NFL Free Agent Rumors: Candidates to Reimburse the Baltimore Ravens Defense

Cian FaheyFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 18:  Jarrett Johnson #95 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on from the bench in the final minutes of his team's 34-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Game on December 18, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens may have re-signed Ray Rice, but for the most part, it has been bad news for the franchise so far this offseason.

Guard Ben Grubbs has left for the New Orleans Saints, but the bigger hits have come on defense.

Corey Redding and Jarrett Johnson have already signed elsewhere, while Jameel McClain is visiting other teams. That means the team would lose three starters from their front seven, and Haruki Nakamura, the team's preferred backup safety over Tom Zbikowski, has also found a new home.

As such, Ozzie Newsome will have some work to do to fill the holes that have been punched in his defense. Even with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs still on the field, the Ravens defense has taken some hits by losing those contributors, and they will definitely need to be replaced by proven players or quality draft picks.

It's impossible to know at this point what positions the team will address in the draft. Therefore, it is worth exploring who is available on the free-agent market that the team could be interested in.

Here is a list of a few options who could fill roles with the Ravens.


Manny Lawson

Finding 3-4 outside linebackers in free agency is very difficult. Manny Lawson played outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in Cincinnati last year, but he has previously played 3-4 OLB also. That versatility would be valuable to the Ravens for when they use multiple fronts.

Lawson won't be as good as Jarrett Johnson, but he is a veteran and he brings more certainty to the defense, as opposed to playing with Sergio Kindle or another youngster. This year is the year that really hurts the team with Kindle's issues.

Had Kindle not been injured as a rookie, he would have two years of development under his belt without having to deal with any injury issues, outside of his knee which the team knew about coming out. Lawson isn't a long-term option, but could be a formidable stop-gap signing for a year or two.


Shaun Ellis

Shaun Ellis would not look out of place in the Baltimore Ravens defense, as he is a veteran of the 3-4 system also. Ellis has played the 3-4 for both the New York Jets and New England Patriots the past two seasons, and he still has one good year left in him.

Even though his pass-rushing skills may be lacking these days and he doesn't have the athleticism to be as versatile as he once was, as a run-stuffer, Ellis would provide some level of stability and value to the Ravens.


Keyaron Fox/London Fletcher

With Jameel McClain potentially leaving, the Ravens have two different directions to go in depending on the play of Dannell Ellerbe. If the coaching staff sees Ellerbe as a starter, then Redskins linebacker and former Pittsburgh Steelers player Keyaron Fox would provide a solid boost as a backup.

Fox is an excellent special teams player with a veteran intelligence that makes him a valuable option.

If the Ravens prefer to find a new starter in place of McClain, then Fox's teammate from Washington would be perfect. A combination of London Fletcher and Ray Lewis sounds a bit too slow initially, but Fletcher is still spritely enough in his old age, and Lewis can continue to rely on his intelligence.

The scheme discipline and leadership on the roster would be monumental with Lewis and Fletcher together inside.