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AFC North Preview: Ravens 2018 Offseason Recap

Following a 2017 season that saw them go 9-7 and miss the AFC playoffs on the final drive of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Baltimore Ravens underwent a number of changes this offseason, signing four veteran free agents, promoting Eric DeCosta to General Manager in waiting, and transitioning from Dean Pees to Don Martindale at defensive coordinator.

On top of free agency and some coaching staff reshuffling, the Ravens shook up the roster in a big way in the 2018 NFL Draft, selecting star quarterback Lamar Jackson out of Louisville, while adding six other offensive pieces in hopes of jump-starting a stagnant offensive system under Marty Mornhinweg.

FREE AGENCY

IN:  John Brown (Cardinals), Michael Crabtree (Raiders), Willie Snead IV (Saints), Robert Griffin III (Browns)

OUT: Mike Wallace (Eagles), Jeremy Maclin (FA), Benjamin Watson (Saints), Danny Woodhead (FA), Michael Campanaro (Titans), Lardarius Webb (FA), Ryan Mallett (FA)

Through free agency, receivers John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead IV join the fold, upgrading a Baltimore receiving corps that caught just 11 of Joe Flacco’s 18 touchdown passes. Eight of those 11 scores are gone, as Wallace (four), Maclin (three) and Campanaro (one) caught touchdowns from Flacco last season.

Signing Brown, Crabtree, and Snead IV provides the Ravens with upgrades at the position. Crabtree was a curious cut by the Oakland Raiders after Jon Gruden was hired as head coach, so what is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Brown hasn’t been able to stay healthy the last few years, but is just two years removed from a 1,000-yard season with seven touchdowns in the desert. Snead IV provides the Ravens with a good slot option, but he hasn’t played much football in the last year as the Saints benched him for the most part due to a DUI in the previous off-season. Snead IV put up monster numbers with Drew Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans, so it will be hard to replicate those numbers in Baltimore, but with his experience and production, he’s a good receiver to bring into a below average room.

The signing of Robert Griffin III was a head-scratcher in the sense that they brought in a known headache to a room already clashing, as Flacco was reportedly very unhappy with the franchise trading back up into the first round to draft Jackson. Griffin III has no chance of seeing the field at any point this season, unless both Flacco and Jackson go down with some sort of serious injury. Heck, Griffin III might not even make the 53-man roster.

Overall, the Ravens filled some holes offensively in free agency, and let some aging veterans walk without replacing them. Sometimes that’s better than signing guys just to fix a hole on the roster.

NFL DRAFT

In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Ravens went into the three-day selection process knowing it would be general manager Ozzie Newsome’s final draft with the organization. Eric DeCosta will take over for Newsome following the completion of the 2018 season.

Newsome will be a loss for the Ravens in the front office, as he’s been responsible for building two Super Bowl champions (XXXV, XLVII), and four division champions (2003, 2006, 2011, 2012) while as an executive for the Ravens.

In his final draft, Newsome did quite well for Baltimore, acquiring high-end offensive talent, highlighted by Jackson, who will slot in as the QB of the future sooner than later for the Ravens. Along with Jackson, Newsome grabbed two tight ends — South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews — two receivers in New Mexico State’s Jaleel Scott and UCLA’s Jordan Lashley, and offensive tackles Orlando Brown Jr. (Oklahoma) and Greg Senat (Wagner), and center Bradley Bozeman (Alabama).

On the other side of the ball, Baltimore grabbed cornerback Anthony Averett (Alabama), linebacker Kenny Young (UCLA), safety DeShon Elliott (Texas), and defensive end Zach Sieler (Ferris State).

Offensively, Newsome did quite well accruing talent through the draft for a struggling unit. Andrews and Hurst should produce right away for Flacco, while Jackson will be a superstar at QB for the Ravens, something they haven’t had in the franchise’s history.

Brown Jr., Senat, and Bozeman provide much-needed depth up front, which the Ravens desperately needed in recent years.

Defensively, Averett, Young, and Elliott all have a good shot at developing into starters for the Ravens. Newsome did well overall in the draft once again.

COACHING CHANGES

Baltimore made the decision to part ways with Pees as defensive coordinator after five seasons in charge of a stout unit. The 2017 wasn’t up to standards defensively for the Ravens, as Baltimore allowed the 12th-most yards per game (325.1), nearly 5.0 yards per play, 18.9 points per game, and a 37 percent conversion rate on third down. All of that came to a head in the final drive of Week 17’s matchup with the Bengals in Baltimore, as Tyler Boyd slipped behind the Ravens’ secondary for the game-winning score with 44 seconds left, knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs.

Pees moves on to the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator job, while linebackers coach Don Martindale takes over the Ravens job after five seasons in that role. Martindale was a defensive coordinator at Western Illinois in 1999, Western Kentucky (2000-2003), and with the Denver Broncos in 2010. Back in 2010, the Broncos’ defense allowed the most points per game in the league (29.4), most yards per game (390.8) and a third-down conversion percentage of 38 percent. That defense had Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, Robert Ayers, Wesley Woodyard, and D.J. Williams on that team.

Baltimore went through a number of changes this off-season, but all of that occurred with one thing in mind:  get back to the playoffs this year.

2018 SCHEDULE

Week 1 Sun, Sep 9 Buffalo 1:00 PM
Week 2 Thu, Sep 13 at Cincinnati 8:20 PM
Week 3 Sun, Sep 23 Denver 1:00 PM
Week 4 Sun, Sep 30 at Pittsburgh 8:20 PM
Week 5 Sun, Oct 7 at Cleveland 1:00 PM
Week 6 Sun, Oct 14 at Tennessee 4:25 PM
Week 7 Sun, Oct 21 New Orleans 4:05 PM
Week 8 Sun, Oct 28 at Carolina 1:00 PM
Week 9 Sun, Nov 4 Pittsburgh 1:00 PM
Week 10 *BYE
Week 11 Sun, Nov 18 Cincinnati 1:00 PM
Week 12 Sun, Nov 25 Oakland 1:00 PM
Week 13 Sun, Dec 2 at Atlanta 1:00 PM
Week 14 Sun, Dec 9 at Kansas City 1:00 PM
Week 15 Sun, Dec 16 Tampa Bay 1:00 PM
Week 16 Sun, Dec 23 at L.A. Chargers 4:05 PM
Week 17 Sun, Dec 30 Cleveland 1:00 PM

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