Where does your squad stand in 2023? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.
Members of the Ravens organization, Ravens fans around the world and those who know that Old Bay Seasoning is the best seasoning ...
It was getting weird there for a moment, but I never thought for a second that Lamar Jackson was going to play quarterback for anybody other than the Baltimore Ravens. It took a leap of faith. Like when you're waiting for your kid to clean their room despite their protest. And while you wonder if it's ever going to get done, eventually, it does. Even if you have to do it yourself. Thankfully, I didn't have to go out and personally make his new contract with the Ravens happen, but it's done. What does that mean for the coming season? Good question. But before we look forward, it's important to take a look back.
One high from last season: Making the playoffs. Baltimore made the postseason even though Jackson played just 12 games in 2022. The Ravens were 9-4 at one point -- they looked like one of the best teams in the NFL.
One low from last season: Lamar Jackson's knee injury. Jackson suffered the sprain against the Broncos in Week 13. There was hope Lamar would return for the playoffs, but he did not make it back. And the Ravens lost a heartbreaker in the postseason after Jackson's backup, Tyler Huntley, tried to dive into the end zone -- from what seemed like the 5-yard line -- resulting in a fumble and Bengals DE Sam Hubbard going 98 yards the other way for the winning score. Yeah, that was kind of a bummer.
Quarterback: Lamar Jackson. Jackson's new five-year, $260 million contract made him the league's highest-paid player with an average annual value of $52 million. He received the largest signing bonus ($72.5 million) in league history. As I mentioned before, the good news is that he's locked in for the next five years. The contract negotiations kind of hung over the team for a while. The unanimous 2019 MVP is now signed and ready to go.
Projected 2023 MVP: Jackson. We've seen what he means to this team and how different the Ravens look when he's not on the field. He's missed five games in each of the last two seasons. The Ravens were in first place in the AFC North in 2021 when Jackson suffered an ankle injury in Week 14. They finished in last place in the division that year. The Ravens again floundered without him late last season but still managed to make the playoffs. Since Jackson became the starter in 2018, the Ravens have gone 45-16 with him and 4-8 without him in regular-season games. Baltimore has averaged 28 points per game with him, which would rank second in the NFL during that span (compared to 17.2 points without him). The team needs him to stay healthy.
New face to know: Odell Beckham, wide receiver. OBJ is coming back to play football games after spending all of last season as a free agent as he recovered from an ACL tear. It's the most anticipated return for me since CM Punk came back to AEW. I mean, we were on pins and needles for a while, and now CM Punk is better than ever. I hope we see the same thing with OBJ, who signed a one-year deal with Baltimore in April. Ravens wide receivers have averaged 107.3 receiving yards per game since 2019, the fewest in the NFL during that span by over 25 yards per game. Odell has averaged 76.7 receiving yards per game during his NFL career, which ranks 10th in NFL history among qualified players. He's among the players that were added to lighten the burden on Jackson.
2023 breakout star: Kyle Hamilton, safety. It was funny. When the Ravens drafted him 14th overall last year, I thought to myself, "How do the Ravens always seem to get players like this?" He should have been picked much earlier. Hamilton started just four games last season, but his role will expand this year, and I expect him to make that leap.
|Special teams coordinator
- This is once again the spot where I applaud the efforts of John Harbaugh, who continues to be one of the most overlooked coaches in the NFL. He managed to get the Ravens into the tournament last year despite the absence of Jackson down the stretch, and -- I hate to bring up this painful stuff for Ravens fans -- they were so close to knocking off the Bengals in the playoffs.
- Todd Monken was a huge get for the Ravens to replace Greg Roman, who resigned after six seasons with the team (he spent the last four as offensive coordinator). Monken helped lead Georgia to back-to-back national titles and is returning to the NFL, where he previously served as OC with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns. One thing you might note about Monken is that he liked to throw the football during his time with the Bucs. A lot. How is that going to work with the Ravens? That's one of the key questions heading into this season. I mean, I don't think it's any coincidence they hired a potentially pass-heavy play-caller.
