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Ravens Insider: Five things we learned, including potential Ravens draft targets, from NFL scouting combine

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INDIANAPOLIS — From the Ravens’ biggest priority on offense this offseason to general manager Eric DeCosta’s thoughts on what is a long list of free agents for Baltimore to the strangest questions of the week, here are five things we learned from last week at the NFL scouting combine.

Rebuilding offensive line ‘most important thing’ Ravens will do

The Ravens had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL this past season, paving the way for a league-best 163.8 rushing yards per game, allowing the fifth-fewest quarterback pressures (160) and providing enough time for NFL Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson to throw for a career-high 3,678 yards.

It also could look very different in 2024. Guards Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson are both free agents, while tackles Morgan Moses, who turned 33 Sunday, and Ronnie Stanley, who will turn 30 in two weeks, face concerns over injury, age and salary.

Nine linemen played at least 160 snaps last season, which speaks to Baltimore’s depth but also to injury concerns, with Zeitler, Moses and Stanley among those who all missed time, so finding a starting tackle and/or guard early in this year’s draft will be a priority.

Fortunately for Baltimore, which doesn’t pick until 30th in the first round, there is plenty of depth at the position. One potential target for the Ravens is Georgia right tackle Amarius Mims, who is massive at 6 feet, 7 inches and 330 pounds with long arms, did not allow a sack and gave up just six pressures in 376 career pass blocks, according to Pro Football Focus, in his career for the Bulldogs.

But he also played in just 30 college games, including only eight starts, because of, in part, injuries.

Two others to keep an eye on: Arizona tackle Jordan Morgan and Washington tackle Troy Fautanu.

Morgan, a 6-5, 312-pound three-year starter for the Wildcats’ run-pass split, zone-based run scheme at left tackle, has what ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. dubbed “outstanding” footwork in pass protection with enough arm length and quickness to keep speedy pass rushers at bay. He suffered a torn ACL in November 2022 but started 12 games last season, allowing two sacks and seven pressures.

Fautanu, meanwhile, is a 6-4, 317-pound prospect who is rated among the top 20 overall prospects by former Ravens scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. He also has experience at left tackle and left guard, and the Ravens love offensive linemen with versatility.

“The offensive line is where it starts,” coach John Harbaugh said last week. “We talked about that in 2008. It’s been true forever. You win in the trenches first, so we think that we’re offensive line-centric in our philosophy, and we’ve got some question marks on our offensive line. There is going to be some rebuilding that is going to have to be done in there, and we’re getting to it already. It’s going to be probably the most important thing we do on offense.”

Ravens vs Texans
Baltimore Ravens Odell Beckham Jr. catches a low pass during warmups as the Baltimore Ravens host the Houston Texans in the season opener at M&T Bank Stadium.
Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun
It’s unlikely wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. returns to the Ravens next season. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)

Odell Beckham Jr. and Geno Stone probably aren’t returning

Beckham and Stone are among the more than 20 Ravens who will be free agents, and based on how general manager Eric DeCosta addressed questions about each at the scouting combine, it doesn’t sound like either will be back.

“We’ve just texted,” DeCosta said. “He’s a great, great guy. I love Odell. He’s become a great friend of mine and a friend to the Ravens, and I think we’ll just kind of assess and see what happens over the next couple of weeks.”

Beckham certainly was beloved in the front office and the locker room, but with the Ravens’ already re-signing veteran receiver Nelson Agholor, it would seem unlikely that Beckham would be coming back, too.

For one, a big part of the reason the Ravens signed him was to get Jackson to sign a long-term extension, which he did. For another, at $15 million he was expensive for a player who caught 35 passes for 565 yards and three touchdowns.

He brought other intangibles, but if another contender is willing to pay him in the projected range of around $10 million, that is simply too rich for the Ravens.

As for Stone, his seven interceptions led the AFC and were second-most in the NFL, which is sure to land him a lucrative deal. According to Spotrac, he’s projected to get a three-year, $21.6 million offer.

Again, that’s a lot for someone who was not an every-down player. The Ravens are also invested in Marcus Williams and will be looking at a contract extension next year for All-Pro Kyle Hamilton.

