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Grading every position group for the Ravens heading into the offseason

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens have several needs to fill over the course of free agency and the NFL draft this offseason, so I’m going to grade every position group on the roster.

Quarterback

Many fans have expressed their frustration with Joe Flacco, and that’s fair, but Baltimore is lucky to have a franchise quarterback right now, because they aren’t very easy to find. Flacco isn’t an “elite” QB, nor is he a game changer, but what he does offer is solid play in the regular season, and elite level performance in the post-season. No matter what, the Ravens are stuck with Flacco for now, as his contract has made it impossible to cut or trade him currently.

What’s encouraging is how well Flacco played in the second half of the season, throwing nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. This was a vast improvement from the beginning of the season, and it seems to mostly be due to his back injury suffered in training camp, and finally feeling healthier from that. If Joe can have a full healthy offseason for the first time in a couple of years, then hopefully, this level of play can carry over into the 2018 season. I do however, feel it’s time to draft his replacement, and have him sit and learn everything he can for when the Ravens are able to part ways with Joe. As for his backup, I don’t feel that the team will re-sign Ryan Mallet, so either Josh Woodrum will be elevated from the practice squad to fill the role, or it will go to whoever they select in the draft. Grade: B-

Running back

The Ravens may have found their running back of the future with the unexpected emergence of Alex Collins, who landed on Baltimore’s practice squad after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks. Collins is extremely talented, and provided a much needed boost to the Ravens dull offense in 2017. Behind him, Javorius Allen (Buck) is solid and a great change of pace back. Danny Woodhead is a reliable chain-mover in the passing game, and can even be lined up as a receiver if needed. He is a great pass-blocker as well. Kenneth Dixon, who received much praise during his rookie season, was touted as the possible starter going into 2017. He will return from his knee injury suffered last offseason, to challenge Collins for the starting role. Not to mention, I don’t expect Terrance West to be re-signed. Grade: B+

Wide receiver

Possibly the weakest position group on the Ravens’ roster. Mike Wallace, the team’s leading WR for the past two seasons, is set to be a free agent. Jeremy Maclin, who was signed this past offseason in hopes of being the No. 1 receiver the team desperately needed, is widely expected to be cut for cap space purposes. Former first-round pick, Breshad Perriman, was a gigantic letdown this season, not even recording 100 yards or a single touchdown. He has a steep hill to climb to become the receiver Baltimore hoped he would become when they drafted him in 2015. Second-year player Chris Moore, who was a fourth round pick, emerged as a playmaker this season. He is outstanding on special teams, and is coming into his own on offense as well now. I am excited to see his development going forward. Michael Campanaro is a free agent and could possibly have played his last game in Baltimore against Cincinnati. Undrafted rookie Tim White was a player that wowed fans in training camp and the preseason, but unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending thumb injury before the season started. It will be interesting to see if he or fellow undrafted WR Quincy Adeboyejo can contribute on offense going forward. Grade: D+

Tight end

The Ravens best tight end is 37 years old and currently a free agent. Behind Benjamin Watson is former second-round pick Maxx Williams, who has largely been a disappointment so far. Nick Boyle and Vince Mayle are the other current tight ends on the roster. Boyle is an excellent blocker, and Mayle is a key special teams contributer. It is worth noting, neither Boyle or Mayle provide much in the passing game. Darren Waller will return from suspension this year, and it’s unclear what the Ravens plan to do with him. Even if they decide to keep him, he hasn’t proven to be much of a factor other than on special teams. Grade: C

Offensive line

This group fought through countless injuries early on to claw their way to a very respectable season in 2017. Ryan Jensen emerged as the possible center of the future. Ronnie Stanley is a stud left tackle, when healthy. Marshal Yanda is possibly the best guard in the game. While, Alex Lewis and Austin Howard are very solid players at left guard and right tackle respectfully. Lewis missed the entire season, and Yanda missed all but two games, so getting them back will be huge. Matt Skura played well at right guard in Yanda’s absence, and he will be a solid backup going forward. Nico Siragusa will also make his debut as a Raven, after tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL during training camp. James Hurst had a great season at left guard, but he is a free agent and I fully expect him to be paid by another team. The Ravens must also find a long term option at right tackle to replace Howard soon, which could possibly be Alex Lewis if they switch him to tackle. Grade: B+

