The Ravens have clearly made moves that strengthen the team on both sides of the ball. Between retaining their own starters at numerous positions to adding in veterans like Steve Smith and Jeremy Zuttah, they have patched up some holes going into this year and beyond. Now is the time to look at what is still needed and speculate on where we might be able to find it.
Currently, I assess the Ravens' starting needs are as follows by order of importance: FS, WR, RT, TE, CB, DT/DE
Everything else after that would end up being for depth with very little to no starting snaps. While the Ravens have made mention of getting more depth at RB, QB and ILB, I can't really expect any of them to see any meaningful playing time, which is why I'm going to just leave them as later round draft choices and undrafted free agent pickups.
While a lot of people think that the free agent market is what it is at this point, we are only two weeks into the true offseason with plenty of veterans that had too high an initial asking price left available. You see teams wait those players out until after the draft when their price point is at the lowest it can be before pouncing. Teams also have the draft and a second wave of cuts that will be made after the draft in order to pick up veteran players at bargain basement prices. You aren't going to see any major splash purchases unless fax machines start to go crazy again, but the Ravens have excelled at finding starting players at value prices in the coming months.
The Ravens just signed Darian Stewart but don't be fooled into thinking he's the automatic starter. While I think the Ravens believe that Stewart could start if necessary, I'm guessing that they are looking at a higher end draft pick to compete with him for the starting nod. If for whatever reason the Ravens can't grab someone in the first three rounds at free safety, look for them to head back into the free agent market to sign another veteran during the second wave of cuts.
Expected Options: Draft, Chris Clemons, Thomas DeCoud, Champ Bailey
This is a sore spot for this team after last year's debacle on offense. However, the Ravens have made moves to address this area by signing Steve Smith and letting Tandon Doss go. Baltimore still has deep threats Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones to match an exciting prospect in Marlon Brown and newcomer Steve Smith. If the season started today and everyone was 100% healthy, the Ravens would be just fine. But as last year proved, health is never a sure bet. Steve Smith's age and Brown's possible regression will have the organization looking for someone young to come in as a slot type receiver. There aren't a ton of those available on the current free agent market and with the draft being stacked at this position, expect the Ravens to drop a high round pick on solving that problem for cheap.
Expected Options: Draft
Any talk of Kelechi Osemele moving to tackle is foolish even if it is a potential option. He's far better at his natural guard spot than anywhere else and expect the Ravens to keep the Pro Bowl potential right there. That leaves the team looking to find some competition for Jah Reid and Ricky Wagner. With a lot of teams looking for starting QBs in the first round, there appears to be the chance that an elite tackle could slip down to the 17th pick int he draft. The Ravens could also find someone in the later rounds to compete they feel Wagner or Reid could be potential starters. Personally, I think they wait until after the draft to see what they end with, with the possibility we go after some veteran options.
One of the veteran options that I'm excited about is Charles Brown. He has spent his career with New Orleans at left tackle behind Jermon Bushrod. He's young, a former second round pick, has 14 starts under his belt last year and would come really cheap. He's had his difficulties starting, but changing to right tackle and playing next to Marshal Yanda should help him out a great deal.
Expected Options: Draft, Charles Brown, Jason Fox, Eric Winston
Having resigned Dennis Pitta has given the Ravens their No. 1 tight end for the long term. Pitta isn't much of a blocker and won't really be expected to do so in the coming years, so there is need for a better blocking TE. The draft seems to be thin at this spot but in several mock drafts, the Ravens have been pinned to take Eric Ebron. I think it is more likely that we see Ed Dickson back as market interest in him has been basic at best. Dickson does have the talent to be a good player if he can get past his concentration and confidence issues. Owen Daniels is another name us Ravens fans have become familiar with because of his time in Houston with Kubiak. Either option would fit well with this team as a No. 2 TE that offers some depth and blocking skills. Neither would be expected to be a huge starter for the team.
Expected Options: Draft, Ed Dickson, Owen Daniels
Corey Graham is gone for greener pastures and that isn't a huge blow for this team given his contract with the Bills. By the end of his time here, Graham was getting abused and was used as a nickel CB primarily anyway. While he might have been whipped a few times, he did see a fair bit of playing time as the Ravens like to put three CBs on the field often, so the organization needs someone that will challenge our young cornerbacks to be a tertiary starter. As we've seen this year, the market for starting corners has gone absolutely insane but we don't really know a lot about the market for the depth guys.
The draft doesn't seem super deep at this position and starting corners are always a commodity in the NFL, so expect teams to reach at guys above their real value. I think that we'll end up getting a guy later in the draft once the frenzy has died down but that anyone taken in those rounds would be about as good as we have now. I really do expect that we will sign a veteran to fill out the ranks with a few out there with some promise. Carlos Rodgers is an interesting name that put up a decent year with a pretty stacked 49ers team. Even if he is "past his prime", he wouldn't be expected to do much as a 3rd CB and could offer some value as a mentor. Josh Wilson, a name most should remember, is also on the market and might be a good fit with his old team in a reduced role.
Expected Options: Draft, Carlos Rodgers, Josh Wilson
Defensive tackle/defensive end
The Ravens have always been a team to want depth along the defensive line. The big boys need to be fresh throughout the game and throughout the season. With the loss of Jones and Cody testing the market, the Ravens need a little help here. I think the team looks to the draft and a free agent to fill in the gaps. One name that sticks out at me is Shaun Phillips, the former Charger and Bronco. After Denver signed Ware, Phillips wasn't on the team's radar any longer and has seemingly slipped past a few teams which has dropped his price significantly even though he put up 10 sacks last year. If he is too expensive, which he very well might be, I expect the Ravens to be back in the market for ole Cody. Cody once was expected to be the 1-2 punch with Ngata and shore up our D-Line for years but his laziness and size have gotten in the way. As much as I think a change of scenery might do him some good, he hasn't gotten very much interest on the market. He could very well be a cheap depth signing for a year or two until the Ravens can find someone else.
Expected Options: Draft, Shaun Phillips, Terrence Cody
Let me know who you are interested in at each spot and if you think we need to fill other spots.