NFL Free Agency 2012: Who Will Be the Ravens' Most Important Acquisition?
The first two waves of free agency are over, and for Baltimore Ravens fans, it can be tempting to feel indifferent. This is because like nearly every other season, the Ravens have opted not to sign any big name free agents.
There isn't much weaknesses among the Ravens starters, and for the most part, the Ravens do a good job keeping their star players. That's why they can get away with having their most notable signings of the offseason being offensive linemen and special teams aces.
When looking at the veteran free agents that the Ravens acquired this offseason, most see backups who will get little playing time. However, there is always the possibility that injuries could bring playing time and some of these players are better than people give them credit for.
With that mind, here are my thoughts on which players will and won't contribute to the Ravens in 2012.
8. Ryan McBean, NT
Back in May, the signing of Ryan McBean didn't make much headlines. This is not really a surprise considering the disappointing arc of his career.
Originally a Pittsburgh Steeler, McBean made only one appearance with them during his rookie season. Although he was a fourth-round pick, McBean was considered a disappointment and was ultimately cut by the Steelers during the 2008 season. He did join the Denver Broncos that season, but only to spend all of it on their practice squad.
The 2009 season was his highlight as he started 14 games and got 25 tackles. The next two years, though, he was phased out of the starting spot though he still got regular playing time at nose tackle.
What's most worrying about McBean is that he's mostly known for his off-th- field issues today. In October 2011, McBean was arrested for stalking his ex-girlfriend. He's gotten in more trouble since then too as he is going to be suspended three games for violating the league's performance-enhancement policy.
7. Tony Wragge, C
During his 10 years in the NFL, Tony Wragge has spent most of it with the San Francisco 49ers. From 2008-2010, he was a reliable starter at the guard position during an unreliable time in 'Niners history.
Sadly he just missed out on San Francisco's amazing 13-3 season in 2011. Instead Wragge started 15 games on an awful St. Louis Rams line that let Sam Bradford take 36 sacks. The ridiculous amounts of hits he was taking resulted in him missing him six games, and not surprisingly, the Rams regressed back to a 2-14 record.
As the Ravens' newest acquisition, Wragge was signed to take the roster spot of the injured Michael McAdoo. Listed as a center by the Ravens, Wragge should back up veteran Matt Birk. With Gino Gradkowski slated to become Birk's successor, Wragge will hopefully provide guidance for the rookie if he can make it on the Ravens roster.
6. Curtis Painter, QB
In 2011 Curtis Painter learned the hard way that backing up Peyton Manning is only fun when you don't play. Because when you have to replace Manning and take over his offense, you're going to have a bad time.
Of all the quarterbacks on the Colts roster, Painter arguably had the worst time. It seems the Colts knew he was bad as they went out to acquire Kerry Collins before the season, a desperate move if you've ever seen one. He started eight games for the Colts and lost all of them while throwing six touchdowns to nine interceptions.
It's fair to say that Painter has squandered his chance to start in the NFL. He's going to find it very hard to beat out Tyrod Taylor for the second string spot. Still Painter does have his ex-coach Jim Caldwell as quarterbacks coach so at least he will be familiar with the offensive system.
5. Maake Kemoeatu, DT
It's a testament to how deep the Ravens defensive line is that a 10-year veteran will struggle to find playing time. But that's the situation Maake Kemoeatu finds himself in as he returns for his second stint with the Ravens.
The first stint came from 2002-2005 where although he didn't usually start, he got a lot of playing time. He went on to spend three seasons with the Carolina Panthers and one season with the Washington Redskins. Against his will, Kemoeatu then spent the 2011 season out of football.
Well his comeback begins now and there's no denying that it's going to be difficult. Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody will definitely be starting on the defensive line. The other spot should instead go to Pernell McPhee or Arthur Jones, young players with promising futures.
Considering he spent the last year out of football, Kemoeatu will do good just to make the team. But he's shown a lot of drive having lost 70 pounds after weighing 415 pounds before the 2011 season. There's still reason to believe he's got something left in the tank.
4. Sean Considine, S
Formerly considered a lock to get between 30-50 tackles in a season, Sean Considine has seen his numbers steadily decrease. He spent 2011 with both the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers, playing in 12 games between the two teams. He only got a total of nine tackles in what was one of his worst seasons as a pro.
Not surprisingly Considine was mostly taken by the Ravens to play in a backup role. That could change, though, as there is still some uncertainty surrounding Ed Reed. If for some reason Reed misses time this year, either Considine or Christian Thompson could play instead.
He's no Reed, but Considine will be serviceable at safety. Even if he doesn't play, Considine should be a good leader in the defensive backfield.
3. Corey Graham, CB
The Ravens secondary is among the deepest in the league with Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams all fighting for starting spots. However, the rich got even richer this offseason with the addition of Corey Graham.
Graham had been a member of the Chicago Bears during his first five years in the league. Although he was never a regular starter, Graham still put up solid numbers. Last year was one of his finest as he had 16 tackles and three interceptions despite not starting any games.
It's doubtful Graham will contribute much to the secondary. Where he can contribute, though, is as a special teams ace, a place where he frequently contributed while in Chicago. He even made the Pro Bowl in 2011 as the NFC's special-teamer.
Between Graham and Brendon Ayanbadejo, the Ravens have two of the NFL's most accomplished special-teamers in the last decade. As the younger player of the two, Graham should get a good amount of tackles on special teams.
2. Jacoby Jones, WR
May's signing of Jacoby Jones was an important one for the Ravens. This is because the Ravens wide receivers are mostly rookies or second-year players with little playing experience. Now Jones is in Baltimore as a veteran who will try to become a reliable third option.
Jones hasn't been too spectacular during his five years with the Houston Texans so hopefully a change of scenery will be good for him. Last year was particularly disappointing as Jones failed to step up during the Andre Johnson injury. Even though he started 10 games, Jones finished with only 31 catches for 512 yards and two touchdowns.
In addition to playing receiver, Jones could finally be the team's answer at both kick returner and punt returner. During his 179 career returns in Houston, Jones averaged 10.2 yards and scored three touchdowns.
1. Bobbie Williams, G
There has been only one free agent acquisition this year for the Ravens that has a serious shot at starting. This is former Cincinnati Bengal Bobbie Williams, who the Ravens signed last week to a two-year deal.
Thanks to his veteran experience, Williams is likely the favorite to take over at left guard. It's true that Jah Reid and Kelechi Osemele will still be competing but at least for this year, Williams likely has the advantage. Not only does he bring a strong veteran presence to the Ravens' young offensive line, but Williams should help them figure out the Cincinnati Bengals run blocking schemes.
It's a relatively low risk signing too because if Williams' age and injury take him out of the game, the Ravens will be looking at Reid or Osemele as a starter. Williams is also known to be a terrific leader and a classy all-around player.
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