LB Jake Ryan: Ravens’ Defensive Legacy Key To Decision To Sign With Baltimore

New Ravens linebacker Jake Ryan says he’s 100 percent healthy after two consecutive injury-plagued seasons and that he signed with Baltimore in large part because of the defensive legacy of the team.

Ryan originally agreed to a one-year deal with the Ravens April 18, three days before the NFL Draft began. The deal became official May 4.

When Ryan agreed to the deal, the Ravens were very thin on inside linebackers; L.J. Fort, Chris Board and Otaro Alaka were the only ones on the roster. Baltimore then picked up LSU’s Patrick Queen and Ohio State’s Malik Harrison in the draft to further beef up the position, but Ryan is more than comfortable with his decision.

“I had some options, but I think it was just the best fit,” Ryan said on Glenn Clark Radio May 7. “They didn’t have too many linebackers. They drafted a couple, which they needed to, so that’s good, get some young guys in there. But I think just the Baltimore defense — I mean, everyone’s just like, ‘Holy shit, that’s crazy.’ That’s where I want to be.”

“I think that was one of the biggest things, just looking at that,” Ryan added. “You’ve got so many guys coming through there, so much history. I think that was one of the main points in my decision, to be honest with you.”

This offseason, the Ravens have tried to recapture one of the longtime staples of their defense – stopping the run, which they struggled with at times last year. Baltimore was fifth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game, but the Ravens’ opponents were usually playing from behind.

Baltimore was 21st in the league in yards allowed per carry. The Ravens were exposed against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 (Nick Chubb, 165 yards), the San Francisco 49ers in Week (Raheem Mostert, 146) and the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs (Derrick Henry, 190).

Thus, Baltimore got to work in free agency and the draft in rebuilding the front seven. Ryan said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talked to him on the phone about the team’s defensive philosophy and how he’d fit in, which helped sell him on Baltimore. Now, he’s looking forward to competing in camp with the Ravens’ remade linebacker corps.

“It’s a lot of competition. You never know what’s going to happen. You never know what guys go down,” Ryan said. “My situation, I was starting in Green Bay and I went down and the next guy up. You never know what happens. I think just being a part of that team, I think that organization is what’s going to be the best for me.”

Ryan was drafted out of Michigan by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He racked up 27 starts and 213 tackles (15 for loss) from 2015-2017, but he tore the ACL in his right knee during training camp in 2018, requiring season-ending surgery.

He signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars last March but battled injuries throughout the year and only played in two games, all on special teams. His knee injury lingered into the 2020 season, delaying his Jaguars debut, and a hamstring injury ultimately ended his season.

Ryan, who is working out in Southern California, said he passed a physical and is good to go.

“I’m coming off the ACL and I’m trying to prove to everyone that I can come back,” Ryan said. “I think last year it was just complicated to come back and had some things here and there, and it just wasn’t happening. I’m trying to just do my best right now to get back on the field. I feel 100 percent.”

Ryan said he never considered hanging up the cleats this offseason.

“I think a lot of NFL guys, I think that thought crosses their minds,” Ryan said. “It’s just being in a locker room, being on a team, being in an organization that’s good, having that opportunity is just, you’re never going to have it again after it’s gone. I want to play every single day if I could. Sometimes it is time to walk away, but right now not for me, to be honest with you.”

Training camp in 2018 wasn’t the first time he had torn the ACL in his right knee; he suffered the same injury during spring ball at Michigan in 2013. Contrary to his experience in the NFL, he made a quick recovery from the injury in college. Not only was able to get on the field in 2013, he debuted in October and played in eight games.

But when he was recovering from that torn ACL in college, he picked up a new hobby: photography, which he’s kept up to this day. His photos of wildlife can be seen on his Instagram account.

“There’s just so many things you can do with a camera and just making things look creative and stuff like that,” Ryan said. “… You know Ann Arbor, North Campus is awesome so I’d go over to North Campus. There’s a giant river through the back of it. I’d go over there and just start shooting everything. Kind of finally when I got my first big check from Green Bay, I kind of went and bought a nice camera. So that was kind of my first big purchase, I want to say.”

To hear more from Ryan, including whether he’ll bring back his Michigan hair, listen to the full interview here:

Luke Jackson

See all posts by Luke Jackson. Follow Luke Jackson on Twitter at @luke_jackson10