“I’m very proud of Geno,” DeCosta said. “Geno might be the best seventh-round pick that we’ve ever had — playmaker, attitude, special teams. Just an excellent season. He has been cut, been brought back. I love his cerebral nature, [and] I love his attitude on the field. He fancies himself an overachiever; I love that about him. He’s put himself in an awesome position. We’re fortunate that we have some good safety depth, and I’m not really sure exactly what that means for Geno and the Ravens, but regardless, I know he’s going to be a great pro.”

Ravens vs. Texans
Ravens' J.K. Dobbins, left, runs against Texans' Christian Harris, right, in the second quarter. The Ravens defeated the Texans 25-9 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun
With so many question marks surrounding the Ravens’ running back situation, it’s not inconceivable for J.K. Dobbins to return in 2024. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff)

J.K. Dobbins or Gus Edwards are still options

Currently, the Ravens have just two running backs signed to their roster: Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell, who is only 2 1/2 months removed from a torn ACL.

That puts them in the market to bolster their backfield through free agency and the draft. Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry, who was rumored as a potential trade deadline acquisition last season, continues to be the free agent back with the most buzz when it comes to the Ravens, but he figures to be costly at close to $10 million a year.

It’s also a deep class, both in free agency and the draft, when it comes to running backs.

Inexpensive and familiar options, though, could include Dobbins or Edwards, though the former is coming off a torn Achilles tendon and the latter wouldn’t make a lot of sense given the $1.8 million in dead money already carrying over to next season after the Ravens didn’t extend their touchdown leader by the void deadline. Still, neither were publicly ruled out by Harbaugh and DeCosta last week.

“We would love to get Gus back,” Harbaugh said. “J.K. is floating around out there. Those guys have been with us. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

Added DeCosta: “We’re still talking to Gus. We’ll talk to J.K. [We’re] hopeful that we can get something done with those guys. We’ve looked at the draft class. [It’s] probably not as deep as some other positions that we’ll see in this year’s draft class. There are some UFAs [unrestricted free agents] this year in free agency. [There’s] some talented [free agent] players that we will look at as well.”

Dobbins also put out a brief video that showed him running and moving well 5 1/2 months removed from surgery, and his agent, who also represents wide receiver Zay Flowers, didn’t rule out a return to Baltimore if the two sides can come to a deal both sides like. Whether they will, of course, is a big if.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jadeveon Clowney talks with the media after practice.
Kevin Richardson
Veteran outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney enjoyed his lone season with the Ravens. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Jadeveon Clowney ended season ‘happy’ for first time

The scouting combine is the nexus of the NFL universe for the week. General managers, coaches, scouts, agents and media, among others, descend upon the Indianapolis Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for long days and longer nights at St. Elmo Steakhouse, Prime 47 and High Velocity, to name a few.

In other words, what fans see on TV of the combine is only a fraction of what goes on, with most of the action taking place somewhere other than on the Colts’ home field.

In the myriad hallways and lobbies and streets connecting them all, Harbaugh said he ran into the agent of Jadeveon Clowney, who told him that his client ended the season “happy” for the first time in his 10-year career.

It’s easy to understand why. Clowney matched a career-high in sacks (9 1/2), earned a $750,000 bonus and genuinely enjoyed going to work at the Ravens’ facility. But does it mean he will be back?

“That says so much right there. It says so much for everything, for everybody in the organization,” Harbaugh said of Clowney’s reaction. “Maybe we can get him back. We’re going to try.”

After a one-year deal at $2.5 million plus incentives last year, Clowney won’t come as cheap this year, though.

Questions and answers are getting stranger

The scouting combine, much like media night at the Super Bowl, offered no shortage of bizarre questions to future NFL players.

Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell was asked if he thinks birds are real.

“That’s a crazy question, bro,” he said. “I do want a pet parrot when I get myself established. I just want to be able to talk to somebody when I’m at the crib.”

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams, the prospective top pick in the draft, meanwhile, was asked if he’s “afraid to compete” for his decision to skip throwing and taking part in medical evaluations at the scouting combine.

Then there was Texas Tech defensive back Tyler Owens being asked what he doesn’t believe in. The fifth-year senior had an even stranger response.

“I don’t believe in space,” he said. “I’m real religious, so I think we’re on our own right now. I don’t think there’s other planets and other stuff like that.”

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