Mike Macdonald, Michigan defensive coordinator, expected to be named Baltimore Ravens DC

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

It’s expected to be one and done for Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who is working on a deal to return to the Baltimore Ravens as defensive coordinator.

The Ravens job opened last Friday when John Harbaugh parted ways with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale after four seasons. Martindale was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2018 after coaching Ravens linebackers from 2012-2017. Macdonald spent seven seasons with the Ravens, including the last three coaching linebackers before taking the Michigan job.

Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is expected to return to the Baltimore Ravens as their defensive coordinator.

Reports out of Baltimore emerged late Tuesday night saying Macdonald was considered a top candidate to replace Martindale. A source confirmed to The Detroit News that Macdonald will be heading to the Ravens and a deal could be done by the end of the week.

Macdonald, 34, joined Jim Harbaugh’s staff a year ago as a first-time play-caller after seven seasons coaching on older brother John Harbaugh’s Ravens staff.

He signed a three-year deal with the Wolverines and his contract is not punitive if he heads leaves for an NFL head coaching or coordinator's job. According to his contract, he does not owe Michigan money if he accepts a “primary play-calling” coordinator position in the league. If he left for an assistant position, he would owe $75,000.

During his one season at Michigan, Macdonald earned a base salary of $1 million and $400,000 in bonuses..

Jim Harbaugh, who just completed his seventh season as Michigan head coach, has not yet signed a renegotiated contract with the program. Harbaugh, currently working under his contract extension signed a year ago that slashed his salary in half to $4 million base, will now have to fill Macdonald’s void. Harbaugh has made one offseason addition to his coaching staff, hiring former Michigan linebacker Mike Elston from Notre Dame, where he spent the last 12 seasons, as defensive line coach. Elston replaces Shaun Nua, who moved on to USC after three seasons in Ann Arbor.

It is unclear whether Harbaugh would promote from within his current staff.

Michigan was 12-2 last season, won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2004 and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff where the Wolverines lost to eventual national champion Georgia in a national semifinal.

Bolstered by edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, both projected first-round NFL Draft picks, Macdonald’s defense, which was quickly embraced by the players, finished the season ranked 20th overall nationally and No. 8 in scoring defense.

“He does a great job of putting people in places to make plays,” former Michigan defensive tackle Christopher Hinton, who has declared for the NFL Draft, said last season of Macdonald. “He does a great job of just relating to his players. We understand what he’s thinking; he understands what we’re thinking. And we’re able to bounce ideas off that, and I think that’s paid dividends to our success this year.”

Players, beginning in spring practice, said they appreciated how Macdonald encouraged them to take ownership of the defense.

“In terms of staffs I’ve been around since I’ve been at Michigan, this is probably the smartest staff I’ve been around,” Hutchinson said last March. “Just in these few weeks that I’ve been around this staff, I have learned more about the game of football — much more about defenses.

“(Macdonald) came in here with a lot of energy. It’s kind of a different kind of focus. You can tell he’s been in the league for the last (seven) years. He’s kinda got that way about him. I like what we’re doing with the defense, I like the culture he’s instilling in us. I think he’s doing a really good job. I’m just really fired up to have him as my coach.”

Before the season at last year’s Big Ten media days, Harbaugh shared that he had only been around Macdonald a few times when he visited his brother in Baltimore and the two talked football. It was John Harbaugh's recommendation that swayed Harbaugh to make the hire.

“My brother John was like, ‘Yeah, this is the guy I would hire and probably would be our next defensive coordinator here in Baltimore after Wink,” Jim Harbaugh said last July. “And what he liked about him, what he told me, he said he's really smart. He was in on the ground floor of the Ravens when they changed their defense, invented their defense and their scheme. Very detailed and very good teacher.

“I had gotten a lot of recommendations from a lot of people that I really trust in football, guys I love like a brother. But this came from John and I even asked him, ‘John, I mean, that's pretty awesome that you would recommend somebody you think so highly of that's on your staff.’ And he said, ‘Well, I really love Michigan football and I really love you, so I want to see you both be successful.’”

And now he’s returning to John Harbaugh’s staff in Baltimore with the same intention — to make the Ravens successful defensively.


Twitter: @chengelis