In the past couple of months, Ravens officials have taken turns challenging young safety Matt Elam while also praising how he's handled the offseason. Elam has lost weight and seems to understand that this could be a make-or-break year for him.
But the best thing that the Ravens could have done for Elam is what they did last week: sign a proven slot corner in Kyle Arrington.
Elam was forced to play in the slot regularly last season after the Ravens' cornerback corps was riddled by injuries. He never looked comfortable. There were times that he had good coverage, but didn't react to the ball. There were times that he had decent position, but missed the tackle. And then there were plenty of instances where Elam completely lost his man.
Perhaps just being asked to play safety would simplify things for Elam, who always seems to be thinking too much rather than reacting. Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill are the projected starters at safety and if they remain healthy and productive, the Ravens are in a position where they could have Elam focus on a single role. That could go a long way.
The Ravens putting in an unsuccessful waiver claim for former Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger, who was ultimately awarded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a potential move for both the present and future.
The Ravens have seven safeties on the roster, but Terrence Brooks could miss the entire season as he recovers from a knee injury and Alabama undrafted free agent Nick Perry is certainly no lock to make the roster, nor is Brynden Trawick.
A definite case could be made that safety is the Ravens' thinnest position right now. But the position could also continue to be an issue next offseason, when Hill is scheduled to hit free agency.
As big of a disappointment as he was in Houston, Swearinger could have provided some insurance in the future. Now, the Ravens will have to hope that Brooks gets healthy and matures as a player.
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith announced his retirement on Monday, continuing a trend for both participants in Super Bowl XLVII.
That game was a little over 27 months ago. Yet of the Ravens' defensive starters that day, only outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw remain with the team. As for the 49ers, only three defensive starters are still in place: inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman and outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks.
That means 17 of 22 defensive starters from Super Bowl XLVII are either out of the NFL or playing elsewhere. That's pretty remarkable, even by NFL standards.
The Ravens are always monitoring the free agent market and the waiver wire. Along with a safety, another piece that they could still probably use is a veteran outside pass rusher.
Behind Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Upshaw, who is still a question mark as a pass rusher, they are pretty thin. Who knows how much fourth-round draft pick Za'Darius Smith will be able to contribute early? And while several members of the organization have talked up Steven Means, he doesn't have a career sack.
There are still several accomplished pass rushers available on the free agent market, though it's unclear how much any of them have left. That group includes John Abraham, Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora. I can't see the Ravens doing anything now, preferring to give Smith and Means the repetitions. But if one of the outside linebackers gets injured or if the position looks to be an issue later in the summer, I wouldn't be surprised if the Ravens brought in a veteran.
The Ravens have their first week of organized team activities next week. I wouldn't expect veteran guard Marshal Yanda to be there because he has skipped these workouts in recent offseasons. But the best thing that could come out of the next couple of weeks for the Ravens, other than staying healthy, is to get Yanda signed to a long-term contract extension.
Getting an extension done with cornerback Jimmy Smith was an important first step, but it's still a pretty imposing list of contracts that the Ravens will have to address next offseason. They'll have to hammer out a restructuring with quarterback Joe Flacco while Yanda, fellow starting guard Kelechi Osemele, Upshaw, kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch are all free agents following the 2015-16 campaign.
With their perennial salary cap issues, it's very hard to see the Ravens paying top dollar for two guards, especially with recent draft picks John Urschel and Robert Myers waiting in the wings. As good as Osemele is -- and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he made the Pro Bowl this season -- I would think the Ravens will prioritize trying to make sure Yanda finishes his career with the team.
Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said on his Twitter account Monday night that he's working on a book about his life that will be available in October. The book, which will be called: "I Feel Like Going On: Life, Game, and Glory," is being co-written with Daniel Paisner. Paisner has also co-written books with tennis star Serena Williams and "Shark Tank" entrepreneur Daymond John.