HomeFootball DirtRavens Likely to pursue free agent addition at running back position

Ravens Likely to pursue free agent addition at running back position

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The Ravens led the league in rushing during the 2023 season, but the running back position could see significant overhaul in the near future. A number of veteran options are set to hit the market, and Baltimore could be a team to watch with respect to a signing.

A belief around the league exists that the Ravens plan to “target a running back with pedigree” next month, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes. Baltimore’s top two running backs entering the 2023 campaign – J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards – are pending free agents. The same is also true of veteran pickups Melvin Gordon and Dalvin Cook, so the team has a number of interesting decisions to make at the position ahead of the new league year.

Dobbins’ case in particular will be worth watching. The former second-rounder has shown considerable promise when on the field, scoring 13 total touchdowns in 24 regular season games while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. An ACL tear cost him the entire 2021 season, though, and Dobbins suffered an Achilles tear in Week 1 of this past campaign. That came after a summer in which the Ravens made clear their desire to retain him, but his stock has no doubt taken a hit given his missed time.

Baltimore discussed an extension with Dobbins, who profiles as having more upside than many of the other pending free agent backs given his performances and age (25). A fresh start via a deal sending him elsewhere would come as little surprise if he is aiming for the opportunity to operate as a clear-cut lead back. Red flags due to his injuries – along with the overall depressed market at the RB position – could limit his ability to do that, though.

Edwards was one of the backs who saw an increased workload in Dobbins’ absence. The former UDFA set a new career high in carries (198), scrimmage yards (990) and touchdowns (13) in 2023. His yards per carry average fell to 4.1, however, the lowest mark of his career. The 28-year-old’s decreased efficiency could limit his market to that of a goal line specialist (as opposed to the three-year, $12.38MM pact he signed in 2021), either on a new Ravens deal or one with an outside team.

Third-down back and special teams mainstay Justice Hill is on the books for 2024 at a cap hit of $2.97MM. A release could free up cap space, but Hill has proven to be a valuable depth contributor when given the opportunity. Keaton Mitchell, who joined Baltimore as an undrafted rookie and flashed plenty of potential before suffering an ACL tear, figures to have at least a complementary role once he has recovered. The Ravens should have room for at least one outside addition if they elect to go the free agent route.

Baltimore was connected to Derrick Henry at the trade deadline, but the Titans did not end up moving him. The two-time rushing champion is nevertheless in line to depart Tennessee for the first time in his career during free agency, and he has named joining a Super Bowl contender as a priority for this offseason. Coming off a 13-4 season and an appearance in the AFC title game, Baltimore qualifies in that regard.

Henry will likely be joined by a host of other accomplished backs, including Saquon BarkleyJosh Jacobs and Tony Pollard. Baltimore has a number of key financial decisions to make in the coming weeks, including a potential franchise tag application for defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and talks on a new deal for linebacker Patrick Queen. Those Pro Bowl defenders will use up considerable cap resources if either or both are retained. For now, though, the team is in a better financial situation than a number of others, so Baltimore could be active on the RB market.

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