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Baltimore Ravens Needs: Pre-Draft


James Reagan
The Ravens have been uncharacteristically busy this free agency, signing three players who could potentially start. But as their 5-11 record from last season shows, there are more holes that will need to be addressed during the NFL Draft. | Photo Credit: Denver Post

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. 

3. Cornerback

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.

 


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Definitely agree with these team needs for the Ravens going into the 2016 season. Will be very interesting to see if the Ravens choose to fill a position of need in the first round with the sixth overall pick, or whether they stick to their best player on the board strategy that has served them so well over the past 20 years.

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The first thing they need to do is draft some way out of having signed Trent Richardson. You would think every NFL team would have passed on him. ;)

On a serious note, good stuff here James. Ravens have some holes to fill, but they seem to do a good job of drafting/filling needs.

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The Ravens know how to use their picks and their needs are equally important. I think this might be the year for them to use their first round pick to fill a position.

Sent from my iPhone using the Pro Football Spot App

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The Ravens are still making adjustments in the post Ray Lewis, Ed Reed era, where the defense always had the stalwarts to lead them into contention every year.  I believe Coach Harbaugh is still looking for that leader on the field that can get the Ravens over the hump and to the next level.

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On ‎4‎/‎19‎/‎2016 at 8:14 PM, Chris Siegel said:

The first thing they need to do is draft some way out of having signed Trent Richardson. You would think every NFL team would have passed on him. ;)

On a serious note, good stuff here James. Ravens have some holes to fill, but they seem to do a good job of drafting/filling needs.

I agree that T-Rich very likely doesn't have anything left. The thought of him starting terrifies me now. But we'll see.

Thanks for the compliment! I would agree with you, but actually Ozzie's draft record is uncharacteristically bad these past couple seasons. If you go back and look at the last five years, particularly 2010 and 2013, it's really sort of ugly. If Ozzie can't get a stud at 6, I feel like there may be internal pressure for him to retire.

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10 hours ago, Rob Luke Jr. said:

The Ravens are still making adjustments in the post Ray Lewis, Ed Reed era, where the defense always had the stalwarts to lead them into contention every year.  I believe Coach Harbaugh is still looking for that leader on the field that can get the Ravens over the hump and to the next level.

I think you hit the nail on the head. I know that here in Baltimore, we kind of took both Reed and Lewis for granted. We've just been spoiled by dominant defenses for so long. Now the leader is Suggs almost by default. He's solid, but not at all on the level of the other two. There's promise with players like Brandon Williams, CJ Mosely, and Jimmy Smith. But right now, it's very clear this defense is just not on the level that it was during Lewis's and Reed's heyday.

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19 minutes ago, James Reagan said:

I agree that T-Rich very likely doesn't have anything left. The thought of him starting terrifies me now. But we'll see.

Thanks for the compliment! I would agree with you, but actually Ozzie's draft record is uncharacteristically bad these past couple seasons. If you go back and look at the last five years, particularly 2010 and 2013, it's really sort of ugly. If Ozzie can't get a stud at 6, I feel like there may be internal pressure for him to retire.

It's a tough business to say the least. You miss on one first rounder and it can hurt you for years. 

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13 hours ago, James Reagan said:

I think you hit the nail on the head. I know that here in Baltimore, we kind of took both Reed and Lewis for granted. We've just been spoiled by dominant defenses for so long. Now the leader is Suggs almost by default. He's solid, but not at all on the level of the other two. There's promise with players like Brandon Williams, CJ Mosely, and Jimmy Smith. But right now, it's very clear this defense is just not on the level that it was during Lewis's and Reed's heyday.

James,

As a Patriots fan, I used to cringe at the thought of playing the Ravens when Ed Reed and Ray Lewis were still playing just because of the defense.  Both of those players were the leaders of that defensive unit and made an impact on the outcome of every game we played against them.  Terrell Suggs is an awesome player, but he is not Ed Reed or Ray Lewis. More so than Ed Reed, Ray Lewis was clearly the heart and soul of that Ravens team and they need a new heart and soul that will bring the passion, energy, and dedication to the team that it is lacking.  The Ravens aren't lacking talent, just a heart and soul.

