Ravens FB Patrick Ricard’s days of playing both ways could be over
For the last three seasons since making the team as an undrafted free agent out of Maine, the Baltimore Ravens’ Patrick Ricard has been able to claim the rare designation of being a two-way player that plays both offense and defense. He has been splitting time at fullback and defensive tackle over the last three years and has excelled at both.
His ability to contribute as both a blocker in the running game, a dump-off option in the passing game, and a penetrating presence on the defensive line as both a run stuffer and pass rusher has been an invaluable asset. It has enabled the Ravens to use a coveted regular-season roster spot and active designation on game days on another position.
He was a huge part of the Ravens record-breaking rushing attack and top-scoring offense in 2019 and in addition to earning his first Pro Bowl nod during his breakout season, Ricard earned a two-year contract extension worth $7.3 million.
Last season he played 342 offensive snaps at fullback compared to 140 snaps on defense. As his role on offense has continued to grow as the year went on, his snap count on defense began dwindled more and more.
The converted defensive lineman turned Pro Bowl fullback could have his days of spending time in both offensive and defensive meeting rooms and lining up with his hand in the dirt to purse a ball carrier instead of just blocking for one exclusively could be over.
“Pat’s done a great job for us on both sides of the ball,” Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen said on Sunday. “He made the Pro Bowl last year as a fullback/tight end and we’re kind of keeping him there. Obviously, he’s always hovering around wanting to play both sides. But with the additions we have, we feel he’ll be able to stay on that side of the ball.”
The additions that Cullen was referring to are the injection of seasoned veterans and promising young talent to the defensive line depth chart. The Ravens acquired five-time Pro Bowl defensive end, Calais Campbell, via trade, signed Derek Wolfe in free agency, and picked up rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington Jr in the draft. Even though the Ravens like to rotate their defensive linemen to keep them fresh, there likely won’t be enough snaps to go around for Ricard to get any meaningful amount.
While the Ravens are loaded with starting-caliber and quality depth players on the defensive line, the same can’t be said for their tight end corps. Last season they had a three-headed monster at the position with 2019 breakout star and first time Pro Bowler Mark Andrews leading the bunch followed by veteran Nick Boyle and former first-round selection Hayden Hurst at the third spot.
Since the team decided to flip Hurst for a second-round pick via trade, they went from having a surplus to a deficit at one of the most integral parts of their offense. The Ravens utilized tight ends on 42 percent of their passes last season which is the most in the NFL in the last 35 years per footballoutsiders.com. Ricard already sits in on tight end meetings daily and shouldn’t be counted out in the running to help offset the loss of Hurst in the offense in 2020.
“He’s in our room every day,” Tight Ends Coach Bobby Engram said. “It’s not your traditional tight end, obviously, but we’re just seeing other ways he can help us. Pat’s smart, he’s handling a lot of information, he’s a physical guy. You know how we like to run the football. Anything that we can do to expand his role is going to be a plus for the Ravens.”
The other players competing for the third tight end spot include veteran Jerell Adams, undrafted rookie Eli Wolf, and 2019 undrafted free agent Charles Scarff who spent his entire rookie season on the Ravens practice squad. Wolf is currently dealing with an undisclosed injury; Adams has stood out in red-zone drills and Scarff has been making plays.
However, none of them are separating themselves enough to be considered the front runner to come out on top. Given Ricard’s extensive experience lining up in all three phases of the game and his versatility to be an in-line blocker, line up in the backfield and even run a limited route tree could give him an edge. While he wouldn’t be playing both ways anymore, the Ravens would be still getting two positions for the price of one.