A historic unilateral repechage? Ravens could go all-in on defense – Baltimore Ravens Blog
PALM BEACH, Fla. — This offseason, the Baltimore Ravens saw passing thrower Za’Darius Smith walk away from a deal and failed to land center linebacker Bobby Wagner, who signed with the defending champ of the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams.
With 3 1/2 weeks remaining before the NFL Draft (ESPN, ABC and the ESPN app), the Ravens are seeing their biggest gaps on defense after failing in free agency. In addition to the setter and center linebacker, Baltimore needs cornerbacks and defensive linemen.
In recent league meetings, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti speculated that Baltimore could make history at the end of the month.
“It could be an all-defensive draft as far as I know,” Bisciotti said, “and I’d be more than happy with that.”
The Ravens have 10 picks in this year’s draft, and no team in NFL history has used all of its double-digit picks on one side of the ball.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, there have been nine instances in the common draft era (since 1967) of a team using all of its picks on offense or defense, and no team had more than seven total picks. In the previous five drafts, the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs (six picks) and 2020 Carolina Panthers (seven picks) have used all of their picks on defensive players.
On offense, Baltimore addressed right tackle by signing free agent Morgan Moses and expressed confidence that Patrick Mekari can take over at starting center. Bisciotti considers the biggest holes on offense to be a third tight end, a third or fourth running back and an eighth offensive lineman.
There are more priorities on defense, and Bisciotti said the main needs are the pass-rusher and cornerback. Baltimore’s possible options with the No. 14 overall pick include: Oregon setter Kayvon Thibodeaux, Florida State setter Jermaine Johnson II, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and cornerback of Washington Trent McDuffie.
“We have to go more into the backfield, there’s no doubt about that,” Bisciotti said. “It goes hand in hand with corners. If you can cover that extra second, those guys get to quarterback. It’s no surprise that we gave up the yardage that we gave up and didn’t trashed that much. But I don’t see anything as blatant on offense as I see with [defense].”
Here are more highlights from Bisciotti, who spoke to a handful of reporters for an hour:
By losing the last six games to finish 8-9: This marked only Bisciotti’s fourth losing season in 18 years as majority owner. But Bisciotti acknowledged expectations took a hit after losing an All-Pro left tackle (Ronnie Stanley), a Pro Bowl cornerback (Marcus Peters) and their top two running backs (JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards) one week after the start of the regular season.
“When we were 8-3 it was kind of a house of cards,” Bisciotti said. “The weird ways we won, in Detroit [an NFL-record 66-yard field goal]in Chicago [72-yard TD drive to win it late], then a crazy comeback with the Colts. It built me like a false confidence, because my eyes deceived me. I watch this team say, ‘I can’t believe we’re 8-3.’ I thought we had been very lucky. I didn’t really have high hopes of a playoff run when you’re so exhausted.
On the Ravens’ widespread injuries: The Ravens were among the most battered teams in the NFL, placing a total of 25 players on injured reserve. Bisciotti was in training on September 9 (four days before the start of the season), when Peters and Edwards suffered season-ending ACL injuries.
“The cart didn’t even come back after dropping off Marcus before coming back for Gus. It was literally like a game or two later,” Bisciotti said. “It’s the same pitch we’ve been playing for 18 years. You have to put it down to bad luck, but I don’t want to [the organization] for. I can. I don’t get paid to do their job; they do, and I want them to dig. I believe we are a better organization because we were forced to fix the problem.
On coach John Harbaugh’s aggression: The Ravens lost two games last December when Harbaugh opted to go for the game-winning two-point conversion in the last minute of regulation instead of going for the tie with a point kick after.
“Generally I’m okay with the aggressiveness,” Bisciotti said. “I’ll be honest with you, I remember being 100% for it in the Pittsburgh game and not 100% for it in the Packers game, because we were at home and we fought so hard. Let me tell you this: I was against it because I don’t want John to be criticized. That’s why I was against it, not because I’m fundamentally against aggression. I’m the exact opposite. J love the aggressive call. I just said, ‘Please God, make sure you don’t take [criticism] during weeks.'”
On Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman: Fans heavily criticized Roman after Baltimore finished 17th in scoring (22.7 ppg), 25th in third down conversion rate (36.4%), 31st in sacks (57) and 24th in offensive penalties (64).
“I don’t think you can be as unique as Greg Roman and not take it hard on the chin when things aren’t going well,” Bisciotti said. “If you told Greg he was going to lose Ronnie and his two running backs and [blocking tight end Nick] Boyle, he would probably go, ‘I’m about to get fired.’ If I’m him, I think, ‘I can’t do what I’m doing without these guys, I’m screwed.’ I’m sure Greg had a few sleepless nights after Wink [Martindale, defensive coordinator] let go. But I don’t think you can put much blame on [Roman].”
If he intends to sell the Ravens: Bisciotti will turn 62 later this month, but he is still the league’s fifth-youngest owner. He acknowledges that the games remain the most stressful part of the year. Bisciotti much prefers this time of year, when you’re building your roster through free agency and the draft and manipulating the salary cap.
“I can tell you what I can turn that 14th pick into right now in a million different scenarios,” Bisciotti said. “I study this trading chart more than I ever studied in school. I know it like the back of my hand.”
Bisciotti, who hadn’t spoken to reporters in four years, exuded that kind of passion and enthusiasm throughout his meeting with reporters.
“I’m not going anywhere. I quite like it,” Bisciotti said. “I think having my family around is a unifying thing. I have grandkids in my suite now, and I can really pay attention to them for a minute between sets and throw Twizzlers at them. Right now, I’m very happy with it.”