LeRon McClain headed elsewhere in 2011?
While the NFL players and owners continue to battle in court and hold secret meetings, I still want to talk plain old football. Free-agent football to be exact.
As a Ravens fan still seething from another bitter playoff loss to Pittsburgh in January, I want the lockout to end so the purple and black can start preparations for a Week 1 revenge beat-down against those same Steelers.
The offseason has been filled with court appeals instead of free-agent offers, but I'm still excited for the upcoming season as the Ravens had what many considered to be another top-notch draft.
General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens scouting department filled needs and found players that have the ability to make an immediate impact.
The Ravens still have more than a few holes to fill at critical areas.
Backup quarterback Marc Bulger is rumored to be headed for the Arizona Cardinals.
Considering the Cards did not select a quarterback in this year’s draft, Bulger seems destined to follow in the footsteps of another former St. Louis Rams QB this fall. Or does he?
Although the Ravens selected cornerback Jimmy Smith with their first-round pick, three regular contributors at the position are free agents of some sorts.
The Ravens had their worst sack output in franchise history on defense last season with just 27 quarterback sacks,
The need for a pass rusher was addressed, but not until the fifth round when Baltimore chose Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee.
McPhee is a project and is not expected to contribute much this season. He had just seven sacks in two seasons with the Bulldogs.
A huge hole could exist in the Ravens backfield once the lockout ends. Willis McGahee is due a big payday, which the Ravens are not expected to honor, and LeRon McClain is unhappy with his lack of carries at the fullback position.
The offensive line may potentially be a disaster and one that only free agency could fix.
Whatever occurs with the NFL lockout, the Ravens will have to spend a few dollars to fill some holes.
A few weeks back, Ravens featured columnist Todd McGregor looked at 10 potential free agents.
Here are 10 more players the purple and black may want to consider.
Some of these players do not have big names, but they could still play huge roles in another attempt at a Ravens Super Bowl run in 2011.
It was somewhat shocking the Ravens did not address the need for a pass rusher a little bit sooner in the draft. Maybe it is because Baltimore plans to make a splash on the market to acquire some help.
With a franchise-low 27 sacks last season, the Ravens must make getting to the QB a high priority once the lockout ends.
Cullen Jenkins is not a long-term solution, but he could provide instant help for the Ravens pass-rush. Jenkins had a career year in just 11 games for the Super Bowl champions.
The 6'2", 305-pound defensive tackle from Central Michigan registered seven sacks and when you take into account what the role of a 3-4 d-lineman is, this is an impressive number.
As you have heard the Ravens future HOF linebacker Ray Lewis say so many times in the past, the role of a 3-4 lineman is to create holes for the linebackers. Looking around the Internet, many Green Bay fans thought Jenkins was their best defensive lineman last season
The Ravens will probably not be the top bidder for Jenkins services, as the Redskins appear to be high on his list.
That is just 45 miles away from Charm City, and it is not out of the question for Ozzie Newsome to throw a wrench into the plans of his NFC East neighbors.
Jenkins has hit 30 years old, and he is injury prone. He missed 12 games in '08 and five more last season.
The Albert Haynesworth fiasco in DC may prevent the Redskins from spending what they may have a few years ago on Jenkins.
This very fact could open the door for the Ravens, but there will be others dialing him at midnight once free agency kicks in.
According to ESPN Milwaukee, Jenkins is not likely to return to Green Bay. Packers GM Ted Thompson will let Jenkins walk. The Packers 2010 second-round pick, Mike Neal, is considered his replacement, and Thompson believes in youth when it comes to the front seven.
The Ravens could have something very explosive with Haloti Ngata, Corey Redding and Jenkins working out a rotation up front.
Although Shaun Ellis is 33 years old, he would be a nice fit in Baltimore for a season or two.
After all, Rex Ryan's fingerprints are still very much apart of what the Ravens do on the defensive side of the ball.
Ellis is productive and despite his nagging sore knees, has still started all but two games in the past five seasons.
The Ravens are no strangers to signing free agents that are long in the tooth to play on defense. Trevor Pryce and Tony Siragusa were both 30 when Ozzie Newsome brought them to Baltimore.
