By Jeff Zrebiec
10:30 AM EST, February 26, 2012
Defensive backs are scheduled to meet with teams and reporters today, which should serve as a reminder to the significant improvements the organization has made at the cornerback spot in a year's span.
Last year at the NFL Scouting Combine, one of the Ravens' biggest needs was a cornerback and they wound up using two of their first five picks in the draft to address it, selecting Jimmy Smith (Colorado) in the first round and Chykie Brown (Texas) in the fifth.
This year, the cornerback position is barely on the Ravens' radar. Now, I'm not saying that the Ravens won't use a mid-to-late-round pick on one because you can never have enough corners these days in the NFL. But I am saying that the Ravens consider the position one of their chief strengths going forward and feel no urgency to upgrade it, just like at quarterback and tight end.
That's because Lardarius Webb, a third-round pick out of Nicholls State in 2009, is emerging as a legitimate shutdown corner at the age of 26. Webb is a restricted free agent and the Ravens are expected to put a first-round tender on him. But what they'd really like to do is sign him to a long-term contract extension.
Smith acclimated himself well on and off the field and showed enough in his rookie season despite missing some time with a high ankle sprain for team officials to believe he, too, can develop into a shutdown corner. He's just 23 years old.
And Cary Williams, who the Ravens signed from the Tennessee Titans, has emerged as another solid corner, starting all year for the Ravens and certainly holding his own. He's 27.
And after those three, the Ravens still have two 25-year-olds in Brown and Danny Gorrer who provide depth.
That depth is expected to lead to the release of veteran corners Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr who have both been starters for the Ravens in the past.
Even with the confirmation that Ed Reed is coming back for at least one more season and the expected return of Bernard Pollard, the Ravens will probably add a safety in either the draft or free agency. Reserve safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski are both free agents and I'd say the odds are that both will depart for bigger roles elsewhere.
So team officials won't totally ignore the defensive backs today. But it has to feel good for the organization that they have turned a significant weakness into a major strength in just over a year's span.
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