Baltimore Ravens: Ranking Remaining Offseason Priorities
The Baltimore Ravens entered the offseason with a number of issues to resolve, and they've done a great job of addressing most of them.
Through free agency, Baltimore upgraded the offense by signing a pair of former Pro Bowlers in wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels.
The Ravens also re-signed most of their key free agents, including tight end Dennis Pitta, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe and inside linebacker Daryl Smith.
But there is still work to do and holes that need to be filled. After all, Baltimore did miss the playoffs in 2013 after going 8-8, and some of the holes that plagued the team last year have yet to be plugged.
In the ensuing slides, I'll rank the Ravens' three biggest needs left to address by their importance and potential impact on the 2014 season.
3. Sign Torrey Smith to an Extension
As he enters the fourth and final year of his rookie deal, the Ravens must extend his contract before the 2014 season opens.
He is coming off a career-best season of 65 catches for 1,128 yards in 2013. He also added four touchdown catches. Outside of him, no other Ravens receiver had more than 524 receiving yards.
Baltimore receivers also only caught 13 touchdowns, and 11 of them were between Smith and Marlon Brown. Smith is a valuable offensive weapon to the Ravens, and the longer they wait to re-sign him, the more his stock could rise, making him more expensive to keep.
The good news is Smith has expressed his desire to stay in Baltimore, according to Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com:
This is where I want to be, everybody knows that, so I’m not really worried about that. I know I’m going to be here next season, so that’s the only thing I worry about. I’m trying to be the best I can be for the Ravens, and hopefully down the road that’s something that will be addressed and I’ll still be right here.
Both sides should want to get a deal done before the start of the 2014 season to allow Smith to focus on football and not on his first lucrative NFL contract.
2. Add More Offensive Tackle Depth
The Ravens offensive line was one of their biggest weaknesses in 2013, but they've done a good job of upgrading it this offseason.
Eugene Monroe has locked down the left tackle spot after inking a long-term, $37 million extension this offseason.
Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda are likely retaining their starting guard spots after holding them for the past two years. Both players have played at a high level at points in their career, but they both struggled in 2013.
At center, Jeremy Zuttah was acquired via a trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has already stated Zuttah will replace Gino Gradkowski as the starting center.
Rick Wagner is the early favorite to start at right tackle after Michael Oher departed in free agency, and the Ravens opted not to sign or draft another tackle this offseason.
They appear to be confident that Wagner can lock down that RT spot, despite the fact he played in just 131 offensive snaps in 2013 as a rookie fourth-rounder out of Wisconsin.
But even if he can be just a decent starter, there's no real depth behind him or Monroe at offensive tackle.
David Mims is the only backup tackle with previous experience, but he's a career backup who's never registered an offensive snap.
North Carolina's James Hurst was signed as an undrafted free agent, and as of now, he and Mims are the two projected backup tackles behind Monroe and Wagner.
That's scary situation could become disastrous if Baltimore were to lose either Wagner or Monroe to injury. The Ravens badly need to sign another tackle to at least provide some veteran depth at such a thin position.
David Stewart, Bryant McKinnie, Ryan Harris, Eric Winston, J'Marcus Webb and Tyson Clabo are some of the notable tackles who are still free to sign with any team.
At least one of them needs to be getting a call from the Ravens soon.
1. Bolster Depleted Cornerback Position
Like the offensive line, cornerback is a position the Ravens have done a "questionable" job of addressing this offseason. After letting Corey Graham depart in free agency, Baltimore did nothing in free agency or the draft to replace him.
As of now, Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are the only cornerbacks with any NFL experience on the roster.
Webb and Smith are two solid starters, but there's not much behind them. Brown and Jackson combined to play just 39 defensive snaps in 2013.
After those four, Baltimore has a handful of undrafted free-agent corners who would have to get significant playing time in the event that one of the veterans went down with an injury.
There are some notable veteran cornerbacks still on the market, including Asante Samuel and Jabari Greer.
Greer is coming off a torn ACL that cost him the final six games in '13. However, the 32-year-old veteran should have enough left in the tank to offer Baltimore a solid option as a fourth or fifth cornerback on their roster.
As for Samuel, he was cut this offseason by the Atlanta Falcons after missing five games due to injury in 2013. At age 33, he too isn't getting any better but should be good enough to overcome Brown and Jackson for playing time.
At worst, both of those players would give the Ravens good depth in the event of an injury to a current corner.
Baltimore has to add another corner with NFL experience before the 2014 season begins.
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