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Twelve Ravens Thoughts counting down to start of free agency

With the Ravens making final preparations ahead of the start of free agency and the official opening of the new league year next Wednesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore wasn’t letting Justin Madubuike hit the open market after one of the better defensive seasons in franchise history, making the franchise tag a no-brainer despite its cost. How Chris Jones, Christian Wilkins, and Leonard Williams fare in free agency should provide data points for a potential long-term contract. 

2. There have been a combined 15 double-digit sack seasons from interior defensive linemen over the last five years with Jones, Aaron Donald, and Cam Heyward being the only ones with more than one. Wanting Madubuike to do it again is fair, but his price blows past Jones’ if he does. 

3. Eric DeCosta has work to do to make the Ravens compliant with the $255.4 million salary cap by next Wednesday. Yes, a Madubuike extension would lower his 2024 number, but it’s difficult envisioning a deal being imminent after Baltimore didn’t even wait until 4 p.m. to announce Tuesday’s decision.

4. Releasing Morgan Moses would save $5.5 million in cap space, so you wonder if that’s the reference point for trying to get Ronnie Stanley to accept a cut, essentially pitting the two against each other. Even with a deep offensive line draft, I just don’t see moving on from both. 

5. Is there a deal to be made to keep one of Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy? The earliest Clowney has signed as a free agent is mid-April. Van Noy collected a career-high nine sacks after arriving in September. I’m not sure either will be in a rush to sign. 

6. With Seattle releasing former Pro Bowl safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs on Tuesday, it’s easy to envision Geno Stone following Mike Macdonald to join the Seahawks. Stone is a smart player and would be a valuable presence helping to establish Macdonald’s defensive system.  

7. Given their evolving offensive system and need for cap space, the Ravens may look at Patrick Ricard’s $4 million salary as a potential cut, but that creates a need for a blocking tight end. Perhaps a more affordable extension could be worked out with the four-time Pro Bowl fullback. 

8. His injury history remains a factor, but teams could do way worse than Ronald Darby if they’re looking for solid cornerback play at an affordable cost. Baltimore would surely like to bring him back as a top outside reserve behind Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Stephens. 

9. The NFL hasn’t announced the compensatory picks for the 2024 draft, but the Ravens are projected to receive a fourth-round choice for the departure of guard Ben Powers last March. Given their long list of free agents and limited cap space, you’d expect a few more next year. 

10. I’ve been critical of the organization’s approach at wide receiver for years, but I’d much prefer adding a Day 2 draft pick at the position to dropping money on Odell Beckham Jr. or a similar veteran in an underwhelming free-agent group. Otherwise, why be so quick to re-sign Nelson Agholor? 

11. The Ravens currently have 11 unrestricted free agents who accounted for just under 40% of their defensive snaps last season. They lost their defensive coordinator as well as highly regarded defensive line and defensive backs coaches. Elite talent remains at each level, but that’s some serious attrition

12. Acknowledging that challenge as well as a pending offensive line rebuild, I’d still gladly take this offseason over the last couple consumed by an unsigned franchise quarterback. Questions about January will rightly persist, but no matter how they’re constructed, the Ravens always remain in the mix with Lamar Jackson. 

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