Baltimore Ravens: 2012 Team Needs
March 6th, 2012 By DraftNasty Staff Reports
After coming up an inch short of reaching the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens will look to take the next step in 2012. Several key free agents aren't household names, but each played specific roles in the team's consistent success over the last four seasons. We take a look at some of the AFC North champions in our final look at the division.
2012 Team Needs
Potential Free Agents: Ray Rice, RB, Matt Birk, C, Ben Grubbs, OG, Andre Gurode, OG
Positions of Need: OL, RB, WR
The Ravens could reach an agreement on a long-time deal with their ’08 1st round draft pick -Joe Flacco- somewhere in the near future. For a player with so many critics, all he’s done is win games (44-20, 5-4 playoffs). With the release of Lee Evans, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think WR will be a position of focus. Big hands and cold weather experience will play a factor, but speed can’t be overlooked, despite the emergence of rookie Torrey Smith. Connecticut’s Kashif Moore can grow into a third receiver role and provide another deep threat for Flacco. He should be available in the mid-rounds.
Ray Rice’s situation is worth watching because a decision has to be made. Franchise tag or long-term deal? The NFL may be a pass-first league, but Rice is one of the league’s elite all-around backs (250 career receptions). The retirement of Ricky Williams (444 yds in ’11) puts a much higher premium on not only Rice’s value, but also the backup running back situation. San Diego free agent RB Mike Tolbert wouldn’t be a flashy signing, but he’s been productive when healthy (26 TDs). He also is a factor on special teams.
C Matt Birk has indicated that he may return for another season at center, but G Ben Grubbs is likely to leave in free agency. They probably won’t pay two guards (OG Marshall Yanda in ‘10) what Grubbs will likely command on the market. Grubbs’ turf toe from a year ago may factor into the team’s decision. It would not at all be a surprise to see the Ravens target someone with positional flexibility in this year’s draft. Baylor OL Philip Blake has experience playing a number of line spots during his collegiate career.
Potential Free Agents: Jarrett Johnson, LB, Cory Redding, DL, Brendon Ayanbadejo, LB, Jameel McClain, LB, Ladarius Webb, CB (restricted), Tom Zbikowski, FS, Haruki Nakamura, DB
Positions of Need: LB, S
The name that sticks out is restricted free agent CB Ladarius Webb. Since coming out of Nicholls State, the former collegiate safety has improved every season. In just three years, he’s scored TDs three different ways (INT, PR, KR). Could someone shock the league and place an offer sheet on Webb if Rice gets the franchise tag? What about the Bengals? They have two first round picks and a move like this one would potentially cripple a division opponent.
Bernard Pollard looks like a Baltimore Raven. His physical presence is needed on a defense that prides itself on intimidating opponents. Ed Reed is a perennial All-Pro who continues to will himself despite having to overcome neck issues. With two backup safeties –Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura- both available in free agency, the Ravens could look to add a combo safety with versatility. Losing either of the aforementioned backups would be a blow to the special teams unit. The same could be said if the team was to part ways with 35-year old LB Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Jarrett Johnson may have only 20 career sacks, but he’s like having an extra defensive lineman on the edges. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see other teams show interest in the nine-year veteran OLB. The same could hold true for DL Cory Redding, who’s solid if not flashy. Jameel McClain has started 31 games the last two years and he would seem to fit best in 3-4 defensive packages. This could be a position of extreme interest early if either does not return. Players with DE experience in school -Arkansas’ Jake Bequette- could get interest as potential 3-4 OLBs in the NFL.
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