Moves Baltimore Ravens Will Regret Not Making This Offseason
One could argue that the Baltimore Ravens are having one of the best offseasons of any NFL team. While they didn't go on a free-agent spending spree like the Denver Broncos or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they did re-sign nearly all of their key free agents.
Teams that win free agency don't often win many big football games. The teams that win championships build the majority of their roster through the draft and re-sign their own. That's what the Ravens did this offseason while also adding quality players who came at a discount.
That being said, not every move they made was beneficial, and there were several other moves they failed to make that could haunt them in 2014.
Not Re-Signing James Ihedigbo
The Ravens had one of the best run defenses in the NFL in 2013, allowing opposing running backs to gain just 3.8 yards per carry. That was the fifth-lowest of any team in the league.
Their defense also allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 56.9-percent of their passes. That was the third-lowest percentage allowed in the league.
Safety James Ihedigbo helped lead the charge, registering 101 tackles, grabbing three interceptions, deflecting 11 passes and receiving a plus-4.7 grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
That was the ninth-best grade of any Raven, and it only reflected how valuable he was to the Baltimore defense. But he was allowed to test the market, and he ended up signing with the Detroit Lions.
The two-year deal he signed is worth only $3.15 million, with a $1.15 million cap hit in 2014 and a $2 million hit in 2015. The Ravens easily could have re-signed him, but opted instead to let him walk.
Letting him walk will hurt their defense, and Baltimore will regret losing him.
Not Adding a Cornerback
How thin are the Ravens at cornerback?
After letting Corey Graham depart in free agency, Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are the only cornerbacks on the roster right now.
Webb and Smith are quality starters, but behind them is a lot of uncertainty. Brown and Jackson combined to play just 39 defensive snaps in 2013, and they can't be counted on to play significant snaps in 2014 and hold up in coverage.
Letting Graham walk without a replacement in mind was a bad move by Baltimore. Graham essentially was a starter in 2013, grabbing a team-high four interceptions to go with 12 passes defensed.
The NFL draft is still a month away, and the free-agent market for cornerbacks is dangerously thin as well. Asante Samuel and Jabari Greer are arguably the two best corners still on the market, but there's a reason both of them are still unsigned and not generating interest from other teams.
Samuel was cut this offseason by the Atlanta Falcons after missing five games due to injury in 2013, and he's 33, so his level of play isn't going to improve.
Greer is coming off a torn ACL that cost him the final six games in '13, and the 32-year-old veteran is also on the wrong side of 30.
Adding a cornerback in free agency is not out of the question. That being said, it might be smarter at this point to wait until the draft to find a young corner to upgrade and solidify the thinnest position on the roster.
Not Having a Replacement for Arthur Jones
One of the best players the Ravens were set to lose this offseason was defensive lineman Arthur Jones. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him a plus-15.7 grade, the third-best of any Ravens player. In 2013, Jones had 15 quarterback pressures, five sacks and 30 stops (defined by PFF as tackles that cause an offensive failure).
Jones ended up signing a five-year deal paying him $6 million per year. The Ravens probably knew ahead of time it was going to be hard to re-sign Jones, so they should have a better replacement lined up to replace him.
Yet the two players behind him on the depth chart are Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Tyson, who combined to play just 247 snaps last year compared to Jones' 529. They are unknowns who may not be able to account for the loss of Jones. As pointed out earlier, the Ravens had one of the best run defenses in 2013, but now they've lost two of their best run-defenders.
Those moves are going to haunt the Ravens in 2014 if they don't find suitable replacements in the NFL draft or in free agency.