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Looking at the Ravens' biggest needs and their options to fill them

Ravens beat writer Jeff Zrebiec takes a look at the Ravens biggest needs and who are some of the free agents that can fill those positions. (Baltimore Sun video)

Ravens officials have made it clear that their focus is currently on the draft, which is now less than four weeks away. As they move closer to April 27 and being on the clock with the 16th overall pick, team officials will continue to meet with prospects and review their draft board. But much of the heavy lifting has already been done.

Meanwhile, general manager Ozzie Newsome remains on the lookout for opportunities to fortify his roster. Newsome doesn't like entering the draft with glaring hole because he wants to adhere to his "best-player available" philosophy.

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But Newsome's task is complicated by the Ravens having little remaining salary cap space – per NFLPA records, they are just $6 million under the cap – and the team's desire to preserve one or two compensatory picks for 2018.

At the league meetings earlier this week, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the team is considering all its options, including signing true free agents or players who were cut and won't count in the compensatory formula, trades, filling spots internally and obviously the draft.

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Let's look at the Ravens' position needs and go over their primary options to fill them:

Wide receiver

Why it's a need: The Ravens are extremely thin at proven commodities behind Mike Wallace. They're hopeful Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore will emerge into consistent playmakers next year and Michael Campanaro and Chris Matthews also possess qualities the team needs. As Harbaugh said this week, the Ravens need one receiver to add to the mix and make an immediate impact.

Internal options: Perriman, Moore, Campanaro and Moore all could see bigger roles next year, but the other receivers on the roster are Keenan Reynolds, Vince Mayle and Kenny Bell.

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Top remaining free agents: Anquan Boldin, Michael Floyd, Andrew Hawkins, Victor Cruz.

In the draft: At least one of the draft's top three receivers – Clemson's Mike Wallace, Western Michigan's Corey Davis and Washington's John Ross – will likely be available when the Ravens are on the clock at 16. USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster, Penn State's Chris Godwin, East Carolina's Zay Jones and Virginia Tech's Isaiah Ford could be second-day options.

Most likely scenario: Ideally, the Ravens would add a veteran like Boldin, who is no rush to sign, and also draft another receiver in the middle rounds. However, Boldin is reportedly hoping to play closer to his South Florida home so a reunion may not be in the cards. Beyond him, there's not an obvious free-agent fit unless the Ravens feel that Cruz and Vincent Jackson have some good football left. Given that and their stated offseason desire to get quarterback Joe Flacco more help, the Ravens face some pressure to take a receiver early in the draft.

Right tackle

Why it's a need: Rick Wagner, a three-year starter for the Ravens, signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal with the Detroit Lions early in free agency. His departure has left a significant question mark on an offensive line that team officials have vowed to solidify this offseason.

Internal options: Harbaugh mentioned De'Ondre Wesley and Stephane Nembot as prime competitors for the job, while later including veteran James Hurst in the equation. He also didn't rule out moving Alex Lewis to right tackle, but the Ravens would clearly prefer keeping him at left guard, where they think he could develop into a Pro Bowl performer.

Top remaining free agents: King Dunlap, Ryan Clady, Austin Pasztor

In the draft: It's a relatively weak draft for tackles although Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk is projected as a mid first-round pick and Alabama's Cam Robinson and Utah's Garett Bolles could go off the board late Day One or early Day Two.

Most likely scenario: The Ravens like the potential of Wesley and Nembot, who are raw but massive. Wesley is 6-foot-6 and 326 pounds while Nembot is 6-6 and 320. However, it's very hard to imagine the team entrusting the tackle spot to players who spent all of last season on the injured list. For a team that badly needs playmakers on both sides of the ball, it also would be difficult to use a first-round pick on an offensive tackle for a second straight year. The best bet would be signing a player like Dunlap, who played some solid football under Ravens offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris in San Diego, and taking a tackle with some upside on the second or third day of the draft.

Center

Why it's a need: The Ravens traded Jeremy Zuttah, their starter the past three seasons, to the San Francisco 49ers. Even before the trade, they had targeted finding an upgrade at the position.

Internal options: John Urschel and Ryan Jensen both have starting experience although it's primarily at the guard position. Jensen offers a little more size and nastiness and Urschel is more of a technician. Urschel was Zuttah's primary backup last year and started seven games at center in 2015.

Top remaining free agents: Nick Mangold, John Sullivan

In the draft: Ohio State's Pat Elflein and Louisiana State's Ethan Pocic are the top players available in an unheralded center class.

Most likely scenario: It doesn't appear the Ravens and other NFL teams are convinced that Mangold, who was cut by the New York Jets, would be an upgrade. Sullivan really isn't a starting-caliber center at this point. The Ravens are probably better off letting Urschel and Jensen compete for the job and taking a guard/center type in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft.

Pass rusher

Why it's a need: Terrell Suggs will turn 35 in October and the Ravens released veteran Elvis Dumervil earlier this offseason. The Ravens had just 31 sacks last year – only six teams had fewer – and they've prioritized improving their pass rush.

Internal options: The cupboard obviously isn't bare with Suggs still capable and Matthew Judon and Za'Darius Smith having potential. However, Smith took a step back last year with one sack after finishing with 5 ½ as a rookie.

Top remaining free agents: Dumervil, Paul Kruger, Dwight Freeney

In the draft: There are a ton of quality pass rushers available with Tennessee's Derek Barnett, UCLA's Takkarist McKinley, Missouri's Charles Harris, Michigan's Taco Charlton and Alabama's Tim Williams among the first-day options.

Most likely scenario: The Ravens will draft a pass rusher. The only question is how early. There's a decent chance that they take one in the first round if the guy they covet is available. Dumervil and Freeney can still provide a jolt as pass-rushing specialists, but the Ravens really need to get younger and more explosive on the outside. Coming out of the draft with an heir apparent for Suggs would be a coup.

Inside linebacker

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Why it's a need: The surprising retirement of 2016 leading tackler Zachary Orr because of a neck/spine condition leaves a hole alongside C.J. Mosley. The Ravens have some internal options to fill Orr's spot, but it's a high-impact position and they'll want to make sure they're not thin there.

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Internal options: A second-round pick in 2016, Kamalei Correa is the top internal candidate despite a disappointing rookie season in which he had trouble getting on the field. The Ravens shuttled Correa between outside and inside linebacker, but they see his future on the inside. He has much to prove with his physicality, practice habits and explosiveness. Veteran Albert McClellan and Patrick Onwuasor could also factor.

Top remaining free agents: Zach Brown, Perry Riley, Sio Moore

In the draft: Alabama's Reuben Foster is the best inside linebacker in the draft, but he'll likely be off the board by the time the Ravens pick despite some off-the-field concerns. Temple's Haason Reddick, who could play on the edge as well, would give defensive coordinator Dean Pees some flexibility. Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham and Florida's Jarrad Davis are nice prospects as well.

Most likely scenario: Harbaugh expressed confidence in Correa stepping into a starting role. Still, the Ravens need to add somebody else into the mix in case Correa doesn't make a second-year jump. At this point, there's no evidence that the Ravens have tried to add a free agent inside linebacker, so they'll almost certainly draft one. Reddick is typically the type of player the Ravens covet, but there's no guarantee he'll still be available at 16.

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