We knew five years ago that the careers of first-round inside linebackers Ryan Shazier and C.J. Mosley would somehow be linked together. They followed soon after one another, the former going to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the latter to the Baltimore Ravens. The second round even featured the pairings of defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Timmy Jernigan in 2014.
The Ravens no longer have either of those players on their roster, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t play at a high level. Shazier and Tuitt remain in Pittsburgh, but of course Shazier continues to rehab from a career-threatening injury suffered a year and a half ago.
Both Shazier and Mosley developed into perennial Pro Bowlers, particularly Mosley, who made the Pro Bowl in four of his first five seasons before signing the biggest-ever contract for an inside linebacker with the New York Jets this offseason.
And like the Steelers after Shazier’s injury, they failed to address his departure significantly in free agency. And then they ignored inside linebacker entirely in the draft. When Pittsburgh did this last year, they missed the postseason the following year and vowed to fill the void in 2019, doing so by signing Mark Barron and then making an aggressive trade up for Devin Bush.
Is this where the Ravens will be a year from now? At the very least, their rationale remains the same as the Steelers from a year ago.
Naturally, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta was questioned about why the team failed to address the position this offseason after they lost an All-Pro player who was arguably the heart and soul and leader of their defensive unit.
Baltimore of course would have loved to have seen either Devin White or Devin Bush fall to them at 22, but neither made it out of the top 10, the Steelers making sure of that. DeCosta acknowledged that there were a few players that the team liked, but not where they would have had to take them, and argued that the inside linebacker class as a whole was not very deep.
DeCosta on not drafting an ILB: “There were players that we really liked” in the first four rounds, but “it has to work out. The right player has to be there at the right time.”Said they only felt a handful of ILBs could’ve helped them and “we like the guys we have.”
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) April 27, 2019
Sort of in contrast to what he said a few weeks ago:
DeCosta said team has spent a lot of time interviewing inside linebackers and likes the second-tier members of the ILB class. Acknowledged that Devin White and Devin Bush unlikely to be available when Ravens are on clock.
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) April 2, 2019
This sounds eerily reminiscent of the comments made by Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert at this time last year about why they bypassed the position after failing to trade up for Rashaan Evans as the final of four inside linebackers to go off the board ahead of them in the first round in 2018.
Both general managers contested that they are comfortable with the players that they already have at the position. For the Steelers last year, it was Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, and free agent signing Jon Bostic.
The Ravens’ most likely prospect is Kenny Young, a second-year mid-round draft pick who played some while Mosley was injured a year ago. They also have Matthew Thomas, who spent most of last season with the Steelers on the 53-man roster before moving to the practice squad. Good luck with that.