The Ravens did well in addressing needs during last weekend’s NFL draft. In the first two rounds, they added a supersized press cornerback in Jimmy Smith and a speedy receiver with big-play potential in Torrey Smith. But they still have holes to fill with veteran players whenever the NFL lockout ends and free agency begins.
Backup quarterback Marc Bulger has been linked to the Cardinals, who didn’t select a quarterback in this draft. Three of the Ravens’ regulars at cornerback -- Josh Wilson, Chris Carr and Fabian Washington -- are all free agents. The backfield is in flux because fullback Le’Ron McClain will hit the market and the Ravens are expected to sever ties with veteran running back Willis McGahee. And the team waited until the fifth round to take a pass rusher, Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee, who had just seven sacks combined the past two seasons in the SEC.
Here are six areas the Ravens are likely to address in free agency (please keep in mind that with the NFL in limbo due to the labor brouhaha, the 2011 free-agent status of many players is unclear):
Cornerback: The Ravens have Domonique Foxworth -- whose torn ACL will be completely healed by the start of training camp -- and third-year player Lardarius Webb on the roster, and Jimmy Smith should see the field right away. The Ravens also used a fifth-round pick on cornerback Chykie Brown. If the Ravens can re-sign Wilson and Carr, they won’t need to bring in someone new. If not, Washington could return or the team will bring in a short-term fix for roster depth. Sorry, folks, but Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t coming here. Five notable free agents: Nnamdi Asomugha, Antonio Cromartie, Johnathan Joseph, Richard Marshall, Ike Taylor.
Offensive line: This is another position that hinges on the Ravens’ ability to re-sign their own players. Marshal Yanda, Chris Chester and Jared Gaither are expected to be free agents, and Yanda, who has played at guard and tackle, should be the team’s highest priority. If the Ravens can bring him back, they will have flexibility on the free-agent market. Ideally, Yanda is the right guard and they sign a right tackle to compete with third-round pick Jah Reid. Five notable free agents: Jermon Bushrod (OT), Tyson Clabo (OT), Ryan Harris (OT), Davin Joseph (OG), Deuce Lutui (OG).
Pass rush: The Ravens entered the draft with a few pressing needs, and this is the one they weren’t able to address early. New coordinator Chuck Pagano will change things up schematically, but signing another pass rusher -- whether it’s a linebacker or a defensive end -- will make those Xs and Os translate better from the chalkboard to the football field. Five notable free agents: Shaun Ellis (DE), Cullen Jenkins (DE), Mathias Kiwanuka (OLB), Manny Lawson (OLB), Stephen Nicholas (OLB).
Quarterback: Last year, the Ravens didn’t want their title hopes go down the tubes with an injury to Joe Flacco, so they brought in Bulger with a one-year deal. Since Bulger is reportedly destined for Arizona and sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor is a project player, the Ravens will again need to bring in a reliable backup for Flacco. The pickings are slim. Five notable free agents: Kerry Collins, Bruce Gradkowski, Tavaris Jackson, Drew Stanton, Seneca Wallace.
Running back: Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in January that he wants to get back to running the ball, but the team could sever ties with two of the heads that made up the team’s three-headed monster at running back. If McGahee and McClain don’t return, that leaves 2009 Pro Bowl back Ray Rice, third-stringer Jalen Parmele, seventh-round pick Anthony Allen and fullback Jason McKie on the roster. The Ravens like Parmele a lot, but they would be wise to bring in a bruising back to ease the burden for Rice. Five notable free agents: Ahmad Bradshaw, Ronnie Brown, Michael Bush, DeAngelo Williams, Ricky Williams.
Safety: Starting strong safety Dawan Landry is expected to test free agency, and the Ravens might let him get a big payday elsewhere and either sign a cheaper replacement or give Haruki Nakamura or Tom Zbikowski a chance in the starting lineup alongside Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed. Five notable free agents: Michael Huff, Quintin Mikell, Bernard Pollard, Eric Weddle, Donte Whitner.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun