How Will Baltimore Ravens' Free-Agency Approach Affect Their NFL Draft Plans?

Jason MarcumCorrespondent IIIMarch 20, 2014

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with Baltimore Ravens #23 draft pick Michael Oher at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

One big goal for the Baltimore Baltimore Ravens going into the offseason was to re-sign their key free agents. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta and linebacker Daryl Smith were all re-signed to long-term deals.

That left the Ravens enough cap space to sign one big-name free agent, and they did so by signing Steve Smith after the Carolina Panthers cut him. The Ravens still need to add more playmakers to help improve an offense that ranked 29th in total yards and 25th in scoring in 2013. 

However, because the team was able to get Jones re-signed and acquire Smith, that shouldn't affect the Ravens' willingness to take a receiver in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. 

Prior to the signing of Smith, receiver was the Ravens' biggest need. Many mock drafts, including one from Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated, had the Ravens taking a receiver in the first round.

That's because outside of Torrey Smith, no other Ravens receiver had more than 524 receiving yards, and they combined to catch just 13 touchdowns. Eleven of them were between Torrey and Marlon Brown. 

Looking at Steve Smith's 2013 numbers (745 yards and four TDs), the Ravens should expect him to provide a nice boost to the offense, but with him turning 35 in May, they still should look to add another playmaker to the offense. Even ESPN's Mel Kiper believes they should take a receiver or tight end in the first round. 

Speaking of which, new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak loves to feature tight ends in his offense, so they could look to add another one to compliment Pitta at that position. 

It just so happens that North Carolina's Eric Ebron—regarded as the draft's top tight end prospect—is scheduled to visit the Ravens prior to the NFL draft, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.

Ebron was an All-ACC and All-American selection last season after catching 62 passes for 973 yards and three touchdowns. He appears to be a candidate for the Ravens to spend their first-round pick on. 

As long as the Ravens don't make any other notable free-agent signings, adding another offensive playmaker should be their biggest priority in the draft. The good thing about their current signings is that that they should be able to select the best wide receiver or tight end available when they make their first-round selection.