It probably should have been pretty obvious already, but Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s comments last week made it even clearer that the team is focused on adding impact defensive players in next month’s NFL draft.
There will be plenty of talk about taking the “best player available,” but it seems that everybody around the Ravens sure hopes that “best player” plays defense. What’s unclear is whether one of the draft’s top defensive players still will be on the board when the Ravens are picking at No. 6 overall.
Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack would be obvious picks for the Ravens, yet it’s possible all three could go in the top five. Ramsey almost certainly will.
It isn’t apparent how Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner fits into the Ravens’ equation, given that an interior defensive lineman isn’t a need. And if the Ravens trade back several spots, which Bisciotti acknowledged they could do, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves might come into play. Of course, the Ravens won’t reveal much in the weeks leading up to the draft, and Bisciotti even joked about general manager Ozzie Newsome taking all offensive players with the team's first three picks. But it would be surprising if the Ravens don’t go for defense early and often.
What about Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley? All along, the perception has been that the Ravens like Stanley and would be comfortable taking him and immediately plugging him in as their left tackle. I’ve just never gotten the impression that he would be their top choice at No. 6. The sense I get is that other options would have to go off the board for the Ravens to choose Stanley. As I mentioned above, that very well could happen, especially if the Cleveland Browns (No. 2 pick) and the Dallas Cowboys (No. 4) don’t draft quarterbacks.
On the lookout
Speaking of left tackles, the Ravens are monitoring the potential availability of the Denver Broncos' Ryan Clady and the New York Jets’ D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The Jets have been noncommittal on Ferguson, but they reportedly want him to take a pay cut. Clady, meanwhile, is on the trading block after the Broncos signed former Seattle Seahawk Russell Okung.
Trading for either player doesn’t make much sense, because the Ravens don’t want to give up draft picks or inherit a bad contract. But if either is waived, I’d expect the Ravens to at least kick the tires. As I wrote last week, Bisciotti’s comment that Eugene Monroe is the team’s starting left tackle heading into the season doesn’t really change a whole lot.
If the Ravens were going to cut Monroe, he likely would be a post-June 1 move anyway. So the team still has two months to see whether it can acquire an upgrade on Monroe. If not, Monroe is a preferable option to James Hurst, De’Ondre Wesley or Rick Wagner.
My take on the Ravens’ five biggest needs at this point of the offseason:
1. Pass rusher: Bisciotti said you need five of them. The Ravens really have only three edge rushers, and Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs are 32 and 33 years old, respectively. Free agent Dwight Freeney is 36, but he didn’t play like it last year.
2. Cornerback: The Ravens need another outside corner to challenge Shareece Wright.
3. Left tackle: Monroe’s chances of being the team’s starter have increased over the past couple of weeks, but I’m not buying that the Ravens are sold on that idea.
4. Inside linebacker: Who is going to start alongside C.J. Mosley? The Ravens say they like their internal options, but it’s hard to believe the team won’t add another inside linebacker. Myles Jack certainly would fill the void.
5. Offensive guard: Bisciotti expressed confidence in John Urschel as Kelechi Osemele’s replacement, and the coaching staff likes Ryan Jensen as well. But a veteran would provide nice insurance.
On the move?
John Harbaugh made an interesting comment last week when he was asked about replacing middle linebacker Daryl Smith.
He expressed confidence in Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan and Zachary Orr, but he also said the team could move a safety into that role, as the Arizona Cardinals did with Deone Bucannon, and the Los Angeles Rams with Mark Barron. It makes sense, but I’m just not sure that the Ravens have that type of safety on the roster.
Barron and Bucannon weigh 214 and 216 pounds, respectively. Most of the Ravens safeties, a group that includes Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Matt Elam and Anthony Levine, weigh 200 pounds or less. Kendrick Lewis weighs only 205. Perhaps the Ravens find that hybrid-type player in the draft.
Coming, going, staying
Here’s the scorecard about 2 1/2 weeks into free agency. The Ravens have signed Weddle, tight end Benjamin Watson and wide receiver Mike Wallace.
They have retained wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown, tight end Chase Ford, McClellan and linebacker Chris Carter, cornerback Shareece Wright, kicker Justin Tucker and long snapper Morgan Cox.
They have lost quarterback Matt Schaub (Atlanta Falcons), wide receiver Chris Givens (Philadelphia Eagles), offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele (Oakland Raiders), linebackers Daryl Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Courtney Upshaw (Falcons) and safety Brynden Trawick (Raiders).
There are four other 2015 Ravens who remain free agents, not counting safety Will Hill, who is facing a suspension: quarterback Jimmy Clausen, tight end Allen Reisner, defensive end Chris Canty and defensive lineman Micajah Reynolds.