Baltimore Ravens 2023 Positional Needs

The Baltimore Ravens 2022 season was another rough outing, despite the team finishing with a 10-7 record and a playoff berth. Baltimore’s star quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the latter half of the season with an injury and the offensive struggles mounted in his absence.

The last few weeks have been tough sledding for fans and the team itself as all of their frustrations boiled over following Baltimore’s Wild Card loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. With rumors swirling about Jackson’s departure, there is little room for optimism for fans. 

Despite this, the Baltimore Ravens staff is already taking steps into rectifying their recent failures. Chiefly, the team announced Thursday afternoon they will be parting ways with maligned offensive coordinator, Greg Roman.

In addition to a new offensive coach, the Ravens have several positional needs that must be filled. The team possesses only five draft picks, so they may need to rely more heavily on free agency this time. Despite this, here are the following positional needs for the Baltimore Ravens. 

Photo Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens Needs by Position Heading into 2023

Wide Receiver 

It’s a tale as old as time for the Baltimore Ravens. Wide receiver is a position that has the team perpetually snakebit, and is always a topic of conversation. Every off-season the Ravens seek to add receiver talent, with varying degrees of success. The team has found quality players in Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, however, the former has struggled with injuries early in his career. 

Unfortunately for the Ravens, the free agent class of receivers isn’t stellar this year, with many of the potential additions playing past their prime in 2022. Many fans clamor for veterans like DeAndre Hopkins, but with limited draft capitol it may be a bit more difficult to trade for a player of that caliber. 

Conversely, the 2023 NFL Draft boasts several exciting receiver talents. USC’s Jordan Addison, Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and UNC’s Josh Downs are three players that would be immediate upgrades on offense. With a late first-round pick, the Baltimore Ravens could be in range for either one of those players to address their needs at wide receiver. 

Cornerback

Marcus Peters and Kevon Seymour will be free agents and will be entering their age-30 seasons this year. Kyle Fuller is coming off of a knee injury and may not return in 2023, despite a promising start. Brandon Stephens and Pepe Williams have flashed in their limited playing time this past year but are not enough.  

Similar to the wid receivers, the free agency pool isn’t inspiring however the draft has far more promise. While they’re likely out of range for star players such as Christian Gonzalez or Joey Porter Jr., Baltimore could settle for someone like Devon Witherspoon or Kelee Ringo — great consolation prizes for Mike MacDonald’s defense.  

Five-Technique Defensive End

Calais Campbell is 36 years old and mulling his retirement, while Brent Urban is a free agent yet again. Both have been key parts of Baltimore’s past defensive philosophy, and a lot of what they do up front hinges on a stout five-technique. 

Urban is younger and could come back on a team-friendly minimum deal. Additionally, veterans like Dean Lowry, A’Shawn Robinson, and Matt Ioannidis would be typical Baltimore Ravens signings that would help bolster their front seven. 

As for the NFL Draft, there are quite a few players who fit the Baltimore Ravens mold at the defensive end. Tyree Wilson is the best of the bunch, while Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness is a high-upside player who could be more in their range. Conversely, later options such as Keion White from Georgia Tech or Colby Wooden could be plug-and-play starters for Baltimore. 

Offensive Guard 

A sneaky need for the Baltimore Ravens, as both Ben Powers and Trystan Colon-Castillo are set to hit free agency. Additionally, Baltimore may not feel comfortable playing former-third round pick Ben Cleveland after his struggles during camp and in the preseason. Given the free agency crop this year, Baltimore may be better off signing one of the two rather than taking a chance with a veteran past their prime. 

However, prospects such as O’Cyrus Torrence and Emil Ekiyor feel like players Baltimore could feasibly target — despite their limited picks in 2023. Torrence is often mocked in the latter half of first-round mock drafts, which is right in range for the Ravens.

Edge Rusher 

Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul are both aging free agents that are not guaranteed to return to Baltimore in 2023. Former first-round pick Odafe Oweh had a sophomore slump in 2022, despite expectations. Rookie David Ojabo flashed in his limited play time, so the jury is still out if he can become the elite pass rusher the Baltimore Ravens envisioned for him. 

This isn’t as much of a pressing need for the Ravens as other positions, so signing low-risk free agents such as Clellin Ferrell, Arden Key, or Jadeveon Clowney would be smart.

The 2023 edge class is also incredibly deep, so locating a rotational pass rusher on day three is on the table as well. Names to watch for Baltimore include CMU’s Thomas Incoom, Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV or Auburn’s Eku Leota. 

