Internal Solutions for Ravens Pass Rush
The Ravens admittedly need to improve their pass rush next season.
Baltimore finished with 37 sacks last year, which ranked 21st in the NFL. Their top pass rusher, Matthew Judon, is an unrestricted free agent and could command a big payday on the open market.
Coach John Harbaugh said the team will use all of its resources to boost personnel, via free agency or the NFL Draft.
The Ravens, however, already have a couple of playmakers on their current roster that can help fill that void if they take the next step in their development.
Most notably, rookie linebacker Jaylon Ferguson is poised to make a bigger impact. After a slow start, the rookie from Louisiana Tech played much better when his playing time increased after fellow linebacker Pernell McPhee suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 7.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Ferguson finished his first year with 2.5 sacks, 31 tackles and nine quarterback hits in 14 games (nine starts).
"I’ve said that I’ve been one of his biggest advocates," Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. "I think this guy is going to be a really good player for quite some time, I really do. Because the way he attacks the game, studies the game, he’s in the best shape he’s been. I said that about a month-and-a-half ago, and he knows how important it is, and that’s why he’s been able to play more plays."
The Ravens selected Ferguson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He broke the NCAA record for career sacks with 45 at Louisiana Tech, eclipsing the previous mark set by Terrell Suggs, who is the Ravens all-time sacks leader. Ferguson's development this offseason will be vital to the defense.
Linebacker Tyus Bowser had his best season since being selected in the second round (47th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft. Bowser has dealt with some growing pains over the past couple of years, but appeared to be more comfortable in his role this season.
He was second on the team with five sacks (-35 yards), and finished with 20 tackles, two passes defended, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, helping Baltimore's defense rank No. 3 in points (17.6) and No. 4 in yards (300.6) allowed per game. This is a huge season for Bowser, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
The Ravens could also re-sign or place the franchise tag on Judon, who led the team with 9.5 sacks. Harbaugh said the team is focused on reaching a deal with Judon, but his cost could be prohibitive.
"We're going to try to get as many of these guys re-signed as we can. Matt [Judon] is probably right at the top of the list, for sure," Harbaugh said. "There are a lot of things that can go into that, as we all know – the business part of it that agents and general managers that they deal with back and forth and all that. So, I'll stay out of that. Probably Matt will stay out of that, too, and we'll let everybody do their jobs. But, our goal will be to have Matt back. That's what we'll try to do."