Baltimore Ravens Needs: Pre-Draft
Baltimore Ravens Team Needs
Despite having developed a reputation as a team that doesn't like to make big free agency moves, the Baltimore Ravens bucked that trend this year. They have made several bold signings in an deliberate strength to recover from some of their weaknesses in 2015. The team's tight end group took a hit with news that Crockett Gillmore could miss time because of a shoulder injury, so the Ravens signed Ben Watson after his career-best season in New Orleans. They also added a tantalizing offensive piece by signing speedy receiver Mike Wallace with the hopes that Joe Flacco's strong arm can turn the receiver's disappointing career around.
On defense, the Ravens made key moves in their secondary by re-signing Shareece Wright after his impressive performance down the stretch last season. They also made a huge signing by acquiring free safety Eric Weddle, an accomplished veteran who has been honored as an All-Pro five times. Finally, they went for a reclamation project by making a low-risk high-reward deal to sign disgraced running back Trent Richardson.
The Ravens have done a partially good job on fixing their weaknesses from 2015. But unsurprisingly, they have still saved some of their biggest needs to be addressed in the NFL Draft. With the draft just several weeks away, here is a look at the Ravens' biggest remaining needs.
1. Inside & Outside Linebackers
The Ravens have seen two of their linebackers depart in free agency. First they cut starting middle linebacker Daryl Smith, then just several days ago they saw outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Though the door was open initially for Smith to return at a cheaper price, that will no longer happen as he has now signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith's loss is one of the biggest ones suffered by the Ravens this offseason since he had proven himself as a reliable starter and also as a solid defensive captain. Yet this is a good big picture move, because Smith is already 34 and is likely just a few years away from retirement. C.J. Mosely at middle linebacker was one of the few highlights from last season and if the Ravens can pair him with another young stud, that could bode well for the future of their linebackers. Myles Jack out of UCLA is viewed as one of the top linebackers in the draft and he could be a great pick for the Ravens since he's got the versatility to play at either inside or outside linebacker.
Outside linebacker is also a pressing need, even with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil as the listed starters. Both players are over 30 years old, with Suggs recovering from a torn ACL and Dumervil looking more and more like he should just play in passing situations. The Ravens totaled 37 sacks in 2015, down 12 from the 49 sacks they had a season before. Someone else has to help with rushing the passer, even if that someone is a defensive end like the highly-touted Joey Bosa out of Ohio State.
2. Offensive Tackle
Kelechi Osemele has departed, thanks to a mammoth $60 million deal offered by the Oakland Raiders. This leaves a hole with an offensive line that already looked more than a little shaky. The left side in particular is where work is needed with Osemele gone and starting left tackle Eugene Monroe having missed 17 total games the last two years.
Drafting a tackle at sixth overall could fix the need, yet it seems that many Ravens experts are predicting they go for a defensive player at that slot. Part of this may have to do with Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss, the consensus top tackle in the draft who is looking like a top-three selection. The Ravens can't possibly expect him to slide down to their sixth slot. The second rated tackle, Ronnie Stanley out of Notre Dame has seen his stock drop some with whispers that he isn't "football motivated."
Of course none of this means anything if the Ravens are set on having him, though it is worth noting that players like Joey Bosa and Myles Jack are viewed as top prospects at their respective positions. Therefore selecting one of those players would seem more like getting a sure thing, whereas selecting Stanley could be a riskier move. The Ravens may have to use a later draft pick if they hope to find someone else to compete at left tackle. Or perhaps they could monitor the offensive tackle market as sometimes veteran tackles will be released later in the offseason.
Two names that the Ravens seem to have interest in are Ryan Clady with the Denver Broncos and D'Brickashaw Ferguson with the New York Jets. Both players are on bad contracts, so it's doubtful the Ravens trade for either. But the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec thinks that the team could "kick the tires" if either player is released. Both Clady and Ferguson are older players, but they could be good short term fixes and either player could be considered an upgrade over Monroe.
The Weddle signing does help to strengthen the secondary, but that unit still needs to strengthened more. It certainly hurts matters that right after Weddle arrived, Will Hill received a 10-game suspension for drug violations and was then cut by the Ravens. This likely will result in Weddle starting at free safety, while longtime cornerback Lardarius Webb moves to strong safety.
The only bad thing about Webb moving to safety is that he is one of the only players on the team with any starting experience at cornerback. Jimmy Smith is cemented as a starting corner, but after him it's a murky picture. Wright played strong last year, but he's still inexperienced and it's hard to feel much confidence in reserve defensive backs like Kyle Arrington and Will Davis.
The Ravens would also likely love to snatch Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State at sixth overall. Ramsey is a versatile defensive back who could play at either safety or corner. Yet his impressive combine stock seems to indicate that he'll be a top-five pick, which seems especially likely when considering that most of the teams with high draft picks need to retool their secondaries. Vernon Hargreaves III out of Florida could be a more realistic pick at corner especially if the Ravens miss out on a top player and instead decide to trade back in the draft.
James Reagan is a writer for the Ravens on Pro Football Spot. What position group do you think the Ravens need to target in the draft? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @james__reagan.