Ravens GM DeCosta bolsters defense, enhances draft
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens bolstered their defense and improved their draft position at the outset of free agency.
The addition of 6-foot-8 defensive end Calais Campbell and the acquisition of 6-5 free agent defensive tackle Michael Brockers should improve a unit that last year had difficulty against the run and was pressed to sack the quarterback.
Citing a directive from the NFL, the Ravens on Wednesday declined to confirm the trade with Jacksonville that landed Campbell, and did not acknowledge the three-year deal provided to Brockers, an eight-year veteran who had a career-high 63 tackles with the Los Angeles Rams last season.
“In compliance with a recent memo sent by the NFL Management Council, we will withhold official announcement of any personnel moves until prospective players have safely executed a physical examination and signed a contract,” second-year general manager Eric DeCosta said.
Because of restrictions to safeguard against the new coronavirus, the NFL has deemed that teams may not bring free agent players to a club facility or other location to meet with team personnel. In addition, club personnel, including members of the team’s medical staff, may not travel to any location to meet with or conduct medical examinations of a free agent player.
“Despite these circumstances, we are excited about the steps we’ve taken -– and will continue to take -– to improve our team during this free agency period,” DeCosta said.
DeCosta confirmed the trade that sent tight end Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round draft choice to the Atlanta Falcons for the second- and fifth-round selections in the draft.
Baltimore now owns a first-round pick, two second-rounders and a pair of selections in the third round.
Hurst was drafted 25th overall in the 2018 draft but ranked third on the team among tights ends in receptions last year. He finished with 30 catches for 349 yards and two touchdowns with only four starts.
“We are grateful for the contributions he made to our team and for the role he played in our success the past two seasons,” DeCosta said. “We feel this is a mutually beneficial deal.”
The loss of Hurst was not nearly as impactful as the addition of Campbell and Brockers. After the Ravens allowed 4.4 yards rushing per carry last season — compared to 3.7 in 2018 — and yielded 195 yards on the ground to Derrick Henry in a playoff loss to Tennessee, DeCosta knew he had to fortify Baltimore’s front seven.
The 305-pound Brockers is poised to fill in for Michael Pierce, who is likely headed elsewhere during free agency.
Campbell is a five-time Pro Bowl defensive end who can help pressure the quarterback and protect the outside against sweeps. Over the last three seasons with Jacksonville, he has a total of 31 1/2 sacks and 58 tackles for a loss.
Campbell and linebacker Matthew Judon — who was given the franchise tag by DeCosta — should provide the Ravens the pressure they need to get to the opposing quarterback. Judon led the Ravens with 9 1/2 sacks last season, but no one else on the team had more than five and Baltimore ranked 21st with 37 in 16 games.
Baltimore also released 12-year veteran cornerback Brandon Carr. He started for three seasons since signing as a free agent, also started all 192 games in his career.
In an effort to free up salary cap space, the Ravens signed punter Sam Koch to a two-year extension that extends through 2022. Koch has spent all 14 of his NFL seasons with Baltimore, averaging a robust 45.4 yards per kick and making the Pro Bowl in 2015. His 224 consecutive games played are a franchise record.
The 37-year-old Koch also serves as holder for Justin Tucker, the NFL career leader in field goal percentage.