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James, 

One other point I would like to may from a personal perspective.  I was living in Frederick, MD with my family and working for Legal & General America in 2012, the  season the Ravens won the Super Bowl and could not call out from work after my Patriots lost to Ravens in Foxboro.  That was one of the toughest work days of my life as I was surrounded by Ravens fans and they did not fail to remind me after that game.

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5 hours ago, Rob Luke Jr. said:

James, 

One other point I would like to may from a personal perspective.  I was living in Frederick, MD with my family and working for Legal & General America in 2012, the  season the Ravens won the Super Bowl and could not call out from work after my Patriots lost to Ravens in Foxboro.  That was one of the toughest work days of my life as I was surrounded by Ravens fans and they did not fail to remind me after that game.

Oh wow. That is not a position I would want to be in haha. But to be fair, you had a lot to a gloat about just the year before when Evans dropped the pass and Cundiff missed the kick. And actually as much as people build it up to be a rivalry, the Ravens have one regular season win against the Pats all time. Postseason rivalry? I think so, since Ravens are 2-2 vs. Pats with four meetings in six seasons. But yeah, the Ravens as an organization have a ways to go to catch up with what the Pats do year in and year out.

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James,

Good statistical feedback regarding the regular and post-season records between both teams.  We may have to do an article together before our teams square off against each other this year.  Look forward to sharing our views again soon.

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Now that the Eagles have moved up to the 2nd pick, it's really looking better for the Ravens to grab Ramsey. Strong chance that SD might do it first, of course, but it looks better now!

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On 4/22/2016 at 6:51 AM, Rob Luke Jr. said:

James,

Good statistical feedback regarding the regular and post-season records between both teams.  We may have to do an article together before our teams square off against each other this year.  Look forward to sharing our views again soon.

Yeah that would be cool! Whenever Baltimore gets a regular season game against New England, it's almost like a postseason game in intensity. Especially with this year's on MNF in December. I'm hoping its not going to be a dud.

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16 hours ago, James Reagan said:

Yeah that would be cool! Whenever Baltimore gets a regular season game against New England, it's almost like a postseason game in intensity. Especially with this year's on MNF in December. I'm hoping its not going to be a dud.

James,

You know its very rare for those games to be duds.  I believe it will spark the renewal of the rivalry between the two teams and make it one of the highest rated MNF games ever.

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11 hours ago, Rob Luke Jr. said:

James,

You know its very rare for those games to be duds.  I believe it will spark the renewal of the rivalry between the two teams and make it one of the highest rated MNF games ever.

I am in agreement about it potentially being an epic MNF game, Rob. But I'm also a realist in that expectations are very different for the two teams. Patriots are one of the top favorites to win the Super Bowl this year, while Ravens are at best, a dark-horse playoff candidate. But who knows? Maybe even if the Ravens continue to struggle, they can still put on a game like that one in '07 where they came so freaking close to ruining the Pats' perfect season.

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On 5/3/2016 at 10:20 PM, James Reagan said:

I am in agreement about it potentially being an epic MNF game, Rob. But I'm also a realist in that expectations are very different for the two teams. Patriots are one of the top favorites to win the Super Bowl this year, while Ravens are at best, a dark-horse playoff candidate. But who knows? Maybe even if the Ravens continue to struggle, they can still put on a game like that one in '07 where they came so freaking close to ruining the Pats' perfect season.

James,

I understand having a realistic outlook on the game, but let's be real.  You don't think that the Ravens are the scariest underdog team right now with Coach Harbaugh?  He has the capacity to motivate players like Coach Belichick and has a very formidable defense, not to mention an offense that has a determined WR by the name of Steve Smith returning to prove a point.  I think both teams will be two of the best in the AFC by the time they meet.

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We will see about that. Most NFL teams are going to eventually have a bad season. This year is going to be really telling since 2015 was the only Harbaugh-coached team to finish with a losing record. If they can bounce back, last year's just a one-off. If not, well maybe the team is in more serious trouble that what the fans believe. Last year could be partially attributed to all the injuries too. Really hoping that more players stay healthy this season so injuries can't be used as an excuse.

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