By Matt Vensel
4:11 PM EDT, April 29, 2013
Just two days ago, the Ravens wrapped another successful draft, selecting a 10-player class that is being hailed as one of the weekend’s best by many analysts. Next there are minicamps, offseason workouts and later a training camp to be conducted, and eventually, football games will be played. But who cares about all that?
OK, fine, that stuff is important, too, I guess.
But since the NFL draft is still fresh in our minds -- and since draftniks are already releasing their premature lists of the top prospects in next year’s draft -- let’s take a look at what the Ravens might be targeting in 2014.
I am basing this super-early look at the 2014 NFL draft on which players can become free agents and which areas the Ravens may choose to tackle after another year of wear and tear on the team.
Just for fun, let's look at four positions they could address:
Cornerback: The Ravens have young cornerbacks in Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson and 2013 draft pick Marc Anthony, and Lardarius Webb is still relatively young. But Corey Graham and Chris Johnson are scheduled to be free agents next offseason, and the end of Smith’s rookie deal is coming up fast. The Ravens have drafted defensive backs in six of the past seven drafts, and they may be tempted to use an early 2014 pick on one depending on Webb’s health, Smith’s progression and how other youngsters come along. One to watch this fall: Bradley Roby, Ohio State.
Linebacker: The Ravens may have found an immediate starter in Arthur Brown, but they could be looking for a long-term sidekick next year, especially given the uncertainty with Jameel McClain’s health and Rolando McClain’s off-the-field issues. Outside linebacker could also be an area of long-term need, despite the signing of Elvis Dumervil and the team drafting Courtney Upshaw and John Simon in the past two drafts. After all, Terrell Suggs, as good as he has been, will be 31 in October and carries a pretty sizable cap hit. One to watch this fall: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas.
Offensive tackle: Some are questioning why the Ravens didn’t come away with a starting left tackle over the weekend, but those guys are hard to find when you are picking at the end of the first round. As of this moment, it looks as if Kelechi Osemele is the frontrunner to start in Week 1, but he has said it is his preference to play guard. Whether Osemele sticks at tackle or not, the Ravens may need to find a replacement for Michael Oher, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract and likely wants to get left-tackle money. One to watch this fall: Cyrus Kouandijio, Alabama.
Tight end: General manager Ozzie Newsome said Saturday that the one position he wanted to address in the 2013 draft but didn’t was tight end. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are both in the final year of the rookie deals, and while extending Pitta makes a lot of sense, Dickson’s future beyond 2013 doesn't appear to be as clear. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Ravens pay one of those players (likely Pitta) and look to draft a cheaper replacement for the other. One to watch this fall: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington.
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