OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A draft that was expected to be unpredictable did not disappoint, as in a span of about 10 minutes Ravens selected Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 and announced they had traded away receiver Marquise Brown to land a second first-round pick, which became Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, viewed as the top center in the draft.
The Ravens thus bolstered their secondary and the offensive line with what general manager Eric DeCosta called “the very two best players at their positions,” but they find themselves with a sizeable void at wide receiver after dealing Brown, and they did nothing to address their major pass-rush need.
They figure to address those spots with one or more of their nine remaining picks.
An early run on wide receivers — four of them went from picks eight through 12 — gave the Ravens multiple options at positions of need at No. 14. Tackle Trevor Penning, edge rusher Jermaine Johnson and cornerback Trent McDuffie all were available with the Ravens on the clock, but the Ravens instead stuck with their best-available-player philosophy and selected Hamilton, a tall, athletic safety who didn’t fill an obvious need but was viewed by DeCosta as a top-five talent in the draft.
Meeting with the media after the first round of the draft concluded, DeCosta said picking Hamilton was a “no-brainer” and said he “never dreamed in a million years” that Hamilton would be on the board with the Ravens on the clock at No. 14.
Hamilton (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) had eight interceptions during his Notre Dame career, and DeCosta called him a “rangy safety, a ball hawk” with “tremendous physical skills” who has the size to cover NFL tight ends and the versatility to affect the game a lot of ways.
Hamilton joins free-agent acquisition Marcus Williams, Chuck Clark and Pro Bowl cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey to form what the Ravens hope will be a dynamic, game-changing secondary.
Last year, with Peters (knee) out all season, Humphrey (torn pec) sidelined for five games and several other starters lost for significant time because of injuries, the Ravens’ perennial top-10 defense slipped to 25th overall, its lowest ranking since 1997. The Ravens finished dead last against the pass, allowing 278.9 passing yards a game and a league-high 16 plays of 40 yards or more. They also finished with 15 takeaways, the second-fewest in team history.
That was a big reason the Ravens parted ways with defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, and he has been succeeded by former Ravens assistant coach Mike Macdonald, who spent the past season as defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan.
Macdonald will have his hands full.
This season, the Ravens schedule includes two games against Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who shredded the Ravens’ patchwork secondary twice last season, including a 525-yard performance, the most ever given up by a Ravens team. The Ravens also will have two games against new Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson, as well as games against Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Denver’s Russell Wilson, among others.
To counter that, the Ravens signed Williams to a five-year, $70 million deal to patrol the back of the defense, and now they have added Hamilton as they continue to focus a significant amount of free agency and draft capital in the secondary.
Moments after selecting Hamilton, the Ravens announced they had traded Brown to the Arizona Cardinals, a deal that had been kept under wraps but clearly was in the works, as Brown made an appearance at the Cardinals draft party Thursday night.
Brown was DeCosta’s first pick ever as general manager, selected at No. 25 overall in 2019, and this past season Brown set career highs with 91 catches for 1,008 yards. He became just the second wide receiver drafted by the Ravens to record a 1,000-yard season with the team.
But DeCosta said Brown approached him after the season to request a trade, and he said the deal was “a complicated topic.”
“He was not happy, and he wanted to play elsewhere,” DeCosta said.
DeCosta said he spoke to quarterback Lamar Jackson, one of Brown’s best friends on the team, before the trade was made.
“Any time a teammate is potentially getting traded, it’s something that’s hard for the players to understand at times, but I think in the end, it happens,” DeCosta said. “It’s part of the business.”
DeCosta stressed, though, that in making the trade, the Ravens were able to land Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound road-grader that DeCosta described as “one of the better centers we’ve seen come out in a long time.”
“He’s strong, physical, tough, quick-footed. … He filled a huge need for us.”
The Ravens originally got the No. 23 pick in the Brown trade, but then traded back with the Buffalo Bills and selected Linderbaum at No. 25, picking up an additional fourth-round pick in the process.
DeCosta downplayed the major hole the loss of Brown leaves at receiver. The Ravens drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round last season, and he becomes the top receiving threat not named tight end Mark Andrews. The Ravens also cut receiver Miles Boykin this offseason and didn’t re-sign free agent Sammy Watkins, leaving Bateman, Devin Duvernay and James Proche as the top returning receivers.
DeCosta said the team could supplement that group via the draft and free agency.
Barring any more trades, the Ravens still have nine more picks in the final two days of the draft, including eight in Rounds 2 through 4. They have pick No. 45 in the second round, and No. 76 in the third round on the second night of the draft, and then are scheduled to have six picks in the fourth round and one in the sixth.
With Hamilton and Linderbaum on the team, edge rusher, cornerback and offensive tackle top the list of roster needs.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics & Iowa Athletics, Kenya Allen/PressBox