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Jacoby Jones' replacement as return specialist might not be on Ravens roster

Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro finished last season as Jacoby Jones' backup at kick returner.
Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro finished last season as Jacoby Jones' backup at kick returner. (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

With the release of Super Bowl XLVII hero Jacoby Jones officially beginning the Ravens' offseason activity, the team appears to have created another need for itself.

The team's roster includes several options to return kicks, all of whom present their own question marks about whether each is the man to replace Jones.

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Outside of wide receiver Steve Smith, who hasn't returned kicks regularly since 2005, cornerback Lardarius Webb is the most experienced return man on the roster. He has 37 kick returns and 53 punt returns in his career — though just two of them have come since 2011, with five fair catches in 2014.

Additionally, Webb's roster status could be in jeopardy as the team seeks to restructure his contract, which carries a $12 million salary cap hit. And at a position as important to the team's fortunes as cornerback, Webb could be too valuable to risk as a returner if he's back in 2015.

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The end-of-season depth chart listed wide receiver Michael Campanaro (River Hill) as the second-string kick and punt returner, but he was active for just six games and missed time with a hamstring injury.

He returned two punts, with one fair catch, for a total of 17 yards. His biggest game of the regular season came in Week 8, when he had three catches for 40 yards before he pulled up lame.

But that injury history leaves questions about whether he can be counted on as the team's full-time returner.

Same goes for another option, cornerback Asa Jackson. Jackson doesn't have a regular-season kick or punt return to his name, but produced a 78-yard punt return in the 2013 preseason against Atlanta that showed he's capable. He also returned punts and kicks at Cal Poly.

Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint returned a pair of kicks in 2014 as the up-man, and could grow in the role going forward. Cornerback Victor Hampton, signed to a reserve-future contract in January, returned some kicks in college at South Carolina, while cornerback Tramain Jacobs, who was active for three games in 2014, returned kicks in high school and junior college.

So if the Ravens want a speedy, playmaking return man to replicate Jones' peak production at a fraction of the cost, it appears such a player isn't on the roster yet. But with free agency, the NFL Draft, and the post-draft rush of college free agent signings all on the horizon, there's little doubt there will be one before long.

If they can fill this vacancy, along with adding some receiver or cornerback depth in the process, I'm sure the front office and coaching staff would be even happier.

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