Breaking Down the Baltimore Ravens Depth Chart After the Peak of Free Agency
The Ravens are at nine lost starters and counting from their Super Bowl winning squad. Needless to say, their depth chart will be completely revamped from where it was this past season.
Not only will eight starters need to be replaced, but the Ravens could upgrade a few returning starters. Nose tackle Terrence Cody, who lost his job to Ma'ake Kemoeatu last season, will need to be upgraded, and the Ravens also have a possible hole at left guard depending on what they do with Kelechi Osemele.
They haven't made much of a splash in free agency, but the Ravens have added some pieces that should compete for a starting job.
They are also looking into a variety of options that are currently on the market.
This article covers players who are currently on the roster. With this in mind, let's take a look at what the Ravens' depth chart looks like after the initial phase of free agency.
Starter: Joe Flacco
No surprises here. Flacco is the Ravens' long-term quarterback, and he has earned the right to be the uncontested starter.
Second String: Tyrod Taylor
Again, no surprises, as the Ravens' backup from the past two seasons returns. Taylor has been up and down in limited action in the preseason and in mop-up duty, displaying thrilling playmaking ability but inconsistent passing. The Ravens seem comfortable with him, so Taylor will retain his role.
Starter: Ray Rice
The Ravens are in need of veteran leadership, meaning Ray Rice will be leaned on. His work ethic, commitment to the community and outspoken motivational skills should help him retain the starting role. Don't be surprised if Rice's carries decrease as the Ravens try to prolong his career.
Second String: Bernard Pierce
The reason the Ravens will be able to cut Rice's carries is Bernard Pierce, the best backup the Ravens have had in years. In fact, Pierce was the better runner than Rice in 2012, averaging 3.48 yards after contact to Rice's 2.36 according to Pro Football Focus (subscription needed). Pierce deserves more carries. He'll get them this season.
Third String: Anthony Allen
Bobby Rainey became a fan favorite in the 2012 preseason with his elusiveness and flare for the big play, but it will be Anthony Allen who retains his roster spot thanks to his special teams contributions. He isn't much of a contributor on offense, though.
Starter: Vonta Leach
Like Rice, Vonta Leach brings veteran leadership to the Ravens' offense, along with a hard-nosed, selfless attitude. He is the best run-blocking fullback in the game. His contributions can't be overlooked.
Second String: Ed Dickson
In the event of an injury to Leach, Ed Dickson would probably step in as the spot starter. Though his blocking is nowhere close to Leach's, he would bring his tight end receiving ability to the fullback position.
Starter: Ed Dickson
Dennis Pitta gets more snaps, more targets and more accolades, but it is Ed Dickson who is the starter. The Ravens consider him a better blocker than Pitta, and since the Ravens like to run the ball early, Dickson usually gets the start.
Second String: Dennis Pitta
Pitta is the real moneymaker at tight end for the Ravens, but he's not really an every-down player. Pitta mostly sees the field as a pass catcher, and that's why he's behind Dickson. Make no mistake, though: Pitta is the most valuable tight end the Ravens have, and he is quickly making fans forget about Todd Heap.
Starter: Torrey Smith
The only obvious starter for the Ravens at receiver is Torrey Smith, whose deep speed and body control makes him a huge threat. Smith still needs to develop as a receiver, but he is a tough, hard worker who could have a breakout season.
Starter: Tandon Doss
Suprise! Even with Jacoby Jones on the roster, Doss has the best chance to replace Anquan Boldin thanks to his strong hands, route-running and toughness. Doss had a bit of a tough season, as he clearly struggled with consistency. An uptick in playing time would really help Doss develop into a starting caliber receiver.
Second String: Jacoby Jones
Jacoby Jones was instrumental in the Ravens' championship run. He was a big play threat as a receiver and a returner, but consistency was not his strong suit. Jones only had one game with more than three receptions, including three games where he was completely shut out. To keep Jones fresh as a returner and as a big-play threat, the Ravens would be wise to keep Jones' role the same.
Third String: Deonte Thompson
Deonte Thompson was a little-known reserve last season, but he flashed big time potential both in the preseason and in limited regular season opportunities. Thompson reeled in five receptions last season in just two games as a receiver. With his speed and body control, Thompson has a similar skill set to Torrey Smith, and he could make a big impact this season.
