5 Moves the Baltimore Ravens Must Make This Offseason

James Reagan@@James__ReaganCorrespondent IIApril 5, 2012

5 Moves the Baltimore Ravens Must Make This Offseason

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    Traditionally, the Baltimore Ravens have always been a quiet team in free agency, making this season's inactivity not that big of a surprise.

    Free agency has been going on for more than a month and the Ravens' losses still outnumber their gains. Most importantly, though, there are three positions where starters from 2011 are gone, leaving a void at those places.

    Because of this, I think it's very possible the Ravens make some moves later on this offseason. As free agency goes on, many players will lower their asking price and perhaps enter the Ravens' price range. The Ravens will attempt to make cap room to where they can re-sign some of their own players.

    Here are five offseason moves that I think the Ravens need to make.

Sign a Backup Running Back in Free Agency

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    I'm not sold yet on Anthony Allen.

    In all likelihood, he's probably a very good running back who is going to eventually become a reliable backup to Ray Rice and maybe even an NFL starter. I get that Ozzie Newsome usually knows what he's doing with these kinds of moves so there must be a good reason why Allen is currently slated to be the Ravens' backup running back. 

    Still, I don't understand why Baltimore hasn't brought in a proven veteran running back to contend for the backup role.

    Ever since Rice broke out as a star running back, part of the reason he has thrived has been the good backup support from proven veteran running backs like Willis McGahee and Ricky Williams. There are still some running backs available in free agency that would fit the bill as reliable runners that could spell Rice or even start if he were to get hurt.

    Someone like Cedric Benson or Ryan Grant could be a great pickup, especially as the months go by and they begin to grow more desperate. They could sign on for backup money and, at the very least, give Allen some competition for the backup spot.

    Benson has topped 1,000 yards rushing the last three seasons and Grant is only a few seasons removed from being the primary ball-carrier in Green Bay. The potential for greatness still exists in both players.

    Another intriguing option would be LaDainian Tomlinson, who recently left the New York Jets.

    One of the greatest running backs of all time in his prime, Tomlinson has admittedly fallen off considerably. But at 33 years old, his price tag will be cheaper and he could definitely fill Williams' role from last season plus give Flacco another reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Resign Lardarius Webb

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    So much discussion this offseason is about the Ravens needing to re-sign Ray Rice and restructure Joe Flacco's contract.

    What often gets lost in these discussions is the fact that, over on defense, one of the Ravens' best young players is still a free agent. Lardarius Webb has been offered a first-round tender by the Ravens, meaning the team has the ability to match any contract offered to him. 

    It's obvious Webb has become a crucial part of the Ravens defense. He played almost at a Pro Bowl level last season with 67 tackles, five interceptions and a kick return touchdown. As their best cornerback, the Ravens' secondary would be very hard hit if someone were to steal Webb away.

    Thankfully, the Ravens' front office seems to understand Webb's value.

    Ozzie Newsome has announced that the Ravens are in long-term contract talks with both Webb and Cary Williams. If the team can successfully get a deal, Webb could flourish into one of the league's best cornerbacks and keep the Ravens' pass defense playing at a high level.

Sign or Draft an Offensive Guard

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    The loss of Ben Grubbs in free agency has seriously hurt Baltimore's offensive line. It's now to the point where it could even be argued it has become the Ravens' greatest weakness.

    Both Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher are inconsistent at the tackle position. Although he's experienced, Matt Birk won't be playing center for long since he will be retiring soon. Marshal Yanda has the right guard job down, but there's no one on the Ravens' curennt roster able to play left guard.

    Unless you think that Jah Reid is able to do the job.

    Reid was drafted to be a tackle and his lack of experience at the NFL level could lead to a down year for the Ravens' offensive line. That's why it might be better for Baltimore to pick up one of the draft's top guard prospects or bring in a veteran via free agency.

    By now, most of the top free-agent guard prospects are already off the market. Still, the Ravens could look to sign someone like Jake Scott from the Tennessee Titans or Vernon Carey from the Miami Dolphins.

    The competition could benefit Reid while also giving the Ravens someone experienced to prevent their offensive line from dropping off too much.

Readjust Joe Flacco's Contract

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    Joe Flacco has made headlines over the past several days after proclaiming he believes he's the best quarterback in the NFL. It's one of those comments that really is hard to understand since no one would agree that Flacco is the best quarterback in the NFL.

    At the same time, every good player has to have confidence, so at least Flacco isn't lacking in that. The timing of the comments is curious, though, as Flacco is trying to get his contract extended.

    Although he won't be a free agent until 2012, Flacco does need an improved deal over his current rookie contract. Negotiations over the contract are a definite priority on the Ravens' to-do list as management has been discussing it with Flacco's agent for nearly two months. 

    Even though I don't think Flacco is the best quarterback in the NFL, I feel like he could definitely be the best quarterback for the Ravens today. Therefore, it's very important for Baltimore to give Flacco every opportunity to succeed and potentially become the NFL's best quarterback.

    The only way that happens is by getting a restructured contract done as soon as possible.

Develop a Legitimate Pass Rushing Outside Linebacker

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    In 2012, Jarrett Johnson will not be starting as one of the Ravens' outside linebackers.

    This is pretty sad news considering that Johnson had started every game for Baltimore since 2004 and had the franchise's longest active starting streak. He is a very underrated player that will definitely be missed.

    At the same time, Johnson was never known for being a great pass-rusher.

    Now that the Ravens are forced to look for a new outside linebacker, the team could perhaps go for someone who will help improve the pass rush. Though a lot of people would say you acquire pass-rushers through free agency or through the draft, I actually feel the Ravens could have Johnson's successor already on the roster.

    Right now, the leading candidate for Johnson's position has to be Paul Krueger.

    Last season, the fourth-year linebacker was able to notch 5.5 sacks despite not starting. He's already shown a knack for making big plays such as a game-sealing interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers in his rookie season and could be a great fit at outside linebacker.

    The other candidate is Sergio Kindle.

    He's never really been healthy during his two seasons in the NFL, but Kindle was at least able to get on the field somewhat last year. If he can play anything like he did when he was an All-American with the Texas Longhorns, Kindle would be a great starter for the Ravens.