AFC North Draft Needs: Ravens
NFL DRAFT NEEDS: AFC NORTH
Ravens crept into the playoffs as an underdog with a 9-7 regular season record only to upset the New England Patriots in a 33-14 Wild-Card round victory. Baltimore would lose a week later to the Indianapolis Colts, the eventual AFC Champs and the team that used to inhabit their city years ago. The Ravens are looking to take things to the next level in 2010 under the leadership of an emerging star in Joe Flacco.
Baltimore has already addressed their biggest offseason need by adding multiple bodies to their receiving corps. The team made a big splash by acquiring Anquan Boldin from the Cardinals in exchange for draft picks. They re-signed Flacco’s favorite target last season in Derrick Mason, who at 36 years of age has more gas left in the tank than most would expect. They also signed troubled receiver Donte Stallworth, a speedster who is looking to get back after serving a year-long suspension that kept him out of football in 2009. Joe Flacco and the Ravens should feature a much more potent passing attack in 2010 with these new weapons in place.
Finishing as one of the final eight teams in 2009 put limitations on the number of unrestricted free agents the Ravens could sign in the uncapped year. Baltimore will look to top off their offseason by finding some immediate contributors in the first couple rounds as well as some depth in the later portions of the draft. After trading their third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona, the team is left with five selections spread over rounds one, two, five and six. They currently hold picks 25, 57, 156, 157 and 194.
Todd Heap rebounded in 2009 to have his most productive season in three years. The tight end snagged six touchdowns and was one of Flacco’s favorite targets in the red zone. But outside of Heap, there is very little depth at the position. L.J. Smith was a bust that caught just two passes last season. Edgar Jones was re-signed in the offseason, but he primarily makes his mark on special teams. Baltimore could use a young target at tight end to take some of the load off of Heap and get some fresh legs at the position. The team has already held pre-draft visits with Ed Dickson of Oregon and Tony Moeaki of Iowa.
Tackle Jared Gaither has been the topic of trade rumors lately, possibly during draft week.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens produced another suffocating unit that shut down opposing offenses. But age and free agency losses are creating needs. Nose tackle Kelly Gregg holds down the interior, but he is 33-years old and there is little quality depth behind him. One possibility is Alabama’s Terrence Cody, whom the team already hosted on a visit. On the outside, starting defensive end Dwan Edwards left in free agency and was replaced with Cory Redding, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal. Trevor Pryce is expected to provide depth, but Baltimore could opt to add a young player on the outside of their 30 front as well.
The Ravens secondary was decimated with injuries, the most notable being All-Pro safety Ed Reed, who is contemplating retirement after dealing with nerve problems in his neck the past two seasons. The team is moving on with the assumption that Reed will return, but it would be smart to grab a safety for depth with one of their later picks. At cornerback, Domonique Foxworth wasn’t as effective as the team had hoped when they signed him to a four-year, $28 million contract a year ago. Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb both missed time with knee injuries. The Ravens may target a shutdown corner in the early portions of the draft, and have already met with Kyle Wilson of Boise State, a player who is widely considered to be the second-best prospect at his position and a surefire first-rounder.
Other prospects the Ravens have hosted on pre-draft visits include receivers Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State, Riley Cooper of Florida, Mike Williams of Syracuse, linebackers Danny Batten of South Dakota State and Vuna Tuihalamaka of Arizona, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, Cincinnati offensive tackle Jeff Linkenbach, California (Pa.) cornerback Terrence Johnson and Florida center Maurkice Pouncey.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Derrick Mason (re-signed for two-years), WR Kelley Washington (was not re-signed), WR David Tyree (was not re-signed), TE L.J. Smith (was not re-signed), DT Justin Bannan (was not re-signed, signed with Denver), DT Dwan Edwards (was not re-signed, signed with Buffalo), CB Frank Walker (was not re-signed), CB Corey Ivy (was not re-signed)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Troy Smith (received original-round tender at $1.101 million), QB John Beck (received original-round tender at $1.101 million and signed), RB Le’Ron McClain (received first-round tender at $2.396 million), WR Mark Clayton (received second-round tender at 1.809 million), WR Demetrius Williams (received original-round tender at $1.176 million), TE Quinn Sypniewski (was not tendered, waived due to failed physical), TE Edgar Jones (was not tendered, re-signed for one-year), T Jared Gaither (received first-round tender at $2.396 million), T Adam Terry (was not tendered), T Tony Moll (received original-round tender at $1.176 million), G Marshal Yanda (received second-round tender at $1.684 million and signed), G Chris Chester (received original-round tender at $1.176 million and signed), LB Antwan Barnes (received original-round tender at $1.101 million and signed), LB Prescott Burgess (received original-round tender at $1.101 million and signed), CB Fabian Washington (received second-round tender at $1.809 million), S Dawan Landry (received second-round tender at $1.759 million), K Billy Cundiff (received right of first refusal tender at $1.226 million and signed), P Sam Koch (received second-round tender at $1.759 million)
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: WR Derrick Mason, QB John Beck, TE Edgar Jones, G Marshal Yanda, G Chris Chester, LB Antwan Barnes, LB Prescott Burgess, K Billy Cundiff, RB Jalen Parmele, RB Matt Lawrence, DT Lamar Divens, DB Marcus Paschal
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: DE Cory Redding (signed for two-years at $6 million), WR Anquan Boldin (via trade with Arizona), WR Donte Stallworth (signed for one-year at $900,000), TE Davon Drew, OL/DL Bryan Mattison, WR Maurice Price, WR Eron Riley, T Stefan Rodgers, T Joe Reitz, DE William VanDeSteeg, FB Charles Ali, C Digger Bujnoch, WR Chris Hannon, C Daniel Sanders
PLAYERS LOST: T Adam Terry (signed with Indianapolis), TE Quinn Sypniewski, CB Samari Rolle, WR Kelley Washington, TE L.J. Smith, DT Justin Bannan, DT Dwan Edwards, CB Frank Walker, CB Corey Ivy, WR David Tyree, C Greg Ryan, T Lou Saucedo
CORNERBACK – Domonique Foxworth isn’t the shutdown player they expected and Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb both went down with ACL tears in the second half of the season. The Ravens could opt to grab a talented cornerback early in the draft to give them the true shutdown presence they have lacked since Chris McAlister’s heyday.
NOSE TACKLE -- Kelly Gregg is still effective but he’s 33-years old and there is little depth behind him. Great play from a two-gap nose tackle is a vital piece of a 3-4 defense. The Ravens should be in the market for a future run-stuffer.
TIGHT END -- Todd Heap had his best season in years and became one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets. But given his injury history, the team may opt to grab a talented tight end in the early parts of the draft. A popular pick has been Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham, a dynamic pass catcher that would give Flacco a big target in the middle of the field.
SAFETY -- Ed Reed is contemplating retirement due to a lingering neck injury. The team is planning on Reed returning, but should look to add some depth at the free safety position as an insurance policy.
DEFENSIVE END -- Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan both left in free agency. Trevor Pryce remains on the roster for depth, but he’ll be 35 in August. Cory Redding was signed to fill the hole, but he’s likely just bridging the gap between the Ravens’ future at defensive end. Baltimore usually does a fantastic job of finding scheme-specific players in the later portions of the draft, and may wait to address this need.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE -- The Ravens offensive line is one of the strongest units in the NFL. This only becomes a need if Jared Gaither is dealt. The team is reportedly willing to part ways with their starting offensive tackle at the price of a second-round pick. If Gaither is traded, Baltimore will slide Michael Oher to the left side and look for a right tackle in the draft. A move could be made on draft day.