Baltimore Ravens: Who's Next in Line If Ray Rice Holds Out?

Shawn Brubaker@@63brubakerContributor IIMarch 28, 2012

The Ravensreported today that Brandon Jacobs is being considered as a potential free-agent acquisition. He would potentially be the top back if Ray Rice holds out.

By this point, Ravens' fans have learned the hard way that rumors are just that, rumors. Every free agent linked to the Ravens has eventually signed elsewhere, so don't look too far into this.

Still, it's worth asking who will back up Ray Rice in 2012.

Anthony Allen seems to be next in line, and the Ravens are enthused about his prospects heading into 2012.

Allen excels at running between the tackles, with excellent power and solid burst. He excelled in the preseason, running for 75 yards on only 11 carries.

In the regular season, though, Allen only rushed for eight yards on three carries. Can the Ravens really feel comfortable with such an untested player backing up, and potentially taking over for Ray Rice?

They shouldn't.

Allen is a nice talent, but he played in a triple-option offense in college that didn't prepare him for the NFL. As talented as he is, he almost certainly still needs seasoning before he's ready to take on a major role.

That means that the Ravens should definitely be in the market for a running back, either in free agency or the draft.

Free agency doesn't have much to offer beyond Jacobs. Most of the top talents have already signed, so Jacobs remains one of few available backs that have starting ability. That short list also includes Tim Hightower and Ryan Grant.

The draft offers a few more options. The Ravens could look for a power back to complement Rice, and Bernard Pierce or Chris Polk would be excellent options, among others.

They could also go a different route, looking to add speed to the backfield. Cyrus Gray, LaMichael James and Chris Rainey are all quality backs with good speed and agility.

An ideal solution would be to draft a running back in the middle rounds of the NFL draft. Bernard Pierce is a great talent who would complement Rice well with his powerful style, and he could step in as a starter if needed.

Hopefully, though, Rice gets his contract done, avoiding a holdout. As long as Rice is in the Ravens' backfield, it remains one of the best in the NFL.

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