Ravens 2012 Draft Coming into Focus

The Baltimore Ravens once again have remained relatively silent during another free agency period. Only linked to a few outside prospects, the Ravens haven’t yet signed any free agents from outside their own confines. For some Ravens fans, this has caused a bit of anxiety as they watch other organizations snatch up the best talent from around the NFL. If you fall into the category of folks getting a little antsy to see some Ravens off-season action, don’t despair. The fun is just getting started.

Free agency and the draft are always linked. One affects the other and so on and so forth. The reason these two crucial stages of the off-season are linked is because it’s the way that teams fill their needs. Some teams choose to spend top-dollar for the high-ticket free agents, and others choose to focus on rebuilding or reloading in the draft. Guess which category the Ravens usually fall into?

We’re now a week into free agency and the Ravens’ lack of movement is actually quite telling. Not making waves or headlines, even during this rather silent time for the Ravens there’s a lot to be taken away from how the organization is approaching this off-season. Though they aggressively pursued free agent guard Evan Mathis who eventually re-upped with the Philadelphia Eagles, and they have had a meet-and-greet with receiver Ted Ginn Jr., the Ravens are taking their time and as we’ve seen in the past, GM Ozzie Newsome always has a plan and a little magic up his sleeve.

(After the "Jump", see a reminder of Newsome’s plan and how it’ll affect the rest of the Ravens’ off-season)

As mentioned before, the way that the draft and free agency are linked is undeniable. This off-season has already shown where teams are placing the most value: upgrading their offenses, mostly through seeking out the best receivers on the market. Now, come draft time, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see several of the top-rated collegiate receivers fall in the upcoming draft because so many teams have already worked on filling that particular need through free agency. Cause and effect in the NFL.

Just like every other franchise, the Ravens have several positions in which they’ll build back up before the start of the season. It seems like forever ago, in a league that changes almost by the minute, that the Ravens out-lined their roster plans for the off-season. Way, way back on February 1st, the Ravens held their season-ending press conference in which Newsome had this to say:

"We are going to have to build on the offensive line. I think we will still build at the receiver spot. I think we'll work there. And, you don't ever have enough pass rushers. So, if that guy is there, we'll entertain that also."

So far, the Ravens haven’t accomplished anything on the off-season agenda out-lined above through free agency, and with most of the top-tier talent either gone or too expensive at: offensive line, receiver, and even some notable pass rushers, the Ravens will now most likely look ahead to the draft to complete their off-season shopping list.

What it really boils down to for the Ravens is that the way free agency has played out will, to some degree, dictate how they approach the draft. The saying always goes: "best player available", but what if the Ravens, for instance, haven’t upgraded their offensive line come draft time? Perhaps they’ll place a slightly higher value on finding a guard in the 1st round to replace Ben Grubbs than they would, let’s say, choose a potential heir to Ray Lewis in Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower?

The same situation could happen with the receivers as well. As free agency begins settling down, several teams have already loaded up with receivers which could push several prospects down the draft boards next April. As one of the Ravens’ biggest off-season needs, they could look to add a top-flight receiver through draft depending on how everything shakes out.

The bottom line is that the Ravens will truly begin their off-season moving and shaking when the draft rolls around and that’s when the team will begin hammering out Newsome’s to-do list. As one of the best and most consistent teams at finding the right players for the right value each April, the Ravens’ roster will start to come into focus at that time.

As an organization, one of the best qualities that the Ravens have collectively is that they draft extremely well and sprinkle in some under-the-radar free agents to fill needs along the way. So far, that seems to be their plan this off-season, and: "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it".

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