NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2022 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, which meant free-agent signings could be made official after that. The first round of the 2022 NFL draft begins April 28 on ESPN.
One deal that wasn't made official and ultimately fell through was one for linebacker Za'Darius Smith, who decided not to sign a four-year, $35 million deal with Baltimore on March 17. So, Smith becomes a free agent and the Ravens' search for a pass-rusher continues.
Michael Pierce, DT
The Ravens and Pierce agreed to terms on a three-year contract, the team announced. The deal is for $16.5 million that includes $6.5 million guaranteed, according to a source.
What it means: The Ravens get a replacement for Brandon Williams, the longtime starting nose tackle who is now a free agent. Pierce is more versatile than Williams but he comes with a lesser price tag because of durability concerns. Baltimore knows Pierce is a run-stopper because he played his first four seasons (2016-19) with the Ravens after going undrafted. Pierce is a better pass-rusher, totaling 16 quarterback pressures in 123 pass-rush snaps last season. On the day outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith decides not to return, the Ravens do get a reunion with Pierce. The addition of Pierce lessens Baltimore’s need to use the No. 14 overall pick on Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis.
What's the risk: Durability. Pierce struggled to stay on the field last season in Minnesota. He missed seven games with a triceps injury and sat out two more games with a non-COVID illness. Maintaining weight was an issue for Pierce in Baltimore. During his last season with the Ravens, Pierce weighed 390 pounds when he reported to minicamp and he was sent off the practice field by coach John Harbaugh. But Pierce lost 30 pounds by the start of training camp. He has averaged 31 snaps per game in his five-year career.
The Ravens and Williams agreed to terms on a five-year contract worth $70 million, a source told ESPN. The deal includes $37 million guaranteed, according to a source.
What it means: The Ravens landed a ball-hawking safety that they desperately needed. Williams has intercepted 15 passes over the last five seasons, which are just four fewer than what all Ravens safeties combined for over that same span (19). Last season, quarterbacks showed no fear in going deep against Baltimore, completing 32 passes of 20-plus yards (second-most in the NFL). Teams will have to think twice doing so with Williams patrolling centerfield for the Ravens. He allowed just 11 receptions on 25 targets and no touchdowns as the nearest defender in coverage, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
What's the risk: Will the Ravens have enough cap room to properly address the pass rush? By giving Williams a huge deal, Baltimore continued its trend of investing more in the defensive backfield than at outside linebacker. Over the last three years, the Ravens have given $108 million in guaranteed money to Williams and safety Chuck Clark as well as cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. The Ravens could have the NFL's top secondary, but they are left with Odafe Oweh, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson as experienced edge rushers. Baltimore also has had mixed success in signing safeties in free agency, hitting big on Eric Weddle in 2016 and whiffing big-time on Earl Thomas in 2019.
Morgan Moses, OT
The Ravens and Moses reached agreement on a three-year, $15 million deal, according to a source.
What it means: The Ravens have either found an answer at right tackle, or at the very least added more insurance at offensive tackle. Tough and durable, Moses has played in 113 straight games and was the 40th-ranked offensive tackle by Pro Football Focus. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said he wanted a better contingency plan at offensive tackle after last season, when right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was traded and left tackle Ronnie Stanley only played one game because of an ankle injury. The Ravens now have Moses and Ja'Wuan James, who didn’t play last season because of an Achilles injury, as options at right tackle. This doesn’t preclude Baltimore from drafting an offensive tackle early in the draft but it lessens the urgency to do so.
What's the risk: There really isn’t much of one. When dealing with an offensive lineman over 30 (Moses is 31), there’s always the increased chance of a sharp decline in play. The Ravens saw that last season with the signing of Alejandro Villanueva, who retired at the end of the season after leading the NFL in 17 sacks allowed. But Moses is an absolute bargain at $5 million per season (his market value was projected at $7.7 million by Spotrac). If nothing else, Moses can be a short-term stopgap at a problem spot for Baltimore. The Ravens had four linemen play at least 60 snaps at right tackle in 2021.
Patrick Ricard, FB
The Ravens announced a three-year agreement with Ricard.
What it means: There's a reason why Ricard was the first of the Ravens' 22 free agents to get retained by the team. He has become one of the most valuable players to their run-heavy offensive scheme. Built like a 300-pound tank, Ricard plays with the type of physicality that Baltimore loves. He has been a Pro Bowl fullback for the past three seasons, when Baltimore has produced an NFL-best 180.5 yards rushing per game. There had been some concern that Ricard would get more money elsewhere. So, bringing back Ricard is a huge sigh of relief for Baltimore's rushing attack.
What's the risk: Wear and tear. Ricard was sidelined four games last season due to knee, foot and thigh injuries. He was placed on injured reserve before Baltimore's must-win game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. All of this came in a year when Ricard expanded his role to playing tight end and logging a career-high 555 snaps (57% of the Ravens' offensive snaps). It's legitimate to wonder whether the increased workload led to an increase in injuries. Ricard only missed one game in his previous two seasons. The Ravens are hoping durability won't be an issue.