A breakdown of the Baltimore Ravens' 2019 free-agent signings.
Robert Griffin III, quarterback
The Ravens agreed to a two-year deal with Griffin on March 21. Here’s a closer look at the quarterback who spent last season in Baltimore:
What it means: The Ravens fill their top backup spot to Lamar Jackson and bring back last season's mentor to the new franchise quarterback. Baltimore can also play the same offense if Jackson gets hurt because Griffin plays with a similar style. Griffin was the favorite to be the Ravens’ No. 2 quarterback after impressing team officials and teammates with his work ethic and attitude. He proved to be effective in the preseason and during his limited playing time in the regular season. It's been impressive to see how the the No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 draft has revived his career.
What’s the risk: With how much Jackson runs the ball, there is a higher risk of injury. That means Baltimore could have to turn to Griffin, who hasn’t started an NFL regular season game since the 2016 finale. He's only thrown six passes over the past two seasons. But the Ravens have a lot of faith in Griffin, and coach John Harbaugh said Griffin played at "a starting-caliber level" during the preseason. The Ravens thought so much of Griffin last year that they kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009.
Earl Thomas, safety
The Ravens agreed to a four-year deal worth $55 million with Thomas on Wednesday. Here’s a closer look at the safety who spent his first nine seasons with the Seattle:
What it means: The arrival of Thomas gives Baltimore its best ball hawk since soon-to-be Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed left after the 2012 Super Bowl season. Thomas, a six-time Pro Bowl defender, has drawn comparisons to Reed throughout his career because of his great range. New Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta emphasized the need for getting playmakers, and Thomas’ 28 interceptions rank third in the NFL since he entered the league in 2010. This ability to cover lots of ground will allow safety Tony Jefferson to play closer to the line of scrimmage and his natural position of strong safety.
What’s the risk: The biggest concern with Thomas is durability. After not missing a start from 2010 to 2015, he has been sidelined for 19 games over the past three seasons. His left leg has been broken twice (in 2016 and 2018), and he is coming off of a career-low four games last season. Baltimore is also giving a four-year deal to a safety who turns 30 in May.
Mark Ingram, running back
The Ravens agreed to a three-year deal worth $15 million with Ingram on Wednesday. Here’s a closer look at the running back who spent his first eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints:
What it means: The Ravens get the running back that they wanted. A source said Baltimore was never involved in negotiations with Le’Veon Bell and had its sights on Ingram. Will Ingram keep up defensive coordinators at night like Bell? Certainly no. But Ingram has been an efficient runner, a big-time producer in the red zone and a valuable leader. Since 2014, he has the best yards per carry average (4.7) among backs with at least 500 carries and has scored the second-most red zone touchdowns (34). Ingram also comes at a more moderate price, which is key for a Ravens team that still has many needs to address. The expectation is Ingram will become the key piece in what offensive coordinator Greg Roman previously called a stable of backs. The biggest intangible is Ingram’s leadership, which is big for young quarterback Lamar Jackson. Drew Brees called Ingram “the heart and soul of this team."
What’s the risk: Ingram is 29, which is the time when running backs typically decline. He is coming off a season in which he was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Ingram is another power back like the Ravens’ two other experienced backs in Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon. Whether Ingram brings a different dimension to the Baltimore offense is a legitimate argument. Ball security also has been an issue. His six fumbles lost since 2016 are tied with David Johnson for the most by a running back over that span.
Nick Boyle, tight end
The Ravens re-signed Boyle on March 7 to a three-year deal worth up to $18 million. Here’s a closer look at the tight end who has spent his first four seasons in Baltimore:
What it means: The Ravens retain one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends, which is valuable in Baltimore’s run-first offense with quarterback Lamar Jackson. Boyle lined up as a tight end/fullback hybrid, helping Baltimore rush for an NFL-best 4,297 yards over the past two seasons (when he started a total of 24 games). No team loves tight ends more than the Ravens. Baltimore lined up with two or more tight ends on 1,044 snaps the past two seasons. That's 199 more snaps than any other team in the NFL. Boyle completes a tight-end group that returns Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst from promising rookie seasons. "I'd be hard-pressed to think there's a better tight-end group in the league right now," Harbaugh said.
What’s the risk: This is a lot of money for a tight end who never has scored a touchdown in his NFL career. Boyle never has caught more than 28 passes in a season. The biggest risk is off the field. Boyle was suspended twice for using performance-enhancing drugs, sidelining him for a total of 14 games in his first two seasons. A third suspension would result in a ban of at least two seasons.
Justin Bethel, cornerback/special teams
What it means: The Ravens' traditionally strong special teams units got even better. A three-time Pro Bowl player, Bethel has led his team in special teams tackles for six consecutive seasons. He topped the Falcons with 12 special teams tackles last season and was a Pro Bowl alternate. Bethel will fill the vital role of gunner. His addition comes on the same day when long-time special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg announced his retirement.
What’s the risk: The Ravens are spending their dwindling cap space on a player who will contribute almost exclusively on special teams. Bethel has struggled in pass coverage as a cornerback in the past, and he didn't record a single snap on defense last season. He has totaled four interceptions in seven seasons.