Hamilton to play the slot more often, meaning we shouldn’t dismiss Baltimore valuing Stone more than anticipated.

DE Brent UrbanIn the midst of Broderick Washington’s disappointing year, the 32-year-old Urban remained a quality contributor on the defensive line and even started in the base defense down the stretch, leaving the door open for his return.

OLB Kyle Van NoyNot arriving in Baltimore until Week 4, the 32-year-old collected a career-high nine sacks and should have a bigger market this offseason, but you’d feel much better about the pass rush if the Ravens can re-sign at least one of him and Clowney.

DB Daryl WorleyWorley is a solid special-teams player and could easily be back in the picture to compete for a roster spot, especially with the emphasis Baltimore has on using three-safety defensive looks.

CB Rock Ya-SinSigned after the draft with visions of becoming a starter, Ya-Sin played well early in the season before struggling in November and falling behind Darby on the depth chart, but the emergence of Brandon Stephens was the biggest factor in his quiet season.

G Kevin ZeitlerThough turning 34 next month, Zeitler remains a Pro Bowl-caliber right guard — who finally received that recognition this year — and would be difficult to replace, especially with the organization pondering what to do with left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

None

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. The Ravens tender most exclusive-rights free agents with the idea that there’s nothing promised beyond the opportunity to compete for a roster spot. Exclusive-rights tenders are not guaranteed, meaning a player can be cut at any point without consequence to the salary cap.

DB Ar’Darius Washington Despite missing most of the season with a pectoral injury, Washington figures to compete at the nickel spot, a position he played extensively to open 2023 before landing on injured reserve.

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