What are the Ravens’ best and worst free-agent signings since the Browns hired Andrew Berry in 2020?

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland.com is evaluating which AFC North Teams have extracted the most value in free agency since Browns general manager Andrew Berry took office in 2020. As part of that exercise, we have evaluated each team’s three best and worst signings of the last three seasons.

Next up: The Ravens. Where have they hit and missed in free agency the last few seasons?

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3. Alejandro Villanueva

Baltimore tried to play money ball with Villanueva after trading tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs in 2021. The Ravens envisioned Villanueva playing left tackle until Ronnie Stanley recovered from an ankle injury, then they would move the former Steeler to right tackle.

The plan didn’t work. Villanueva played his worst season since his first in 2021 – which, to be fair, was still passable — then retired during the offseason. Baltimore drafted and signed tackles shortly thereafter, neither of which are as good as Brown. The Ravens still saved money, and Morgan Moses played 17 games of quality right tackle last season. You could even argue the Villanueva signing worked fine.

But it didn’t work according to plan, and the Ravens had to invest more capital into the position. That makes this transaction a small net loss.

2. Demarcus Robinson

Robinson led Ravens receivers with 48 receptions and 76 targets last season. Both are career highs, which is why the Ravens get dinged for the signing. Robinson’s contract was reasonable, but his role?

Yes, Rashod Bateman missed 11 games due to injury last year. And yes, Mark Andrews counts as a legitimate top target. But the Ravens have needed receiving talent for a long time. They’ve had Lamar Jackson on a rookie contract since 2018. And they’ve never ranked higher than 21st in wide receiver spending since Jackson became the starter.

To be fair, Baltimore spent plenty on Jackson’s offensive line and defense. But the latter doesn’t satisfy a quarterback like a stud receiver. And while Robinson played fine last season, he shouldn’t be among your top targets.

1. Sammy Watkins

Watkins is the most expensive receiver Baltimore has signed since acquiring Jackson, and he had the worst season of his career (to that point) after joining the Ravens. He missed seven games, but Baltimore could’ve seen that coming by checking his Pro Football Reference page. Watkins missed at least three games in five of the seven seasons – including the previous three — he played before signing there.

When he did play, he caught 27 passes (worst of his career to that point) for 394 yards (worst of his career to that point) and one touchdown (you guessed it). The mistake didn’t hurt too deep because Watkins signed cheap and for only one year, but that was (and continues to be) the problem.

When 28-year-old Watkins is a team’s big-ticket purchase, that team should either be set at the position or spend more.


3. Morgan Moses

Baltimore is only one year into Moses’ three-year deal, but the early returns look promising. The 31-year-old tackle played 93% of Baltimore’s offensive snaps and ranked top-20 in fewest pressures allowed by tackles who played the majority of snaps last season. In fact, Moses graded higher as a pass blocker and a run blocker by PFF’s standards than he has at any point during his career.

The age curve can be cruel, and Baltimore could save $5 million in cap space by cutting him after next season. They did after all, draft tackle Daniel Faalele in the fourth round of last year’s draft. But Faalele needs time to develop, and if Moses plays the way he did last season, there’s no reason to rush him out the door.

2. Kevin Zeitler

The Ravens could save seven million from moving on from Zeitler this offseason, but doing so would leave them without one of the most dependable guards in the league.

Since joining the NFL in 2012, Zeitler has missed just 11 of a possible 178 games. He’s only missed two of 32 since joining Baltimore in 2021, and PFF has graded him as a top-five pass-blocking guard (and top-11 guard overall) both seasons. The Ravens paid Zeitler like one – he ranked 15th before last season in guard salaries – but they got what they paid for.

If Baltimore wants to keep Lamar Jackson, they may have to lose Zeitler. Then again, wouldn’t they want one of the league’s best guards around to protect their investment at quarterback?

1. Justin Houston

Fifty-three edge rushers made more money than Houston last season, but only 19 players recorded more sacks than Houston tallied with the Ravens (9.5), which was his highest total since 2019.

He did it all while making $3.5 million at age 33, and it’s hard to do better business than that for general manager Eric DeCosta. The Ravens needed to find a gem like that after spending the fourth-most money on defense entering last season, and they found it in Houston. They’ll likely need to find more if they plan on paying Lamar Jackson the pricey new contract he wants this offseason.

Could Houston, who enters this offseason a free agent, mimic that same production at 34? That’s a tall order, but he’s already proved he can fill it once.

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