Best NFL Bets for Divisional Round

We are back with some more great NFL bets with the playoff field narrowed down to eight teams! Last week, we went three for six on the Wild Card games. Let’s see if we can get above .500 this week. Here are the best NFL bets for each game of this weekend’s Divisional round. All lines come via Draft Kings as of Friday afternoon.

NFL Best Bets: Divisional Round

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Jaguars at Chiefs: Chiefs -9 (-110)

The Jags have no business playing in this round of the playoffs. They lucked out by having last week’s game given away by the incompetence of Brandon Staley. Jacksonville simply doesn’t have what it takes to keep up with Kansas City.

This game reminds me of the Tim Tebow Broncos team that snuck by the Pittsburgh Steelers only to get curb-stomped by the New England Patriots. Take the Chiefs to win this one by double digits.

Giants at Eagles: Giants +7.5 (-110)

This is going to be a great game. The Giants are playing great football right now. However, they are running into a phenomenal Eagles team that has had a couple weeks to get healthy. The Eagles should certainly be favored in this one, but this spread is a little steep. At the end of the day, this is still a divisional battle. Philadelphia should win, but it will be by less than a touchdown.

Bengals at Bills: OVER 48.5 (-110)

This game is impossible to pick. This is, by far, the most even matchup this weekend. One thing is certain, we will see a ton of offense. Both of these teams have great quarterbacks, fantastic receivers, and okay defenses. That is a recipe for a high-scoring affair. The winner of this game will need to get to at least 30. Take the over.

Cowboys at 49ers: 49ers -4 (-110)

This could be a great game. Both of these teams have a ton of talent on both sides of the football. However, there are some concerning mismatches. The Cowboys have had a lot of success this year relying on a two-pronged rushing attack with Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard. That won’t work against this San Francisco defense.

Unfortunately, Dallas does not have the wide receivers to take advantage of this suspect 49ers secondary. In the end, the 49ers will get enough stops on defense, control the ball on offense, and win somewhat comfortably. Dallas is good enough to keep it interesting, but they won’t keep it within four points.

Best Bets Recap

  • Chiefs (-9)
  • Giants (+7.5)
  • Bengals/Bills o48.5
  • 49ers (-4)

NFL Best Bets: Wildcard Weekend

The NFL playoffs are finally upon us! We’re going to give a pick for each game this week. Last week, we went two for five, so hopefully things will turn around here in the postseason. Here are six great NFL bets for Wildcard weekend’s action. All lines come via Draft Kings as of Friday afternoon.

NFL Wildcard Weekend’s Best Bets

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Seahawks at 49ers: UNDER 42 (-110)

The playoffs are when great defenses flex their muscles. Both of these teams are great on that side of the ball. Their offenses are solid as well, but neither one is explosive enough to put up big points in the playoffs. This should be a tight, low-scoring affair. You could take Seattle +9.5 here, but you just never know if this is going to be a week where they do nothing. The under is the safer pick.

Chargers at Jaguars: Jags Moneyline (+120)

With the Jags hosting a playoff game for the first time in five years, Duval is going to be crazy. More important than home field advantage, Jacksonville has a huge edge at head coach. People forget that Doug Pederson is a great coach who has a Super Bowl win under his belt. On the other sideline, you have Brandon Staley, who soils himself in crunch time even in the regular season.

This will be a tight game, but the Chargers will give it away in the end. Take the Jags to sneak into the next round.

Dolphins at Bills: Bills -13.5 (-115)

The oddsmakers should really just take this one down. Even with a healthy Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins would have probably been close to 10-point underdogs in Buffalo. With Skylar Thompson at the helm, this could be a bloodbath. Hammer the Bills here.

Giants at Vikings: OVER 48 (-110)

This might be the toughest game of the week to pick. These teams met a few weeks ago and played a tight game, which the Vikings won by a field goal. Both of these teams have seemingly been on “fraud alert” all season. It’s anyone’s guess who comes out on top in this one.

The safer play is to pick the total. In that case, I think both teams are likely to sniff around 30 points. The total should comfortably eclipse 50.

Ravens at Bengals: Bengals -8.5 (-115)

These teams just played each other last week, and now they are running it back immediately. This one is tricky. While the Bengals did win that game pretty handily, the Ravens won the second half. Regardless, that momentum is only going to do so much for a Baltimore team quarterbacked by Tyler Huntley. They might be able to keep it within 20, but that’s about it. Take the Bengals to cover.

Cowboys at Buccaneers: UNDER 45.5 (-110)

This is another game where it is just impossible to feel good about either team. Both the Bucs and the Cowboys played their starters last week in an attempt to build some momentum for the playoffs. They were humiliated by teams led by Desmond Ridder and Sam Howell, respectively. Expect this game to be an exercise in futility. Take the under.

Best NFL Bets for Wildcard Weekend Recap:

  • Seahawks/49ers Under 42
  • Jaguars ML
  • Bills (-13.5)
  • Giants/Vikings Over 48
  • Bengals (-8.5)
  • Cowboys/Bucs Under 45.5

Who Were the 2022 Atlanta Falcons?

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder
Kyle Hess/Atlanta Falcons

Happy New Year and congratulations on surviving the experience formally known as the 2022 Atlanta Falcons. For most, January symbolizes new beginnings, but for the Falcons it routinely marks the end of their season. In a rebuilding year, the Dirty Birds posted their second straight 7-10 record under Arthur Smith and finished last in the NFC South. Not great, but they far exceeded the expectations many had for them entering the season.

Regular viewers of the team know the final wins and losses don’t begin to tell the story of the 2022 Atlanta Falcons’ season. Atlanta was entering the year with the largest dead cap in league history ($83,686,690) , a thin roster, a bridge quarterback and a rookie third-round quarterback. All coming off the heels of an offseason that saw the pursuit of Deshaun Watson, and the trading of franchise cornerstone Matt Ryan.

It was a tough scene and winning expectations weren’t realistic for this team. These players and coaches deserve credit for defying those odds.

In spite of that, when we look back at this season it may be defying these very odds that cost the team something very precious: time. Atlanta had a lot of questions entering 2022, and they’re going to leave with few of them answered. Let’s reflect on the season and begin an ever-evolving discussion about the Falcons as they head into the offseason.

Was it worth it?

We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us. Arthur Smith chose to ride with Marcus Mariota until Week 14 of this NFL season. After starting 3-3 and being in 1st place of the NFC South; the Falcons went on a 2-5 spiral. During this spiral, many called for the start of Desmond Ridder, but the allure of the playoffs was too much for Arthur Smith and he stood by his veteran QB.

As Dishonored’s Lady Emily Kaldwin said, “It’s a funny thing, ambition. It can take one to sublime heights or harrowing depths. And sometimes they are one and the same.” It was great to be in that position, but after the loss to the Panthers, the Falcons had a 10-day window before facing the Chicago Bears and it feels like an opportunity was wasted.

This felt like a prime opportunity to insert the rookie QB but the Falcons still “controlled their destiny” and the Ridderssance was put on hold. Arthur Smith didn’t give a damn about anyone’s “rebuilding year”. The Falcons beat the Bears, but ended up losing the next two, eliminating them from the playoffs as they headed into the bye week. 

Afterwards, many got what they wanted and it proved to not be enough. It’s impossible to give a fair evaluation on a four-game sample size. At the very least, I can say there was no drop in quarterback play, which is a positive. Beyond that is where things start to get tricky.

Outside of a rough first game, Ridder showed he can at least be the QB2 of this offense, with flashes that showcased QB1 ability. Objectively, the only thing that could be said for sure is that he should’ve been playing earlier. By going this route, Atlanta’s young regime has almost boxed themselves into a corner when it comes to their 2023 QB situation.

The assumption is Ridder is going to start in 2023. The argument to play Ridder for the 2023 season and forgo drafting a quarterback high — or acquiring a starter via free agency — is valid. Ridder had few games to showcase himself and was without tight end Kyle Pitts, leaving fellow rookie Drake London as his best option.

Ridder didn’t have any turnovers. He led a game winning drive and scored his first two TDs against Tom Brady. Alternatively, Ridder faced three subpar/injured defenses and didn’t dominate against any of them. The one good defense he did face crushed him — but this was also his first start as a pro.

It doesn’t really feel like Ridder has won the job, but he hasn’t lost it either. Getting a longer look at him in 2022 could’ve given the Atlanta Falcons, and their fans, more confidence one way or the other heading into the offseason.

It’s hard to imagine Arthur Smith starting over with another rookie — one rebuilding year was enough. There are a lot of vets hitting the market this offseason and Atlanta is going to add one of them. Marcus Mariota is not likely to be back and Ridder needs competition in camp.

It’s a huge risk for this staff to put all their chips on a third round prospect, but it’s probably the best move they have right now. The pressure to build the right team around him is high. Luckily they have an entire offseason and empty check book to work with. But it’s easier said than done when it comes to roster building in the NFL.

Do you remember these 2022 Atlanta Falcons moments?

Remember Kyle Pitts’s first touchdown at home (and on U.S. soil)?

It’s the joke that’s never going away until proven otherwise. Seeing Kyle Pitts get his first home touchdown of the season in Week 6 against the 49ers was both relieving and frustrating. Frustration describes Pitts year two all together.

Missed opportunities with Mariota at quarterback and an increase in blocking duties had fans worried about the unicorn tight end. Eventually Pitts’ season ended in the Chicago Bears game with a torn MCL. Seeing Ridder with Drake London made many fans wonder what could have been, but we must wait until next season to see if Ridder can help Pitts regain his rookie dominance.

Pitts is an important part of this team’s future; one down season in a rebuilding year shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Remember when the Falcons closed out games with their defense?

No, it didn’t happen a lot but it’s more than zero, which is what fans are used to experiencing. In Seattle, we saw a clutch Grady Jarrett sack followed by a Richie Grant interception to close the door on what turned out to be a playoff team. The very next week versus Cleveland, Grady got another sack on the final 3rd down of the game. This was once again followed by an interception, this time by standout newcomer Dee Alford.

Remember Bryan Edwards and Auden Tate?

Friendly Reminder: The preseason is a wild time when no one should be taken seriously. When we look back at this saga of the 2022 season for the Atlanta Falcons, everyone should remember that everything was said with good intentions, and that’s all that matters.

Remember when the offensive line was bad?

Atlanta’s offensive line play became the story of the season for all the right reasons. We saw Kaleb McGary take a huge step forward in a contract year. Drew Dalman replaced veteran Matt Hennessey, and Elijah Wilkinson became the first Falcons bargain offensive line signing to pay off. 

Meanwhile, old faithful Jake Matthews anchored down the left side. Chris Lindstrom’s season was special and he should be receiving his first of many All-Pro selections this year. Even so, the biggest round of applause goes to OL Coach Dwayne Ledford.

Ledford has brought stability to the offensive line and was an integral part in one of the best turnarounds fans have witnessed in recent memory. This is only the beginning for the OL, who still have an opportunity to improve with free agency and the draft ahead.

Remember when Grady’s clean sack was called roughing the passer?

There’s not much else to add; the film is still maddening to this day. Oh, and don’t forget, this was one of two kick attempts by Tom Brady on Jarrett in this game.

Rookie of the Year

These are the types of picks you have to hit on in a rebuilding year. I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t anticipate this season from fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier. He is undoubtedly the team’s rookie of the year, and he deserves national attention for the league award as well.

Falcons coaching staff and fans saw the growth of Allgeier throughout the season, and he took off when the team needed him most. Cordarrelle Patterson was put on injured reserve and Allegeir never really let go of the RB1 title after that.

With seven official starts under his belt, he finished the season with 1,035 yards | 4.9 Y/A | 4 TDs, setting the new Falcons rookie rushing record. He is also the first Falcon since Devonta Freeman in 2016 with a 1,000 yard season. A true draft gem, Allgeier will be treasured in Atlanta for years to come.

Defensive Culture (Still Under Construction)

Let’s just call this season a wash, especially now that Dean Pees has announced his retirement. We’ve established that 2022 was a rebuilding year for the Atlanta Falcons. Well, no unit proved that more than this one. Everything that was said about this defensive roster preseason was true. Early injuries exposed a lack of depth and talent immediately.

The unit did have its best PPG mark since 2017, but teams moved the ball on them at will. All levels of the defense have glaring holes, and it’s clear this side of the ball needs the most resources poured into it.

On the bright side, Grady Jarrett returned to his elite standard and rookies Arnold Ebiketie and Troy Andersen showed flashes that make them look like legitimate roster pieces. AJ Terrell didn’t have a repeat All-Pro season, but he did show that he’s a level corner in this league and not a one-year wonder.

The Falcons are going to have a brand new defensive coordinator, and they will have the rare opportunity of signing players for their system almost immediately, which should make the transition to life without Dean Pees a little easier.

Where does Atlanta go from here?

Like I said at the beginning, the Falcons are leaving this season with many questions unanswered and the most difficult part of the rebuilding year starts now. It’s easy to brush off losing consecutive seasons when you consider the circumstances to begin with for this regime. That changes now. The cap is clear and the expectations are to win.

It’s easy to simulate free agency on Twitter or through a mock simulator, but people and teams are unpredictable. Furthermore, there’s a long offseason ahead. I do think Ridder will be QB1, but I’m not sure if he’s the answer for the future yet.

Fans have waited all this time for the fresh start to be here, and now its arrival presents more questions. Those questions will be answered by the time summer mini-camp begins. By then, we’ll replace them with new questions and the cycle continues.

For now though, just process the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season however you need. Play highlights. Act like it never happened. Whatever you need, because this season doesn’t matter. That’s one of the few perks of a rebuilding year: this season was a necessary evil. The Falcons wouldn’t be set up as well as they are now heading into the offseason. It’s only the beginning and hopefully they can capitalize.

Thank you for reading. You can find me on Twitter: @tre3shon

Best NFL Bets for Week 18

It is time to for the final week of the NFL season and that means it is time for some more great bets! Last week was a little rough, but we have some much better matchups this week. Here are five great NFL bets for this weekend’s action. All lines come via Draft Kings as of Friday evening.

NFL Week 18 Best Bets

Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Getty Images

Chiefs at Raiders: Raiders +9 (-110)

This spread would have been a lot more reasonable a week ago. Now that we have seen the Raiders with Jarrett Stidham, it seems a little generous to spot Las Vegas nine points. The Raiders took a good 49ers team to overtime last week, and their offense moved the ball well against the vaunted San Francisco defense.

While the Chiefs do have more to play for as far as the postseason goes, the Raiders are going to show up. Josh Jacobs, Jarrett Stidham, and Foster Moreau are all up for new contracts this offseason. Also, Josh McDaniels wants to prove himself without Derek Carr. The Raiders are invested in putting on a good showing. The Chiefs just need to win, even it if it is ugly. The Raiders will keep this one within a score.

Browns at Steelers: Steelers -2.5 (-110)

The best way to stay awake during this game might be to get heavily invested in it financially. It should be pretty fruitful as well. The Browns’ offensive “outburst” last week was a fluke powered by Carson Wentz’s picks. They are not going to have the same success in Pittsburgh.

Do we really think this Browns team is going to hand Mike Tomlin his first losing season ever? Not a chance. The Steelers will win this game by a field goal like usual, so make sure that you get this at -2.5. If it goes any higher, you may want to stick with the moneyline.

Buccaneers at Falcons: UNDER 40.5 (-110)

With the Bucs locked into the fourth seed and the Falcons eliminated from the playoffs, this game is meaningless. The only reason Tampa Bay might play their starters is because of how poorly they have been playing. At some point in the game, they may start resting guys.

At best, the Bucs will try to play a safe game and get into a run-heavy rhythm to shorten the game. On the other side, Desmond Ridder is not ready to light up the scoreboard yet — especially if Tampa Bay’s starters are in on defense. Expect this game to be a race to 20. Take the under.

Giants at Eagles: UNDER 43 (-110)

This one might be ugly. The Giants have nothing to play for, as they are locked into the sixth seed. Meanwhile, the Eagles are still looking to secure the top spot. There is a very good chance that we see Philadelphia’s starters taking on New York’s backups.

In that scenario, don’t expect the Giants to get much going offensively. Their first team offense wouldn’t match up that well with the Eagles defense. A unit led by Tyrod Taylor with Saquon Barkley on the bench is going to be lucky to break 10 in this one. Expect the Eagles to get a big lead and shut it down to keep guys healthy. At most, you might see 31-10. Take the under.

Lions at Packers: OVER 49 (-110)

The last game of the regular season may likely determine who gets the final playoff spot. Shockingly that game is between the Packers and [checks notes] the Lions? Even more shocking, this will likely be a tight game. Both teams are playing great football, each having won four of their last five games.

More importantly, both offenses are on fire right now. In their last five games, the Lions are averaging over 31 points per game. In that same span, the Packers are averaging over 30. Even on a cold night at Lambeau Field, expect this one to be a barn burner. Hammer the over.

Best Bets for NFL Week 18 Recap

  • Raiders: (+9)
  • Steelers: (-2.5)
  • Buccaneers/Falcons: Under 40
  • Giants/Eagles: Under 43
  • Lions/Packers: Over 49