Harbaugh’s ‘rookie tax’ set to be light in 2022
As head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh always made sure rookies earned their spots. Rookies don’t get a free pass to the starting lineup in Baltimore; they have to make their place on the pitch painfully obvious. This is called the newbie tax. The 2018 season is a good example. Orlando Brown Jr. was the best option for right tackle and it took a while for Harbaugh to hand him the job. Ravens fans can certainly think of many more in recent years.
The Ravens rookie class of 2022 may be as protected from the rookie tax as any other group of Ravens rookies. Kyle Hamilton was chosen with the fourteenth pick overall. He is expected to play and make a difference right away. Hamilton is the reason Chuck Clark is now on the trading block. Starting Clark with Hamilton would be a ruthless choice, even for Harbaugh. Hamilton is going to see the pitch early and often.
The Ravens also drafted Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. It is a plug-and-play starter. That was the whole point of taking Linderbaum with the 25th overall pick. The Ravens met two major needs with their first two picks. They don’t have the luxury of patience. First-round picks happen to be fundamental elements of the plan.
The next pick is David Ojabo, a top runner who is recovering from an injury from his Pro Day. Ojabo won’t be ready at the start of the season and it’s possible he won’t become available for the Ravens until November. When he steps into action, he’ll be slotted into an already established rotation and the Ravens won’t push too hard too soon. This does not count as a recruit tax. On top of that, Ojabo is defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s guy from Michigan, which can’t be a bad thing for him. Three picks and there’s no one Harbaugh can really be stingy with as a rookie.
In the third round, the Ravens selected Travis Jones, a 6’4″, 325-pound defensive tackle from UConn. Jones may not get the top spot on the defensive line, but he needs to get involved. He offers far more than Michael Pierce and Broderick Washington in terms of athleticism Calais Campbell is going to be set to become the eldest on the defensive front, while we’re not sure if we can expect to see Derek Wolfe back in action. stock.
Jones has a chance to be the future star of the defensive line. Under Macdonald’s new leadership, the defense could seek greater penetration into the backfield through their defensive tackles. This would bode well for Jones and Justin Madubuike. Jones may not be a starter, but he should see plenty of ground. He should also expect to be on the pitch as a nose guard in passing situations, as he’s been known to push the pocket. The tax on beginners continues to be rejected.
That leaves us with fourth-round and later picks before Harbaugh can think of making life difficult for a rookie. A fourth rounder who will be an immediate starter is new town punter Jordan Stout. Sam Koch just announced his retirement, so now the job is Stout by design and default. That’s five players Harbaugh needs to rely on right away.
Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams are both cornerbacks who will be battling for the same role. They both try to be the nickel back, a position that has become critically important in a league with excellent slot machine receivers. Here’s the thing though: With Anthony Averett and Tavon Young both playing for other teams, the two fourth-round picks are badly needed for the roster. If they can play, they will play. The Ravens were also reminded last year that you can’t have enough defensive backs.
If anyone is going to be hit with the rookie tax, it’s probably going to be tight end Charlie Kolar. Nick Boyle is one of the best blockers in football. Isaiah Likely, another rookie tight end, doesn’t compete as much for Boyle’s role. Because Likely is more of a big slot receiver than a hand in the dirt, next to the tight tackle end he can escape the rookie tax easier than Kolar.
That being said, we don’t know the situation with Boyle’s injury. The Ravens just restructured his contract, and Boyle may never be the same again. If so, Kolar just found his way to playing time in a heavy offense called up by Greg Roman.
Daniele Faalele was also drafted in the fourth round, and he’s not necessarily in line for a quick start. It has less to do with the rookie tax and more with the fact that he is a bit of a draft. In all honesty, I wasn’t crazy about Faalele in that draft class. He’s huge but his footwork and balance leave a lot to be desired. With Morgan Moses, Ja’Wuan James and swing tackle Pat Mekari ahead of him, Faalele is more than anything a pick for the future.
The only other rookie in the draft class is Tyler Badie. Badie was taken in the sixth round as running back for Missouri. Badie will be behind JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards no matter what happens with the new Mike Davis. Badie is fighting for the third spot running back by default. It’s hard to accuse a coach of imposing a rookie tax for holding up a sixth-round pick. This is especially true at a position as frontal as this.
Baltimore will have to use its rookies in the 2022 season. There’s no getting around that. That’s something to remember when the Ravens release their first depth chart during training camp.
Harbaugh can say what he wants…the situation dictates that rookies get involved early.