There’s no shortage of concern surrounding the Ravens offense these days with much of it justified.
Star quarterback Lamar Jackson remains unsigned after two years of off-and-on contract talks and back-to-back seasons cut short by injury. It’s no secret the 26-year-old’s status for 2023 and beyond has major ramifications on the salary cap, long-term roster building, and Baltimore’s championship aspirations.
With that saga unresolved, who will replace Greg Roman as the new offensive coordinator?
J.K. Dobbins is entering a contract year and wasn’t exactly thrilled with how he was handled in 2022 while Gus Edwards is scheduled to make nearly $4.4 million next season, which is pricey for a complementary running back.
Beyond hoping Rashod Bateman will finally stay healthy, how does general manager Eric DeCosta plan to fix a wide receiver position that was a disaster this past season?
Regardless of these issues, the Ravens still have much going for them on the offensive side of the ball, which will help whoever is playing quarterback, calling plays, running the ball, and catching passes for Baltimore in 2023.
The Ravens have one of the game’s best tight ends in three-time Pro Bowl selection Mark Andrews and saw evidence that 2022 fourth-round pick Isaiah Likely can make a serious pass-catching impact. Including fellow fourth-round selection Charlie Kolar and four-time Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard, the Ravens couldn’t be in much better shape at tight end moving forward.
Most importantly, an offensive line that was a source of frustration over the previous two seasons finished 2022 as one of the roster’s greatest strengths and one of the NFL’s top groups, according to multiple outlets. Pro Football Focus ranked the Ravens as its second-best offensive line by year’s end — they were 21st in 2021 — while ESPN ranked Baltimore sixth in team pass block win rate and first in team run block win rate for the 2022 season.
“Our goal is to build the very best team we can build,” DeCosta said last week. “Last year, one of our key missions was to build the offensive line back, and we feel excited about that and the way we were able to do that in different ways.”
Yes, much has changed from last offseason when veteran center Bradley Bozeman was on his way out via free agency and both offensive tackle spots were seemingly up in the air despite the re-signing of versatile backup Patrick Mekari. An inconsistent Ben Powers had spent most of 2021 as the starting left guard, but he had replaced the injured Tyre Phillips and finished the season with an injury of his own.
This past season, first-round center Tyler Linderbaum looked the part of an offensive line anchor for years to come, veteran free agent Morgan Moses solidified right tackle, and Powers established himself as a legitimate NFL starter after winning a training camp competition.
More significantly, many had thought Ronnie Stanley’s career was in serious jeopardy after the star left tackle had undergone multiple ankle surgeries and missed 27 of Baltimore’s previous 28 games in the regular season and playoffs. And while the 28-year-old didn’t make his 2022 return until October, he started 12 games — including the playoff loss in Cincinnati — and finished the season healthy.
Happy not to be facing an offseason of rehabilitation for the first time in three years, Stanley can now focus on honing his craft and regaining the pre-injury that made him one of the game’s top left tackles before the serious left ankle injury suffered on Nov. 1, 2020.
“I think I showed spurts of that. I think for my standard, I would like things to be just cleaner [and] more efficient,” said Stanley, who has three seasons remaining on the $98.75 million contract extension signed two days before the original injury. “But I think after going into this offseason, I’ll be a completely better player than I ever was.”
With the winds of change surrounding other elements of the offense, the Ravens want the offensive line to look very similar to the one that excelled for much of 2022. Of the nine linemen to finish the season on the 53-man roster, Powers is the only one scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return. If Powers indeed proves too expensive as most anticipate, Baltimore could turn to restricted free agent Trystan Colon, 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland, or Mekari to take over at left guard.
Salary cap concerns may prompt attempts by DeCosta to adjust the existing contracts for Moses and Zeitler, but the Ravens would certainly like to avoid having to fix something that wasn’t broken for the first time in a few years. They have more than enough to address with the rest of the offense.
“Continuity does matter. You’re able to work together on things,” head coach John Harbaugh said last week. “The offensive line, as Eric mentioned, is together. That offensive line is going to be wholly intact or almost wholly intact next year coming back. That’s big.”