The Ravens made a big splash in free agency, with two signings in key positions by signing CB Domonique Foxworth and center Matt Birk. Both signings are to replace starters who either left via free agency themselves or were released by the team. Center Jason Brown signed with the St. Louis Rams for way too much money and the Ravens released veteran CB Chris McAlister for a bevy of reasons, one reportedly being his inability to get on board with new head coach John Harbaugh.
Now that most of the big free agent names are off the board, teams will be looking at the rest of the players still looking for 2009 teams, and perhaps some bargains salary-wise. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome says the team is not finished signing players and wants to fill other needs before the NFL Draft so that when they make the 26th pick in April, they will be able to take the best available player, not specifically to fill an open need.
So what else are they looking for? Placekicker Matt Stover has been told by the team that they will not be re-signing him and there really isn't another free agent kicker still on the market that interests the Ravens. John Carney is still available but is actually even older than Stover, although he does seem to have a stronger leg. Stover's longest FG last season was 47 yards while Carney hit one from 51 yards. For the season, Stover was 27 of 33 while Carney was 35 of 38. However, Carney was six of eight from beyond the 40 yard line while Stover was a poor five of ten from the same distance. Most likely, the Ravens will continue to look at kickoff specialist Steven Hauschka and give him some competition through the draft or afterwards.
By filling the CB and center positions through free agency, the Ravens are pretty much set with starters along the offensive line and CB. However, depth will always continue to be a need. The status of veteran CB Samari Rolle is still up in the air and the resolution of this will determine whether or not the Ravens will continue to have a void there. Corey Ivy is rumored to be signing with his old boss Rex Ryan and reunite with former Ravens Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard on the NY Jets. If Rolle is given his requested release, the Ravens will have a void in the nickel back position. The Ravens are reportedly talking with former Denver Borncos Karl Paymah, but he was a reserve with them so I can't see him being anything other than that with the Ravens. There are still a bunch of veteran CB's out there, most notably former Steelers Bryant McFadden, although his price tag will be way higher than what Baltimore is interested in paying. However, the name that interests me is former Carolina Panther, Chicago Bear and St. Louis Ram, Ricky Manning, Jr. He is a six year veteran who only two years ago have five interceptions as part of the Bears 2006 team that lost in the Super Bowl to the Indianapolis Colts. However, the Ravens may just want to look at a CB in the draft come late April.
Despite the loss of LB Bart Scott, the Raven continue to be deep in that position and have a variety of options on their current roster that could step in and fill that void. Defensive line is pretty set, although the future status of DT Kelly Gregg has been rumored to be shaky, although reserve Justin Bannan stepped in and played great in his absence and will continue to do so if needed.
The Ravens have not re-signed FB Lorenzo Neal, as their thought process appears to be that if they can get a blocking TE in there, they can go with more one back sets without needing a FB in front of the RB. Personally I'd like to see Neal back there again, as our "heavy" package, with an additional tackle lined up along with the 255 pound Neal blocking for the 260 pound Le'Ron McClain poses huge matchup problems for most every team we faced last year.
Either way, the Ravens will be in the market for another TE, be it through free agency or most likely the draft. Depending on who is still on the board in the first round, the Ravens may actually pick a TE depending on who is available. Even if they don't select one with their first round pick, expect the team to select one on the first day of the draft. Other than the obvious top TE's in the draft (Brandon Pettigrew), I also like the big kid out of Maryland (Dan Gronkowski), who looks to be a good blocker, something that Todd Heap had problems with when counted on.
That leaves the wide receiver position, where there is the obvious need for someone to stretch the field. There really is nothing that fits that need still available in free agency, so it appears that this position is the biggest need on their draft board. At the same time, there are guys still unsigned that could definitely compete for the slot position, such as former San Diego Charger, Malcolm Floyd (6'5", 225 pounds) and the former Dallas Cowboy, Miles Austin (6'3", 216 pounds), who also has serious speed. However, the wideout position is also one of the deepest in this year's draft so don't be surprised if the Ravens wait until the second round to select one.
So chime in and let me know your thoughts on what else the Ravens should do prior to the draft to add depth to this team.