Baltimore Ravens: Breaking Down Notable Free-Agent Additions to the 2014 Team
The Baltimore Ravens have had a productive offseason, and it all began in free agency. With a decent amount of cap space available, Baltimore had room to add quality players.
It used connections on its coaching staffs to get a couple of guys, while others chose to come to Baltimore because of its success in the past.
It just won a Super Bowl in 2013 to go with six playoff appearances in the past eight seasons. The Ravens have been as successful as most NFL franchises recently, so it's easy to attract new players to join them.
Here is a breakdown of all the notable* free agents who chose to sign with Baltimore this offseason following the NFL draft.
*Players I believe will be on the final 53-man roster.
TE Owen Daniels
The Ravens were able to re-sign Pro Bowl tight End Dennis Pitta, but they still wanted to have a better backup behind him.
When Pitta went down with a hip injury in training camp last year, Baltimore signed Dallas Clark to be the primary tight end. He caught just 31 passes on 52 targets for 343 yards and three touchdowns.
Clark has since retired, and Baltimore signed former Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels this offseason. The Ravens were able to get him because his former head coach, Gary Kubiak, is now the Ravens offensive coordinator.
Daniels had eight good years under Kubiak in Houston, where he caught 385 balls for 4,617 yards and 29 touchdowns.
With Baltimore, he'll be the No. 2 tight end behind Pitta, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Kubiak loves involving multiple tight ends in his offense.
According to Larry Hartstein of CBSSports.com, Houston quarterbacks targeted tight ends an average of 171 times the past two years under Kubiak, compared to 128 by Ravens QBs.
Daniels should be a significant threat in the passing game, and he'll have some games where he's one of Joe Flacco's primary targets he throws to.
FS Darian Stewart
Darian Stewart was a talented safety coming out of South Carolina in 2010, but he never lived up to the hype with the St. Louis Rams. He started in just 19 games over four seasons (six in 2013), and St. Louis let him go this offseason.
He signed with the Ravens, who need help at free safety. Matt Elam is moving to strong safety after playing free safety in 2013. That's because starting strong safety James Ihedigbo left this offseason to sign with the Detroit Lions.
Stewart has a chance to earn playing time at free safety. So far in the Ravens' organized team activities, he's left a good impression on the coaching staff.
According to Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com, Stewart looks like the early favorite to start at free safety based on his performances in OTAs:
The safety has spent the last three months adjusting to the Ravens defense after spending the first four years of his career in St. Louis, and he now looks like the favorite to start alongside Matt Elam on the back end of the defense. Stewart has impressed the coaching staff through the early part of the offseason, and he's developing a strong rapport next to Elam.
'I feel like me and Matt have good chemistry already,' Stewart said. 'It's going real well. As long as you communicate, everything plays its part.'
Stewart will make the roster at least as a backup to rookie third-round free safety Terrence Brooks.
WR Steve Smith
In 13 seasons with Carolina, Smith grabbed 836 passes for 12,197 yards and scored 75 touchdowns. Smith's 2013 numbers (62 catches for 745 yards) were better than those of any Raven not named Torrey Smith.
The best any other wide receiver did was Marlon Brown's 49 catches for 524 yards.
Steve Smith will likely be the No. 3 option for quarterback Joe Flacco to throw to behind Torrey and tight end Dennis Pitta.
RB Justin Forsett
It didn't look like much of a move when the Ravens signed free-agent running back Justin Forsett. Projected as a third- or forth-string running back, Forsett has been a career backup in the NFL, and he'll likely be that in Baltimore.
He spent the 2013 NFL season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He carried the ball just six times for 31 rushing yards while battling a foot injury.
In seven NFL seasons, Forsett has rushed 347 times for 1,692 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. He's also caught 115 passes for 850 yards (7.4 yards per catch) and one score.
When Forsett has received a heavy workload in games, he's performed very well. In eight career games in which he has received 10-plus carries, Forsett has rushed for an average of 82 yards on 15 carries (5.5 yards per carry).
Those are decent numbers, and Forsett should make the final 53-man roster. That said, he won't get a lot of action behind Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
OT James Hurst
The Ravens are thin at offensive tackle. They let starting right tackle Michael Oher walk in free agency, and as of now, the unproven Ricky Wagner is the projected starter.
The Ravens didn't address the right tackle position in free agency or the draft, but they did get a pretty good tackle after the draft in North Carolina's James Hurst.
After a solid senior season, Hurst entered his final collegiate game being projected as high as a first-round pick in this year's draft, according to The Associated Press' Aaron Beard (via CBS Charlotte). But in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati, Hurst broke his leg, effectively killing his draft stock before the offseason even began.
If he's fully recovered from his injury, Hurst will make the 53-man roster and give Baltimore depth at offensive tackle. He may even challenge Wagner for the starting right tackle spot.