The Baltimore Ravens have been unsurprisingly and understandably inactive during the legal tampering period ahead of the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. EST on March 15, 2023, outside of re-signing former second-round cornerback Trayvon Mullen.
After all, they used the nonexclusive franchise tag on their MVP-winning quarterback, Lamar Jackson. General manager Eric DeCosta had to make a handful of restructures and a couple of tough decisions to part ways with a pair of veteran defenders by trading safety Chuck Clark and releasing defensive end Calais Campbell in order to get cap compliant.
As far as realistic free agent targets at the team’s top positions of need that remain available, there are still quite a few and especially at wide receiver where the market has seen some movement but is still saturated with quality options. There are also some nice options at cornerback, running back, and edge rusher that should be in their price range as well.
Below are a few candidates for each position that are ripe for the picking and can likely be had for a reasonable price with the exception of running back where it makes too much sense to address in the draft instead of jeopardizing a compensatory pick:
WR Olamide Zaccheaus
The former undrafted free agent in 2019 is just 25 years old and has improved and increased his production every year he’s been in the league despite catching passes from a declining Matt Ryan for his first three and an inept combination of Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder last year with the Atlanta Falcons.
He can make plays in space and pick extra yards after the catch by making defenders miss or just shrugging off would-be tacklers and he is an underrated vertical threat that has shown he can get behind and run away from opposing defenses. One of Zaccheaus’ best abilities is his consistent availability as he has been durable, playing in every game for the Falcons in each of the past two seasons.
Last season he set new career highs across the board with 40 catches for 533 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns per PFR. While his stats to date aren’t gaudy, he is clearly an ascending player who can be had for cheap now before potentially blossoming into a prominent playmaker someday or at least a high-end No. 2 receiver in a good offense. Zaccheaus is only projected to command an annual salary of $3.7 million per spotrac.com.
WR DJ Chark
The sixth-year pro that is still just 26 years old didn’t have the bounce-back season he was likely hoping for when he signed a one-year deal with Detroit Lions last offseason coming off an injury in 2021. He missed six games with an injury but still had some nice games down the stretch and finished with 30 catches for 502 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns and averaged 16.7 yards per catch per PFR. His projected average annual salary is $9.5 million according to spotrac.com, which is less than the $11 million per year that Meyers and Lazard are reportedly slated to sign for when the new league year begins.
CB Marcus Peters
The fact that the three-time Pro Bowler who just turned 30 years old in January hasn’t agreed to terms with a new team yet while the Ravens continue to clear cap space bodes well for the chances of him potentially re-signing with the team. He had a bit of a down year in 2022 but that’s not all that surprising considering it was his first season back since suffering the first major injury of his career.
Peters still managed to come up with some big plays on defense last year and has gone on record about how much he loves and would like to finish his career with the team. He’s projected to garner an annual average salary of $9.8 million on the open market according to spotrac.com but if the Ravens could get him back on a multi-year deal with a low cap hit in 2023, they might just be able to make both sides happy and stay together.
CB Troy Hill
The eight-year veteran is an experienced nickelback that would allow three-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey to spend more time on the outside where he is best and less time in the slot where he can still dominate but can’t maximize his effectiveness as a shutdown corner.
In his return to the Los Angeles Rams last season, he appeared in 12 games and recorded 67 total tackles including one for a loss, 4 pass deflections, and an interception per PFR. At 31 years old, Hill is only projected to garner an annual salary of just $3.6 million according to spotrac.com.
CB Anthony Averett
The return of the former fourth-round pick out of Alabama in 2018 back to Baltimore makes too much sense for both parties not to happen if not now then in the second or third wave of free agency. He didn’t receive the kind of interest or contract on the open market that many anticipated he would after a breakout season in 2021 filling in for Peters.
Following an injury-plagued 2022 season with the Las Vegas Raiders, the 28-year-old more than likely won’t break the bank this time around either. Averett had a career year in his final season with the Ravens in which he recorded 54 total tackles, 11 pass deflections, and three interceptions per PFR.
EDGE Carlos Dunlap
The 13-year veteran recorded a career-low 4 sacks last season with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs despite playing 50 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps. However, he proved that he can still be effective as a run defender and bring the heat off the edge by finishing third on the team in quarterback hits with 12 per PFR.
Dunlap played on a one-year deal worth $3 million in 2022 and if the Ravens strike out on bringing back Justin Houston and he decides to sign elsewhere or retire, the former long-time division rival with the Cincinnati Bengals could fill that veteran leader and situational pass rusher role for cheap.