Ellis has 72.5 career sacks, and his experience up front would be an asset to the Ravens. While many would argue, the Ravens need to get younger on defense that must be done through the draft.
The fifth-round selection of Pernell McPhee was a good value pick for Baltimore, but they need a better pass-rush now.
Shaun Ellis gets good push and could help create the gaps necessary for new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to call a few more blitzes this season. Not to mention the duo of Haloti Ngata and Shaun Ellis would have combined for 10 sacks last season.
The Jets selected two defensive linemen in this year's draft. DE Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round and NT Kenrick Ellis, in the third.
The Jets clearly want to get younger up front, but with rookies prohibited from obtaining playbooks, veterans like Ellis may be needed by their teams this season as the draft picks learn the system.
This could force teams like the Jets to re-sign players they would not in other years, keeping players like Ellis in place, if that is where they want to be.
“If we could get the opportunity to put ourselves in the position to get someone else," general manager Ozzie Newsome said, "we would probably be looking at it very seriously."
The above quote from Newsome was delivered immediately following the draft when he was asked why the Ravens did not acquire a pass-rushing threat earlier in the draft.
Manny Lawson of the 49ers">San Francisco 49ers could be one of those players that just needs a change of scenery. With two future Hall of Famers (Ray Lewis and Ed Reed) and Terrell Suggs, where else would be better for Lawson to play?
A former first-round pick of the Niners (22nd overall) in the 2006, Lawson has not exactly impressed as many thought he would on the left coast.
Lawson spent his senior year at North Carolina State as a speed-rushing defensive end
His impressive 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine all but sealed his fate as a outside pass-rushing linebacker for a 3-4 team in the NFL.
He was considered a perfect fit in San Fran, as the Niners were transitioning to a 3-4 from a 4-3.
However, after an above-average rookie season, Lawson tore his ACL in practice before Week 3 of the '07 season and after a decent '09 season, regressed this past season.
He has started 46 of a possible 48 games since returning from his ACL, so injury concerns are minimal at best with the sixth-year pro.
Lawson has recorded 14.5 career sacks and 187 solo tackles in 64 career games with San Francisco.
Lawson would not only be a nice fit on defense in Baltimore, but he could also be a nice fit in the Ravens wallet.
At least more in tune with what the Ravens can actually afford to pay following the new deal that is sure to come for Haloti Ngata.
The Ravens have some issues at cornerback to resolve, but the drafting of Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith addressed a big need. Smith will start if he gets in camp on time. That is providing there is a camp to get into.
Domonique Foxworth's torn ACL will be completely healed by the start of training camp and third-year player Lardarius Webb will be a big factor for the Ravens this season.
The Ravens also used a fifth-round pick on cornerback Chykie Brown.
Baltimore is really hoping to re-sign Josh Wilson and Chris Carr. If they do, they will not need to bring in another player.
If they do not then a player like Jonathan Joseph would be a nice addition to the Ravens secondary. If ever the lockout had an impact on where a player plays next season, it is Joseph.
The Bengals want to re-sign the Rock Hill, S.C. native, and could if the NFL uses the 2010 rules regarding free agency, once the lockout is settled.
Joseph was slapped with a first-and-third-round tender in March, meaning whomever signs him must offer those picks to Cincinnati as compensation
However, if those rules change, Joseph is likely to become unrestricted.
No, he is not Nnamdi Asomugha. Sorry Ravens fans, but Asomugha will not be wearing purple and black for the next few seasons. Joseph would be pricey, but certainly not Asomugha pricey.
The former first-round selection from the University of South Carolina is a good young corner and would be an upgrade for the Ravens immediately. Not to mention that Joseph would come from a divisional rival, and one that the Ravens have struggled with in recent games.
Joseph would not only be good on the field, but good for the Ravens off the field as well. He is a community guy and fans love him. Joseph is a rare breed in that he wants to actually stay in Cincy. He was willing to welcome the franchise tag if the Bengals chose to use it on him.
"I'd sign it the first day," Joseph said in December. "Hopefully we can get a deal done before then."
Joseph has started 58 games for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals with 14 career interceptions.
