OWINGS MILLS - They have a potential hole at left tackle should Bryant McKinnie, as expected, not be brought back as a free agent. They could look at add another pass rusher if Paul Kruger, as expected, leaves as a free agent. And they could also look at add depth at cornerback with Lardarius Webb coming off major knee surgery and Cary Williams expected to be leave as a free agent.
But the main area of the field the Baltimore Ravens will look to address this offseason? The middle of the defense.
Nose tackle was a consistent area of concern for the Ravens throughout the course of the year. Former second-round pick Terrence Cody was a disappointment in his third NFL season. He lost his starting job to Ma'ake Kemoeatu during the preseason and struggled while rotating with Kemoeatu throughout the year. Kemoeatu, a 34-year old who was out of football since 2010 prior to signing with the Ravens during this past offseason, struggled at times as well, although not to the same degree as Cody.
At inside linebacker, Ray Lewis is retiring, Dannell Ellerbe is a pending free agent and Jameel McClain is coming off a season-ending spinal cord injury that has his availability for next season still up in the air. There's a chance - if Ellerbe leaves as a free agent, McClain is unavailable due to the neck injury and reserve Brendon Ayanbadejo is released for cap-related reasons - that former practice squad member Josh Bynes is the lone healthy inside linebacker on the roster from this year's team.
And at free safety, Ed Reed is a free agent and the two players that would likely vie for his position should he not be back - Omar Brown and Christian Thompson - are both young, unproven commodities that made little impact as rookies this past season.
Brown's been referred to by teammates as "Baby Ed Reed" based on his ability to consistently find the football and create turnovers, but he's a former undrafted free agent that's undersized with marginal speed and saw action in only three games this past season - with the majority of that action coming on special teams.
Thompson's a former fourth-round pick with an intriguing combination of size and athleticism, but he's still raw and didn't see a single snap on defense prior to being placed on season-ending injured reserve in mid-November.
"We've talked about it - the middle of the defense," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said of the team's top need heading into the offseason. "We think we have to get better at [nose] tackle. We know that one [inside] linebacker is retiring and another one is a free agent. We have a safety that is a free agent, and some young guys [there] that have yet to step up. So, we would say the middle of the defense is probably the [main] area we will concentrate on."
REED'S FUTURE: Newsome said he hasn't talked "officially" with Reed regarding the veteran safety's future with the team, but he talked Thursday about Reed's desire to remain with Baltimore and seemed optimistic that the team would be able to work out a deal with Reed for the safety to remain with the Ravens.
"Unofficially, we've had conversations," Newsome said. "He's representing himself still. I don't know if he has an agent. I think he wanted to let some time clear. [But] at some point, he and I will sit down. I think he realizes there may be some other options out there, but I think if you watched him, and watched his body language over the course of the last eight or 10 days, that he loves being here in Baltimore.
"I think we can use that to help make that relationship last a little longer."
NGATA NOT SERIOUS: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata suffered a knee injury during the third quarter of the Super Bowl that prevented him from returning to the game, but Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said Thursday that Ngata's injury isn't considered serious.
"There is nothing serious with Haloti," Harbaugh said. "There are some things in there. We will just have to wait and see, but it won't be anything that should keep him out of training camp or anything like that."
TEAM OPTIMISTIC ABOUT McCLAIN: Harbaugh sounded optimistic Thursday regarding the status of McClain, a three-year starter for the Ravens at inside linebacker who's still in the process of working his way back from the season-ending spinal cord contusion he suffered in early December.
"We're still looking at Jameel, but I'm very optimistic based off of what Ozzie shared with us [Wednesday]," Harbaugh said. "We are very optimistic about that."