Baltimore Ravens: 7 building blocks for 2016
The Baltmore Ravens enter the offseason likely still wondering what exactly went wrong in 2015. Their disastrous season ended with a league-high 20 players on injured reserve and will now be forced to restock the roster with a limited amount of cap space. Ozzie Newsome is fortunate to have these seven players as potential building blocks for this year and beyond.
1. Kamar Aiken
Aiken enters this offseason as a restricted free agent on the heels of a career year. The third-year receiver far exceeded expecations with 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns, becoming the team's top wideout after Steve Smith Sr. went down midseason with a torn Achilles. Aiken may never be a top-flight receiver, but he proved he can be a reliable second or third option who the Ravens will want to keep around, especially once Smith calls it a career.
2. Breshad Perriman
It's way too early to wave the white flag on the team's top pick from last year, regardless of how frustrating his slow-healing knee has become. Perriman possesses the game-breaking speed that can take the top off of defenses, as long as the knee doesn't become a long-term concern. The Ravens were forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel just to find bodies to catch passes, and will likely add at least one more receiver in the draft. A big year from Perriman would help ease the pain of his lost rookie campaign.
Unfortunately, this is the closest first-round pick Breshad Perriman got to wearing a Ravens uniform in 2015.
3. C.J. Mosley
After making it to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Mosley took a step back in his second season, but still remains the future of the defense for years to come. One has to wonder if Mosley's offseason wrist surgery last year played a role in his struggles. He still finished the year with 117 tackles, just four behind team leader Daryl Smith. Mosley will turn 24 this summer and should continue to improve on his way to becoming one of the leaders on defense.
4. Brandon Williams
Many experts believed Williams was snubbed from the Pro Bowl this season. The third-year tackle has one year remaining on his rookie contract that will pay him just over $800,000, making him one of the best bargains in the league up front. His run-stuffing ability will likely keep him in Baltimore for a second contract.
5. Javorius Allen
Allen was forced into the starting running back job after Justin Forsett broke his arm in Week 11. Allen seized the opportunity by flashing exceptional playmaking ability, particularly as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He had some issues holding onto the football, but proved his mental toughness by bouncing back with a big game in Week 16 against Pittsburgh. Allen certainly proved worthy of spliiting backfield duties with Forsett next season at minimum.
Ravens rookie running back Javorius "Buck" Allen flashed some playmaking ability in 2015.
6. Crockett Gillmore
It didn't take long for Gillmore to emerge as a viable starting tight end as he had one of his best games of the season in Week 2 against Oakland with 88 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. Gillmore's physical style resulted in some injuries in the second half, but he proved more than capable of filling Dennis Pitta's shoes. The Ravens were also fortunate to have spent two draft picks last year to build some depth behind him.
7. Maxx Williams
Williams did not have the season many envisioned when the Ravens moved up to take him in the second round last year, but he still flashed some promise by season's end. His best game of the season came in Week 17 when he hauled in six catches for 53 yards with both Gillmore and fellow rookie Nick Boyle out of the lineup. With the trio of youngsters at the position, expect the Ravens to use multiple tight end sets for years to come.