Fourth String: David Reed
The Ravens re-signed David Reed, giving the receiver another chance to make an impact. Like Thompson, Reed only had a handful of chances, but he was still able to reel in five catches. Don't expect Reed to get much more production than that, but he's a valued special-teamer, which should guarantee him a roster spot.
Fifth String: Tommy Streeter
In terms of raw potential, Tommy Streeter may be the most talented receiver on the roster. Unfortunately, he's also rough around the edges. If he developed significantly, Streeter could even be a starter this season, but he has the least production out of any receiver currently on the roster. He's a big-time boom-or-bust kind of guy.
Starter: Michael Oher
Since his fantastic rookie season, Michael Oher has regressed badly, but he is the only option the Ravens have at left tackle on the roster. He struggles with speed rushers, and his power has diminished in recent years. The Ravens need to try to find an upgrade as soon as possible.
Starter: Jah Reid
The Ravens don't really have many good options here. Kelechi Osemele could be an option, but he seems just as suited to right tackle, a harder position to fill. With that in mind, Jah Reid would probably be the starting left guard currently. He was mediocre this season, but he remains young and talented.
Second String: Ramon Harewood
Unlike Jah Reid, who was slightly below-average in all phases of the game, Ramon Harewood was a stellar run-blocker but an awful pass protector. Harewood has tons of physical talent, and he could still be a future starter. The Ravens would be wise to get him some reps to help him develop.
Starter: Gino Gradkowski
Gino Gradkowski is the only center on the roster, and the Ravens don't seem to be making the position a priority this offseason. Expect Gradkowski to open up as the starter after a promising start to his career in limited action.
Starter: Marshal Yanda
Even though the Ravens' offensive line struggled for much of 2012, Marshal Yanda was still a force at right guard. He is a superb player in every phase of the game, and his contract ensures that Yanda will remain in Baltimore for years to come.
Starter: Kelechi Osemele
Though his rookie season had some ups and downs, Kelechi Osemele really grew into his starting role as the season went on. He could start at right tackle or left guard, but given the state of the Ravens' current roster, Osemele looks likely to stay on the outside.
Second String: Jack Cornell
Jack Cornell spent last season on the Ravens' practice squad, but the team likes his potential. He could become a solid backup at right tackle. With some development, he could lessen the Ravens' need for extra depth at the position.
Starter: Chris Canty
The Ravens signed Chris Canty to fill the hole left by Cory Redding's departure last offseason, one that they felt was never fully filled. Canty is a top-tier player at his position when healthy, and he should be an upgrade over Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee.
Second String: Pernell McPhee
Pernell McPhee was not quite as effective last season as he was in his excellent rookie year, but he was also hobbled by injury. This season, a healthy McPhee should fill the role of third-down pass-rusher while occasionally spelling Canty on first and second down as well. McPhee could really surprise this season, making the leap that many expected him to make this past season.
Third String: Art Jones
Perhaps no third stringer will play more than Art Jones, who won't be a starter but has earned a big role in the Ravens' defense. His flexibility is fantastic, enabling Jones to play any position along the defensive line. He really came on towards the end of the season, so Jones' role should continue to grow despite the new additions along the defensive line.
Starter: Terrence Cody
The Ravens have more questions than answers at nose tackle, where Terrence Cody is the only player on the roster with experience at the position. He was absolutely awful in 2012, getting pushed around on a regular basis, but he's all the Ravens have. Haloti Ngata could make the move to nose tackle, but that could be a risky move. This is a position the Ravens should address this offseason.
Starter: Haloti Ngata
Even during a down year, Haloti Ngata was the best player on the Ravens' defense. He takes on double teams as well as any defensive tackle in the game while occasionally bursting through the offensive line to pressure the quarterback as well. He may start to decline soon, but for now, Ngata is a star and a sure-fire starter.
Second String: Marcus Spears
The Ravens signed Marcus Spears to be a run-stuffer, and that's a role he should fill nicely as a rotational lineman. Don't expect much of a pass rush from Spears, but he should help shore up what was a porous Ravens' run defense in 2012.
Left Outside Linebacker
Starter: Terrell Suggs
With an offseason to recover, Terrell Suggs has a good chance to improve on his pedestrian 2012 season. Unfortunately, this season will be Suggs' 11th in the NFL. He may never regain his Defensive Player of the Year form, but he's still a quality starter and a valued team leader.
Second String: Adrian Hamilton
Adrian Hamilton was on the practice squad for much of 2012, but he has the athletic ability to become an excellent pass rusher. He's extremely quick, and he can play special teams as well. Don't be surprised if Hamilton finds a more regular role this season.