Upset over the Carolina Panthers refusal to offer him a long-term contract, Richard Marshall wants desperately to be an unrestricted free agent.
Like Jonathan Joseph of the Bengals, He too must wait until the lockout ends. Right now, he is restricted, and the Ravens would have to give up a second-round pick for him.
Marshall may want to get closer to home as a native of Los Angeles.
Marshall attended Fresno State and both the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders may have a CB or two jumping ship this offseason.
Marshall will definitely come cheaper than the corner Oakland is losing and the Raiders are seen as a team that is trending upwards.
Marshall has started all 32 games the past two seasons in Carolina. He has seven interceptions and 16 passes defended over that span.
Marshall will come at a price if tenders are not changed under the new collective bargaining agreement. He will require a second-round pick for his services. However, Marshall is fast and healthy.
Drafted by the Panthers with pick No. 58 in the second round, Marshall ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine back in 2006 but has more than just speed.
One scouting report said of Marshall's play, “He excels in bump and run, great recognition, has the skills to move outside and cover top tier receivers, great angles, fluid athlete."
He also plays well in run support, so why is this guy not an All-Pro or at the top of the free-agent list?
Consider where he's been playing and he does have a the knock that uses the "Q" word. Marshall is known to give up on receivers too soon and quit on plays occasionally.
His hands are also a liability but if they weren't, he'd be a wide receiver.
There is a reason that the Panthers did not jump at the chance to sign him when he admitted he would sign immediately if offered a long-term deal.
If the Ravens need a corner, they may just find their man in Marshall.
Willis (the touchdown machine) McGahee will not be a Baltimore Raven in 2011, and Ray Rice, all 5'8" of him, is not a goal line back.
McGahee (24) scored twice as many touchdowns as Rice (12) over the past three seasons.
At, 5'8", Rice is not exactly the ideal goal line back. His 307 carries last season were 53 more than he had in 2009.
That is a tremendous workload for any running back. History tells us that running backs who carry over 300 times in a season fall off dramatically the next season and possibly beyond.
When you consider the bruising games the Ravens play in the AFC North, it could become dangerous for the Ravens to continue to push the envelope with their franchise back.
The Ravens drafted Anthony Allen from Georgia Tech in the seventh round of this year's draft and also have Jalen Parmele, a fourth-year back from Toledo.
Allen and Parmele are both considered to be between the tackle runners with bursts of speed. The Ravens may eventually trust one to handle full time goal line duties, but that may be later than sooner.
The Ravens need a back that has experience, size, strength, deceptive speed and goal line power. Translation, Ronnie Brown is a perfect fit if he would take a short-term deal and be willing to play behind Rice.
The trend of having two productive backs is not dying in the NFL. Three seasons ago, it looked as though the Ravens had three of them for the future.
I have seen articles that are asking for the Ravens to sign Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams. Williams is a premier back, and it is unrealistic to think that Rice and Williams could operate in the same backfield.
Simply put, Baltimore needs to replace Willis McGahee's goal-line numbers. They also need a back that can pick up 3rd-and-3, or a 4th-and-1. They need this back until either Parmele or Allen takes the job.
Ronnie Brown would not be a bargain, but he would not be a gamble either.
Miami drafted Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas in the second round, so either Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown or both could be done in Miami.
If both are on the market, the Ravens may even want to consider Williams over Brown for a year.
Brown, who was the second overall selection by the Dolphins in 2005, has had an up and down career.
The former Auburn star played in all 16 games in Miami last season but rushed for just 734 yards with five touchdowns.
Can you see the T-shirts on the “E” lot in Baltimore on game days now—"Ravens love their main course of "Brown-Rice."
I know it may seem absurd to incorporate him into this story, but I feel strongly about the Ravens keeping the fifth-year pro from Alabama.
I simply cannot understand the Ravens dilemma with LeRon McClain.
This is a situation that the Ravens should have handled differently and will one day, possibly very soon, view as the proverbial "big one that got away" scenario.
McClain openly lobbied for more carries and a bigger workload last season but to no avail. The two-time Pro-Bowl full back has said that he does not expect to be back in Baltimore for the 2011 season.
That is a shame because there is not a better option for the Ravens at the full back position.
