Defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who recently agreed to terms on a reported three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Ravens, says he is “grateful” to return to Baltimore, where he spent the first four years of his NFL career after making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
Pierce, 29, signed a three-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings in March 2020, but he opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and only played in eight games in 2021 due to a partially torn triceps muscle.
The Vikings fired Rick Spielman as general manager and Mike Zimmer as head coach following a disappointing 8-9 campaign in 2021. They hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah away from the Cleveland Browns to serve as GM, and they hired former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as head coach.
Pierce signed with the Vikings in 2020 with the intention of working with defensive line coach Andre Patterson, but Patterson moved on to the New York Giants this offseason. Pierce reached out to Adofo-Mensah to talk about where he stood heading into the final year of his deal. The Vikings tried to find a trade partner for Pierce, then asked him to take a pay cut. Pierce asked for his release on March 14, and the Vikings obliged.
The deal with the Ravens, which includes $6.75 million guaranteed, didn’t take long to come together after that. His agent, Damarius Bilbo of Klutch Sports Group, got to work.
“My agent had a pretty good idea of potential landing spots. He mentioned Baltimore and I was just like, ‘There’s no way on God’s green earth this is going to happen,'” Pierce joked on Glenn Clark Radio March 18. “I didn’t want to get too excited, but [Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta] and them kind of reached out pretty early. Like I told my agent, ‘If there’s any way I can get back home, that’s where I want to be.’ I’m grateful that we got it done.”
Pierce played for the Ravens from 2016-2019, totaling 90 tackles and 3.5 sacks during his first stint in Charm City. The 6-foot, 340-pound defensive tackle built a reputation as one of the better run-stuffers in the league during that time, earning him the three-year deal with the Vikings that included $9 million guaranteed.
Pierce said the Ravens’ culture played a big part in wanting to come back to Baltimore. He mentioned Tony Jefferson, Albert McClellan and Pernell McPhee as players who have circled back around to the Ravens after leaving.
“When you’re young, and obviously you only play this game for so long, you owe it to yourself as a person, as a player — I’m going to have a family and all this stuff — to go and secure those funds,” Pierce said. “But when you live in these other places and you deal with different kind of situations in different buildings, our culture is very unique. That’s something a lot of guys miss.”
Pierce said longtime Ravens special teams ace Anthony Levine Sr., who has moved into a coaching and scouting role with the team, messaged him on Instagram after he got released to tell him to consider coming back to Baltimore.
“It’s awesome for guys like that to reach out to me,” Pierce said. “He’s like a big brother to me. That meant a lot. I told him if there was any way I could get it done, I definitely would. When he sent me that, I was like, ‘Let’s get this crap over with. I’m ready to go.’ That was big for me.”
The Ravens were in the market for a veteran defensive lineman with Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams currently free agents. Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Derek Wolfe and Pierce figure to be big parts of the Ravens’ defensive line rotation in 2022.
Pierce said his game took a step forward in 2021 under the tutelage of Patterson, who unlocked his pass rushing skills (three sacks in eight games). In the Vikings’ season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pierce had seven tackles and two sacks. A few games later, he got hurt. He didn’t need surgery, just rest.
“That was very frustrating. I got off to a hot start. I had like two sacks in the first game and a ton of tackles,” Pierce said. “I thought I was going to end up in the Pro Bowl at one point. I got hurt, did the rehab process, came back and still played really well, at a really, really high level.”
Between the pandemic and the triceps injury, things didn’t go quite how Pierce planned them when he signed with Minnesota, but he’s thrilled to be back where he started. He’ll now get to work as part of the Ravens’ defensive makeover. He’ll have a little more fanfare coming to Charm City than he did as an undrafted free agent out of Samford, too.
“I’m big into believing in Christ. It’s funny how God lets things come full circle,” Pierce said. “I didn’t have a press conference when I first came in as an undrafted rookie. Here soon, I’ll have a press conference. It’s never about that, it’s just about how things come full circle.”
For more from Pierce, listen to the full interview here:
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