After their linebacker group got gutted in free agency, the Ravens are turning to a familiar face to bolster their pass rush.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have agreed to sign Pernell McPhee to a one-year contract. A fifth-round pick of the Ravens in 2011, McPhee developed into a strong presence during his four seasons in Baltimore and appeared to be on the cusp of dominance when he signed on with the Bears in 2015, but injuries prevented him from reaching his full potential.
Assuming the one-year deal isn’t expensive, it’s a decent buy-low signing by the Ravens. As previously mentioned, it wasn’t that many years ago that McPhee appeared to be developing into one of the game’s better pass rushers. After a 7.5-sack season in 2014, he secured a big payday from the Bears. And in his first season with the Bears, he racked up six sacks, nine tackles for a loss, one interception, and 18 quarterback hits.
But injuries — namely, knee and shoulder issues — took their toll. The Bears cut him after the 2017 season. He latched on with the Redskins, but failed to make much of an impact with no sacks and eight quarterback hits last season.
He now returns to Baltimore as a 30-year-old pass rusher with only eight sacks over the past three seasons. So expectations shouldn’t be high. The Ravens aren’t getting the same version of McPhee they got back in 2011. But again, there’s not really that much risk for the Ravens. Plus, they needed help after losing edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs in free agency (not to mention inside linebacker C.J. Mosley). The Ravens also drafted edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson in the third round of this year’s draft.
While so much of the attention in Baltimore is rightfully focused on Lamar Jackson’s development after an encouraging, but very flawed rookie season, don’t overlook the importance of the Ravens’ defense. A year ago, they finished as the third-best defense by DVOA, the best defense by yards allowed, and the second-best defense by points allowed. But that defense will look a whole lot different during the upcoming season after losing Smith, Suggs, and Mosley, and adding Earl Thomas.