Starter: Albert McClellan
Many fans forget this, but Albert McClellan actually began his career as an inside linebacker, getting his first real action in relief of Ray Lewis in 2011. Now, he could relieve Lewis on a permanent basis, becoming a full time starter. McClellan is a thumper who would be an ideal 3-4 linebacker. He plays the run well, and he's among the Ravens' better coverage linebackers as well. He should find himself in a starting role.
Starter: Jameel McClain
The Ravens could upgrade this spot, as Jameel McClain has been nothing but a marginal starter in his career. That having been said, he can occasionally create some splash plays, and he's selfless in engaging blockers. With a clean bill of health, McClain should come back this season to be a key contributor.
Second String: Brendon Ayanbadejo
Generally, Brendon Ayanbadejo earns his money on special teams, but the veteran is also an excellent linebacker in coverage. Ayanbadejo should find a job as a nickel linebacker and a reliable backup.
Third String: Josh Bynes
Josh Bynes flashed some potential this season, but he'll be hard-pressed to earn a roster spot again. He's definitely the low man on the totem pole in the pecking order.
Right Outside Linebacker
Starter: Elvis Dumervil
The Ravens have signed the crown jewel of this season's flock of free agents, and they've done it at an affordable price to boot. Elvis Dumervil should step in immediately as the starter opposite Terrell Suggs, giving the Ravens a dynamic duo to strike fear into opposing passer. Dumervil won't be an every-down player, likely yielding to Courtney Upshaw in obvious running situations, but he'll still be the starter.
Second String: Courtney Upshaw
He may be a one-trick pony, but what a trick Courtney Upshaw has in his ability to completely shut down runs to his side. Upshaw was the Ravens' best run defender last season. Now, with Dumervil on the roster, Upshaw can focus his significant talents on doing what he does best, stopping the run. He shouldn't be used in pass-rushing situations, though, as Upshaw generates minimal pressure.
Starter: Lardarius Webb
The Ravens are definitely looking forward to getting Lardarius Webb back from injury, as they really missed him when he went down with a knee injury. When healthy, Webb is among the NFL's best cover cornerbacks. He is one of the Ravens' defensive leaders, and he'll be on the field plenty in 2013.
Starter: Corey Graham
Opposite Webb, there will be some controversy over whether Jimmy Smith or Corey Graham should start. There shouldn't be. Graham is the far superior player, playing tighter coverage and getting penalized less. He should start opposite Webb, moving into the slot in nickel situations.
Second String: Jimmy Smith
This season could be the last chance for Jimmy Smith, who struggled badly last season, in part due to injury. The Ravens would love to give Smith the chance to start, but a better role for him would be in nickel situations, where he could push the quicker Graham into the slot.
Third String: Chykie Brown
Chykie Brown is a physical corner, sometimes to a fault. He is an adequate dime back, though, as he has the requisite physical ability. With some development, Brown could surprise.
Fourth String: Asa Jackson
The Ravens drafted Asa Jackson in large part due to his impressive athletic ability, and he showcased that ability in the preseason. A suspension cut into Jackson's chances in 2012, but he should get more opportunities this season. Jackson's movement skills simply cannot be taught.
Starter: Omar Brown
The Ravens don't exactly have much at free safety right now. Omar Brown, who spent most of last season on the practice squad, is currently the best option. He made plays left and right in the preseason, but Brown is still largely untested. The Ravens have to make this position a priority this offseason.
Second String: Emmanuel Cook
Emmanuel Cook could challenge Brown for the safety position. Coming off of a injury that kept Cook off the field in 2012, he is a player that the Ravens have kept around for development. How he will heal from his broken leg remains to be seen, but Cook has a chance to make an impact this season.
Starter: James Ihedigbo
Despite losing Bernard Pollard, the Ravens should feel secure with James Ihedigbo as a potential starter. Ihedigbo was actually pretty solid in relief of Pollard this season, giving up just 21 yards in coverage according to Pro Football Focus. Ihedigbo is a fiery player who also excels on special teams, so strong safety may not be a huge need after all.
Second String: Christian Thompson
The Ravens put Christian Thompson on injured reserve midway through the season, stashing him away for the future while other, more developed players saw the field. Thompson has plenty of physical potential, but he hasn't shown much on the field. The Ravens will have to keep their fingers crossed that Thompson has an excellent offseason.