Defensive line

What was anticipated to be the strength of the entire Ravens roster, the defensive line had somewhat of a down year in 2017. This was mainly due to a season-ending Lisfranc injury to starting defensive end Brent Urban, and Brandon Williams missing several games early in the season. The run-defense suffered from this, and the Ravens failed to generate enough pressure from the middle of the line. Second-year player Michael Pierce had another good year, and fellow second-year player Willie Henry emerged as a key cog to the defense. Former third-round pick, Carl Davis, had a solid season, but wasn’t anything special. Rookie Chris Wormley, and second-year player, Bronson Kaufusi, both third round picks, barely made an impact. Hopefully, the Ravens can get more from them going forward. Urban is set to be a free agent, but I hope the team is able to re-sign him for relatively cheap. Grade: B

Linebacker

The Ravens have one of the best young linebackers in the game in C.J. Mosley. Alongside Mosley is Patrick Onwuasor, who had to fill in for Zachary Orr, after he was forced to retire with a spine disorder last offseason. Orr was the teams leading tackler the year before, so he had big shoes to fill. He had a respectable season, but the Ravens need to upgrade the position, most likely in the draft. Former second-round pick, Kamalei Correa, hasn’t showed he was worth taking that high, and doesn’t seem ready to take on an expanded role on the defense anytime soon.

As for the outside linebacker position, the Ravens have 35-year old veteran Terrell Suggs, who seemed to defy father time last season as he recorded a team leading 11 sacks and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Opposite of him is second-year man Matt Judon, who himself had 8 sacks in a breakout season. Za’Darius Smith played a pivotal role in the pass rush as well, though his sack numbers don’t show for it. Baltimore invested heavily in pass rushers in the draft last year, selecting Tyus Bowser in the second round, and Tim Williams in the third. Bowser flashed immense potential at times, recording three sacks and an interception, but both he and Williams didn’t see the field very much. It’s a crowded position, so they will have to prove they are capable of performing. The Ravens do not have a game breaking pass rusher as of right now. Grade: B

Cornerback

What used to be the Achilles heel of the Ravens defense just a few years ago, is now their strongest attribute. Jimmy Smith, before tearing his Achilles, was having an incredible season. Rookie first-round pick, Marlon Humphrey, had an exceptional season after Smith went down, and looks to be the part of a true No. 1 corner. Brandon Carr, who was signed last offseason, had an up-and-down season, but was a solid addition overall. He recorded four interceptions, and most importantly, was available all 16 games, which is what made him so enticing for the Ravens in the first place. Second-year player, Maurice Canady, made his NFL debut this season, and showed a ton of promise as a slot corner. Undrafted rookie, Jaylen Hill, also flashed playmaking ability in the preseason, but was mainly limited to special teams in the regular season. Tavon Young will return this year from his knee injury suffered in the offseason, and many fans are extremely excited to see if he will pick up his excellent play from his rookie season. Grade: A

Safety

The Ravens have spent big money in the previous two offseasons at the safety position, first bringing in Eric Weddle in 2016, and then Tony Jefferson in 2017. This duo didn’t live up to the hype surrounding them, being dubbed “the best safety duo in the NFL.” Jefferson struggled in coverage at times, and Weddle had a hard time finishing tackles at some key moments in games. He would go on to rebound and have a solid season however, and earn another trip to the Pro Bowl. With a new defensive coordinator coming to town, I have hope that Jefferson can be better utilized for his skill-set, like when he was in Arizona, where his play earned him the big contract from Baltimore. The other safeties on the roster are Anthony Levine Sr. and rookie Chuck Clark. Both are players who thrive in the dime package, and both are key contributors on special teams. The Ravens need to find a young safety to replace Eric Weddle when he retires in a few years though. The grade would be higher if Weddle was younger. Grade: C+

Specialist

I’ll keep this one simple. Justin Tucker is by far the best kicker in the NFL, and Sam Koch could very well be the best punter as well. Morgan Cox is excellent in his role as the long snapper. Baltimore definitely knows how to do special teams right. Grade: A+