If anyone thinks Jason McKie, who signed after McClain was hurt in Week 12, then waived and then resigned in February is the answer, then you are simply not watching the NFL.
With McGahee in town, it was going to be tough to make McClain the second option behind Rice. However, with no doubt that Willis will be elsewhere next year, the Ravens need to make nice and fix this situation.
McClain's breakout year came in 2008 when he carried the ball 232 times, for a team high 902 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Since then, and for whatever reason, McClain has carried the ball just 74 times for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Given his strength and size and considering the Ravens are in need of a goal line runner, McClain is the obvious choice.
Anything else the Ravens do at this position during the off season will be an exercise in futility and unnecessary when you consider how it got to this point.
Why would you rock the boat? Especially if the boat you are rocking is an aircraft carrier that is capable of carrying your fleet.
I believe in the philosophy of if it is not broke, do not fix it. LeRon McClain’s situation was by no means broken and the Ravens were more than capable of fixing it by simply giving him more carries.
McClain admitted that 200-plus carries was a little much to expect but 74 in two seasons. Come on Cam Cameron, you should be ashamed of yourself. Or at the very least, unemployed.
Now the situation may be beyond repair and the Ravens may find themselves in a situation they never had to be in to begin with.
Whatever it takes to re-sign LeRon McClain, the Ravens must deliver.
Yanda may have a lot to think about
This is perhaps the biggest need the Ravens have and only the end of the lockout will determine how bad those needs are.
If the Ravens and Joe Flacco are going to get past the hump that is the Pittsburgh Steelers, then their offensive line must be better.
Over the past six regular season games against the black and gold, Baltimore's offensive line has allowed 21 sacks of their franchise QB, with 169 lost yards.
That is three-and-a-half sacks per game with almost 30 lost yards per contest.
Last season, Flacco was sacked 40 times and hit 79 more, both ranking in the bottom half of the league at ninth and tenth.
Jared Gaither proved to be a head case that will probably not be a Raven this season, and all purpose guard Marshall Yanda has all of a sudden appeared on every team’s wish list once free agency does open.
Michael Oher struggled last season and looked out of place in many games last season. HIs false start and holding penalties came at critical times burying the Ravens on many occasions.
The Ravens traded a sixth-round pick to move up in the third round to draft tackle Jah Reid with the 85th overall pick.
“He’ll be competing for the right tackle spot right out of the gate and we’ll see where it goes,” Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s young, he’s a little bit developmental, but I think he’s going to develop fast.”
Reid, who is 6'7" and 330 pounds, was a three-year starter at Central Florida.
The Ravens need help, and they know it. Without it, the season could be for not. Flacco needs to stay upright a whole lot more than he did last season. Baltimore needs experience.
The first priority must be to resign Yanda. Baltimore did the smart thing back in March when they extended restricted free agent tenders to Yanda and guard Chris Chester.
Both carry a second-round tender, but however this all unfolds, the Ravens will need to sign a free agent offensive lineman, and that guy should be...
The 6'3", 320-pound guard from Texas is young and improving with each year he spends in the league.
Blalock struggled mightily upon entering the NFL, but he has improved steadily every year since. According to the website Falcfans.com, Blalock has good strength and is able to get into position as a run blocker effectively.
He shows good ability to get inside and seal block, helping to create running lanes. Blalock works best in a short area and is effective when asked to get downfield and make blocks on the second level.
He uses his strength and good punch in pass protection so that he does well defending the bull rush. He is not the nastiest Falcons offensive linemen, but he does show a nice mean streak.
Blalock is just 27 years old and could come at a decent price. He does have a few cons according to the same website. Blalock does not have great footwork or technique.
He does not always stay square in pass protection and can struggle with quicker interior pass-rushers, but again, he has been praised for improving on a yearly basis.
It is unlikely the Falcons will be able to afford Blalock. Their entire right side could potentially hit the market. Right guard Harvey Dahl and right tackle Tyson Clabo are not going anywhere, leaving Blalock as the odd man out.
There is a plethora of talented offensive lineman slated to hit the market. The Ravens have options if they lose the battles to resign their own players.