Below is a rundown of the Ravens' most notable roster developments for the 2023 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.
|Draft class (round-pick)
|Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College (1-22)
|Odell Beckham, WR
|Kenyan Drake, RB
|Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson (3-86)
|Nelson Agholor, WR
|Demarcus Robinson, WR
|Tavius Robinson, OLB, Mississippi (4-124)
|Rock Ya-Sin, CB
|Sammy Watkins, WR
|Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford (5-157)
|Josh Oliver, TE
|Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, OT, Oregon (6-199)
|Ben Powers, OG
|Andrew Vorhees, OL, USC (7-229)
|Calais Campbell, DL
|Justin Houston, OLB
|Jason Pierre-Paul, OLB
|Kyle Fuller, CB
|Marcus Peters, CB
|Chuck Clark, S
Three key dates:
- Week 2 at Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens open at home against the Texans, which kind of seems like one of those SEC non-conference games early in the season, right before they get into the middle of conference season.
- Week 12 at Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday night). These teams have a bit of history in the postseason. This game could be a tune-up for another playoff matchup. Both teams have a chance to be pretty great and could have been in the AFC main-event picture over the last couple of years, if they hadn't faced so many injuries.
- Week 18 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. These two rivals should play each other in the final week of the regular season every year. I love these battles. This could be for the AFC North, or at the very least a playoff berth. Something will have gone horribly wrong if it's not.
Will the Ravens be able to ...
... rely on someone to complement Mark Andrews? Andrews has accounted for the highest percentage of his team's receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns among all tight ends since 2019. Also, Andrews ranks second among tight ends in receptions (302), receiving yards (3,761) and receiving touchdowns (31) since the 2019 season. The leader in those categories? Will Dissly. I'm kidding. Of course, it's Travis Kelce. But Andrews has some help in Baltimore now. We talked about our guy OBJ earlier in this piece. The team used a first-round pick on former Boston College star Zay Flowers, who posted 1,285 yards on deep passes from 2020 to 2022 (third among Power 5 receivers). Also, he recorded 1,197 yards after the catch during that stretch, according to Pro Football Focus. Rashod Bateman, a first-round pick in 2021, will return from injury. And let's not forget the hot finish from J.K. Dobbins. Dude has missed 27 games since entering the league in 2020, but he led the NFL with 397 rushing yards from Week 14 through Week 17 (the Ravens rested him in Week 18).
... fix the pass defense? The Ravens are known for their defense. You can never change that. Kind of like the way Dunkin' Donuts started going by Dunkin' and whatnot. Like, I get what you're trying to do. You're still a donut company. That doesn't mean the Ravens can't improve their pass defense, which ranked 26th in the league last season. Now, the Ravens were third last year in scoring defense, so it certainly wasn't a bad group overall. The big key might be the acquisition of Roquan Smith, who arrived via a trade with the Bears at midseason. The Ravens allowed 266.8 passing yards per game before he joined the team. They allowed 201.4 passing yards per game after he arrived. Further development from young edge rushers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo would also be helpful in this effort.
One storyline ...
... people are overthinking: The Ravens are doomed when they fall behind in games. I feel like I hear a lot of dumb narratives suggesting Lamar Jackson can't throw. Has anybody ever noticed that the Ravens -- in their entire history -- have never drafted a Pro Bowl receiver? I hope that changes with Zay Flowers, but they haven't had a lot of success drafting receivers. Also, I just want to point out that since at least 2000 (min. 50 attempts), Jackson ranks first in the NFL in pass yards per attempt (9.2) and passer rating (115.8) when the Ravens are trailing with two minutes or less remaining in the fourth quarter. He also has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 5:1 in those scenarios, which is tied for second in the NFL over that span. Dude can sling it.
For 2023 to be a success, the Ravens MUST:
- Return to the playoffs and win. That's right. If you're going to be resetting the market for quarterbacks, you need to win in the playoffs. Lamar Jackson is just 1-3 in the postseason during his career. He has not played in a postseason game since the 2020 season. It's time for the Ravens to take that next step. Not that anybody is in danger of losing their gig or anything. But if the Ravens get to the playoffs and lose their first game, like they have done in three of their last four playoff appearances, that would be a huge bummer. Especially with the Orioles playing so well this year.