Where the Ravens stand after losing 15 players in free agency

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In a span of three months, the Baltimore Ravens have gone from being one win away from the Super Bowl to having the most losses in free agency in the AFC.

This type of turnover has caused some to wonder whether the Ravens are still championship contenders. At Tuesday's pre-draft news conference, coach John Harbaugh made it known that -- despite 15 of their players going elsewhere -- Baltimore's confidence remains.

"It's not just a math equation," Harbaugh said. "It's more than that. And that's what makes it so exciting and so interesting. We're going to have a heck of a team next year. You wait. You watch, and see what we do."

The Ravens' belief is they can continually keep the window for winning a championship open as long as they build through the draft, retain foundational pieces like franchise player Justin Madubuike in free agency and keep quarterback Lamar Jackson healthy.

It's a frustrating offseason anytime a franchise like Baltimore goes from having the NFL's best record in the regular season to watching 14 players sign with another team and trading another (right tackle Morgan Moses to the New York Jets). According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 15 players lost this offseason are tied for the most with the Minnesota Vikings.

This type of free agency period was expected in Baltimore, which had limited salary cap space and currently has $10 million in cap room. The list of players gone from the Ravens include Pro Bowl inside linebacker Patrick Queen, who signed with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers; three starting offensive linemen (guards Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson along with Moses); their most productive edge rusher in Jadeveon Clowney; their touchdown leader in running back Gus Edwards; and the NFL's runner-up in interceptions last season in safety Geno Stone.

But Baltimore wasn't going to match what Queen got from the Steelers (three years, $41 million) after signing All-Pro middle linebacker Roquan Smith to a five-year, $100 million deal last year. The Ravens didn't have the cap space to keep Clowney, who signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, and instead brought back edge rusher Kyle Van Noy at two years, $9 million. Baltimore then upgraded Edwards by landing Derrick Henry, its biggest free-agent signing.

The biggest question facing the Ravens is the offensive line, where Baltimore will likely fill one starting spot early in the draft.

"Obviously, it's always hard to see some of your favorite players go to other teams; I mean, that's been a challenge," DeCosta said. "But in terms of just being in a good spot, the vibe has been good. We're building this team the right way ... and we think the future is extremely bright."

The Ravens anticipate the offense being better with Jackson going into his second season in coordinator Todd Monken's system. Baltimore not only added Henry but brings back a healthier Mark Andrews at tight end and wide receiver Zay Flowers, who set team rookie records with 77 receptions and 858 receiving yards. On defense, Baltimore is strong up the middle with three All-Pros in Madubuike, Smith and strong safety Kyle Hamilton.

The confidence that the Ravens will make a championship run this season goes beyond Baltimore. According to ESPN BET, the Ravens have the third-best Super Bowl odds (+900) behind the San Francisco 49ers and defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. Baltimore's 11.5 win total is tied for the most with the Chiefs and 49ers, according to ESPN BET.

"It's really interesting and good to look at the parts like you say, 'OK, they lost this many guys. They are not going to be as good of a team,'" Harbaugh said. "But, in the end, it's not just about the parts, it's about the sum of the parts. They say, 'It's not about the X's and O's. It's about the Jimmys and Joes. That's real clever and it rhymes. But it's more than just the Jimmys and the Joes. It's how the Jimmys and Joes fit to together and you build the schemes and the whole machine."

The Ravens have had to deal with rougher offseasons than this one. In 2002, Baltimore cut two future Hall of Fame players in tight end Shannon Sharpe and safety Rod Woodson as well as starting quarterback Elvis Grbac. After winning the Super Bowl in 2012, the Ravens lost two future of Hall of Fame players in linebacker Ray Lewis (retired) and safety Ed Reed (signed with the Houston Texans) and traded No. 1 wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

Even more recently, in 2019, the Ravens lost four key defensive starters in free agency -- outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith, middle linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Eric Weddle -- and went on to become the AFC's No. 1 seed that season.

Then, last year at this point, the Baltimore front office was dealing with the mounting uncertainty surrounding Jackson's contract negotiations, along with questions about their wide receiver and outside linebacker positions.

"We're in the same place as we were last year at this time," DeCosta said. "Go back and look at what some of you wrote last year and see how we ended up. We have a lot of time to make moves. I think we're just really getting started. A big part of that is certainly going to be the draft. But the destination is September, not May."