Some other decent value lineman that could become available are Evan Mathis of the Bengals, Kyle Kosier in Dallas and if the Ravens want to spend a few dollars, there are plenty of options there as well.
As I said in the previous slide, the best possible case scenario in Baltimore is that Marshall Yanda and Jared Gaither end up wearing purple and black in 2011.
Haruki Nakamura and Rocky Marciano—I mean Tom Zbikowski —are restricted free agents and strong safety Dawan Landry is unrestricted. Like the offensive line, the back part of the secondary may be just as big of a need.
Of the three, the Ravens are rumored to be losing two of them. As long as Ed Reed is still ball-hawking, the Ravens will not spend top-notch money for a player, playing opposite of Reed.
The Ravens allowed Jim Leonard to walk, and before him, Will Demps. Do not expect the Ravens to dish out top-notch dollars on their own, or a free agent.
The scenario plays out well for the Ravens because they have an idea of what they are willing to spend.
The Ravens know if Zbikowski and Landry head off to New England, as they are rumored to be, then they have options on the market. They do not need a superstar, they have already.
They simply need to compliment the back of the secondary. This is assuming that Reed will do something he has not done since 2008, play in all 16 games.
For starters, the purple and black need to look at Eagles safety, Quintin Mikell.
The 2003 undrafted free agent from Boise State has missed just one game in the past three seasons and two out of a possible 125 since his rookie season.
He led the Eagles with 88 tackles last season and had 15 defended passes with three interceptions.
Mikell will turn 31 in September, so age is a concern. However, safety is a position that requires experience, and Mikell has plenty of that heading into his ninth season.
It helps that Mikell was in Philly for the days when John Harbaugh was there coaching special teams.
Other safeties the Ravens could offer once the period begins are, Melvin Bullitt of the Indianapolis Colts and another Philly safety, Sean Jones.
Not so fast Ravens fast. Bulger could indeed be carrying a clipboard on the sidelines at M&T Bank stadium next year as a back up to Joe Flacco.
Hopefully, he will not make more money than Flacco once again, but it would be nice to have the former Rams QB as a security blanket.
Look around the NFL these days. First-round quarterbacks are not exactly learning from the sidelines anymore.
If Bulger did land a job as a starter in Buffalo, Cincinnati or even San Francisco, who would be the choice to back up Flacco? Good, veteran backups are necessary in today's NFL and Flacco has been lucky behind a less than stellar offensive line the last two seasons.
Many say Kerry Collins would be a good fit. I say, did you see Collins play in Tennessee last season. He was horrible.
Well what about Donovan McNabb? Obviously, every scenario we covered means that the market would not be as lucrative for McNabb as it was originally thought.
The Redskins are not going to honor the ridiculous $70 million contract they gave McNabb, so if your McNabb why not take a year off and wait for the right opportunity.
He's 34 and has about three of four more years left in him. He may even get that Super Bowl ring he could never land with Philadelphia.
There would be stipulations of course. The first being that McNabb must come to Charm City knowing that Flacco is the starter.
Otherwise, McNabb in Baltimore will never happen. Like it actually has a shot now, but you never know. Flacco is going through a bout of self-pity this offseason after the Ravens fired quarterbacks coach, Jim Zorn and failed to offer him the extension he feels he deserves.
Bringing in McNabb could fluster Flacco and right now, that is the last thing the Ravens need. However, the market is not filled with Marc Bulgers.
Bruce Gradkowski, Drew Stanton, Seneca Wallace, Todd Collins, Matt Hasselbeck and
Tavaris Jackson are available, but I am not feeling good about a Super Bowl run if Flacco gets hurt and one of these guys have to take the reins.
There is also Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Trent Edwards and possibly Rex Grossman. Still not getting the warm and fuzzies? Me either.
So there it is, some food for thought, ending with a bang, Donovan McNabb a Raven.
I wonder who would get to wear No. 5?
The Ravens tendency in the past is to make big splashes with small jumps into the free-agent market. Make no mistake Ravens fans, they will be jumping this year. They may simply have no choice.
How much they jump in remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, if they do not jump, then Ozzie Newsome did a real good job with his own, and the 2011 Ravens will look a whole lot like the Ravens of 2010.