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NFL Roundtable: Ravens Free Agency Update with Baltimore Beatdown

Jets reportedly sign former Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

To check in on the state of the Baltimore Ravens now that we are over a week into free agency, I caught up with Vasilis Lericos of Baltimore Beatdown.

1. I am baffled that the Ravens were able to acquire Calais Campbell for just a fifth-round pick. How did the trade come about? What will Campbell’s role be in Baltimore’s defense, and how high does he raise the unit’s ceiling?

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta has a good relationship with his Jacksonville counterpart Dave Caldwell. A 5th round pick was presumably the best compensation available for Campbell. The Ravens are excited to have brought in a player of his caliber and tacked on another year to his contract for salary cap management purposes.

He should line up as the 5-technique in base and kick inside for nickel and dime snaps. Calais should be an immediate upgrade to the run defense. Maybe more importantly, he along with FA signing Derek Wolfe should provide more push against the pass, which the Ravens DL struggled to do last season.

2. The Ravens let Michael Pierce walk, as the defensive tackle signed a three-year, $27 million deal with Minnesota. Did the addition of Campbell make Pierce expendable?

Pierce was redundant with run stuffing nose guard Brandon Williams entrenched on the DL, it always seemed unlikely they would pay both block eaters. Clearly the Ravens desired more pass rush from their DL and Pierce, while an excellent run stuffer, rarely impacted the passing game.

3. Jimmy Smith, who will be 32 in July, signed a one-year deal to remain in Baltimore for his 10th consecutive season as a Raven. How much does Smith have left in the tank? With Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey set to start, what will Smith’s role be?

Jimmy was playing at a high level once he returned from injury last season and has probably been underrated throughout his career. He is still a top notch boundary corner. Retaining Smith as insurance, especially on a team friendly deal, should be quite beneficial because the scheme puts tremendous pressure on the corners.

His role will be determined by slot corner Tavon Young’s ability to return from injury. If Young is ready for the season, Jimmy will probably rotate some series with Humphrey and Peters on the outside in an effort to keep everyone fresh for January. He could also serve as a safety in the Ravens heavily used dime package and occasionally cover playmaking tight ends depending on the matchup.

4. Baltimore parted ways with one-third of its beastly tight end trio as it sent Hayden Hurst to Atlanta. What was the motive behind dealing Hurst? What does his exit mean for Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle?

Apparently Hurst requested the trade because he wanted a greater opportunity to showcase his talent. From the Ravens perspective, the trade made sense because they can presumably flip a player who was third on their depth chart for a future starter at another position with the 2nd round pick.

Hurst saw the third most snaps at the position last season, so Andrews and Boyle should resume their spots as the primary receiving and blocking tight end, respectively. The Ravens use a lot of 12-personnel so they will likely aim to replace Hurst in the middle rounds of the draft.

5. Veteran defensive players Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr, Pernell McPhee, and Domata Peko remain unsigned. Do you see any of them returning to Baltimore?

McPhee could be brought back, he played well in his second stint in Baltimore last season before landing on IR. He would provide veteran leadership and disruption as part of the rotation opposite franchise tagged edge defender Matthew Judon.

6. Former Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor signed with the Jets on a one-year deal. What can you tell Jets fans about Onwuasor’s career in Baltimore and what he can bring to the table in New York?

The Ravens converted their former undrafted free agent from collegiate safety to inside linebacker during his rookie season. He played well enough beside C.J. Mosley in 2018 to be offered a lucrative long term deal but he decided to play out the season and become a UFA. Before last season, he added weight so he could slide over to ‘Mike’ from “Will’ and the team had high hopes for him during the preseason, but his playing time diminished after the defense had some disappointing outings in September and Josh Bynes was signed to be a steadying presence at MLB.

Onwuasor has the ability to thrive again as the ‘Will’ next to Mosley. He is at his best coming forward and can do damage as an A-gap blitzer. Coverage is not his strong suit and his instincts against the run are not great. But “Peanut” was a playmaker with several impact forced and recovered fumbles in Baltimore.

NFL Roundtable mid-offseason updates: