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Ravens Insider: Mike Preston’s Ravens mailbag: Answering questions about Kyle Hamilton, Marlon Humphrey, Joe Flacco, 2024 free agents and more | COMMENTARY


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Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer fans’ questions throughout the Ravens season. Coming off Baltimore’s 33-19 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16, plenty of questions remain heading into a Week 17 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

Here’s Preston’s take:

(Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for length and clarity.)

What are your thoughts for safety Kyle Hamilton as NFL Defensive Player of the Year? He is not a one-trick pony … he makes plays ALL over the field. — John R on X

When I think of Defensive Player of the Year, I always think of former New York Giants and Hall of Fame outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor. I also think of former Ravens such as middle linebacker Ray Lewis, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Ed Reed.

Hamilton isn’t in that class. He is having an outstanding season, but offensive coordinators aren’t staying up at night thinking about him, not yet anyway. He makes plays all over the field, but players such as Taylor, Lewis, Suggs and Reed could dominate games and control the tempo. In the prime of their careers, they made sudden change plays nearly every week.

Another key is consistency. All of those guys did it year in and year out. Hamilton hasn’t done it for a full season yet. He has great potential, and his size (6 feet 4, 220 pounds) makes him the perfect hybrid of being both a strong safety and outside linebacker. But no, he isn’t in that class yet. In fact, he isn’t even the best player on the Ravens’ defense. That title belongs to middle linebacker Roquan Smith.

You might be a little too eager with Hamilton at this point. Let’s wait and see.

You’ve been advocating for a while now to have cornerback Marlon Humphrey play in the slot on a regular basis, and against the 49ers he excelled playing there for a majority of snaps. Barring any injuries the rest of this season, do you expect defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to keep him there the rest of the way? — Paul in Orlando

I would say so, but it also depends on the matchups. Humphrey isn’t as fast and lacks the recovery speed that he once had, but he is special playing over the slot or against No. 3 receivers. He can still run with any of them and has the size and physical strength to play near the line of scrimmage. He can also blitz off the edge, which would give the Ravens another defensive look.

A week ago, some critics were down on Humphrey, but he just needed time to work himself into game shape after missing extensive practice time because of injuries. If the opposing team has a slower receiver on the outside and Humphrey can outmuscle him, the Ravens might move him outside again.

Injuries might also force the Ravens to move Humphrey around, but his strength is playing inside. He can hammer receivers and opposing ball carriers. Now, he just needs to wrap up when making tackles. It’s great to deliver crunching blows, but not when you don’t bring down the runner.

Who will/should be the next Ravens player to get a contract extension? — Phil on X

According to my calculations, the Ravens have 23 free agents heading into 2024. I would assume it depends on how the roster shakes out and when salary cap space becomes available.

Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike would be a top priority, especially with nose tackle Michael Pierce also hitting the free agent market. Weakside linebacker Patrick Queen also has to be high on the Ravens’ list, even though they signed Smith to a five-year, $100 million contract in early January. It’s hard to invest so much money into one position.

In a sense, the window of opportunity is closing for the Ravens because they have other important players who will become free agents such as running backs Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, guards Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor.

That’s quite a haul. There is no way general manager Eric DeCosta can re-sign all of them, and it’s a safe bet that Madubuike and Queen will either make top dollar here in Baltimore or some other NFL city.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco (15) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has enjoyed a remarkable comeback with the Browns this season. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

How surprised are you that Joe Flacco is performing the way that he is for the Browns? I fear “January Joe” will go off, and pray we’re not a victim. — BBT on X

Actually, my first thought on Flacco was that I hoped he didn’t get hurt. He has had a pretty good career and he has always been a nice guy. His health was a major concern.

I didn’t think Flacco was “washed up” here, but the Ravens wanted to move in a new direction, especially with a run-dominated offense built around Lamar Jackson.

After Vinny Testaverde, I thought Flacco had the best arm strength of any quarterback in Ravens history. When starting quarterbacks started going down early in the season, I thought he was better than most of the backups, but he had to go into the right system and play behind a strong offensive line.

Flacco sat on the couch watching football for a couple of months, and that helped him both mentally and physically. The time off gave his body a chance to heal and kept his legs fresh. It also gave him time to reflect and remember just how much he missed playing on Sunday afternoons.

His arm seems as strong as ever. Some of those touchdown passes are bullets rifled between two and three defenders. From a media standpoint, it would be exciting to have him play against the Ravens in the postseason. But also remember that even though Flacco is playing well, coach John Harbaugh knows him well and his weaknesses.

We’ve seen what happens when Flacco gets hot, but I’m not sure he can duplicate his run through the 2012 postseason now, not at the age of 38. His comeback, though, is amazing.

For the first time in a long time I saw Broderick Washington on the defensive line. When he plays, our defense is significantly better at stopping the run. Your thoughts? — Anonymous

I thought Washington struggled against the run earlier in the season, and when the Ravens played against top passing teams, they thought it was a good time to put him on the bench.

Sometimes, players struggle. I’ve seen that with Pierce at times this year and offensive tackles Morgan Moses and Ronnie Stanley have had problems as well.

But these guys are professionals and they have a lot of pride. Sometimes, they just need a little jolt to get them to turn it up a notch. Both Moses and Stanley played well last week against the 49ers, and Washington finished with a hard tackle of running back Christian McCaffrey.

I am not sure the Ravens are significantly better against the run when Washington plays, but he provides much-needed depth on the defensive line.

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