Baltimore Ravens

Looking at the Ravens' biggest question at each position

There is no shortage of offseason questions for the Ravens, who have a relatively big unrestricted free agent class and a host of needs on both sides of the ball.

The Ravens' top decision makers are currently at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. From mid-to-late February, they'll likely start making roster cuts to get the team's salary cap in better order for the start of the new league year. Free agency starts on March 9, and then the NFL draft will begin about a month and a half later.


Below is one question that needs to be answered at each offensive and defensive position:

Quarterback: What will the Ravens do to stop Joe Flacco’s regression?

Much of this is Flacco's responsibility. Another offseason should do wonders for his surgically-repaired left knee, and a focus on fundamentals would go even further. Whether it's beefing up the offensive line, adding more weapons on the outside, fixing the run game or coming up with better schemes, the front office and coaching staff have to explore every avenue to help Flacco. None of the other potential roster improvements will matter much unless Flacco plays at a much higher level.  


Running back: Are the Ravens actually considering using their first-round pick on a running back?

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has made it clear. He wants a speedy home-run threat that will complement the physical styles of Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon.  It, however, is unclear what sort of investment the Ravens would make in another running back. If one of the draft's top two ball carriers – LSU's Leonard Fournette and Florida State's Dalvin Cook – is surprisingly available when the Ravens are on the clock at No. 16, they certainly would have a lot to think about.

Wide receiver: What will the Ravens do with Mike Wallace?

Wallace exceeded expectations in his first season with the Ravens, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark and proving he has plenty left. However, Wallace's $8 million salary cap hit in 2017 is the fifth highest on the team, and the Ravens may think the $5.75 million they would save by releasing him would be more beneficial in building their roster. With Steve Smith Sr. retiring and Kamar Aiken potentially leaving in free agency, the Ravens need to solidify a receiving group that may or may not include Wallace.

Tight end: Is there room for veterans Dennis Pitta and Benjamin Watson?

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Nick Boyle, Crockett Gillmore, Darren Waller and Maxx Williams are all on rookie contracts, so they'll be back to compete for spots in training camp. It's too early to say the same about Pitta and Watson. Pitta carries a $7.7 million salary cap number for next year, so he might be asked to take a pay cut in order to stay. Watson is 36 years old and coming off Achilles surgery, factors that make his status tenuous.   

Offensive line: How will the Ravens solidify the offensive line?

Team officials have said on several occasions they want an improved offensive line. They have three pieces in place with Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda, but the Ravens may look for an upgrade at center over Jeremy Zuttah, and they'll have a hard time re-signing free agent right tackle Rick Wagner, who will garner plenty of interest on the open market.

Defensive line: How far will the Ravens go to re-sign nose tackle Brandon Williams?

There's no doubt that Williams, an anchor on the defensive line and a key cog on the run defense, is the priority to re-sign in free agency. Williams, though, is expected to command a contract that either matches or exceeds the five-year, $46.25 million deal that the New York Giants gave defensive tackle Damon Harrison last offseason. That would be quite a commitment for a Ravens team with plenty of needs and not a ton of salary cap space.  

Outside linebacker: What will the Ravens do to address their pass rush?

Elvis Dumervil is a potential salary cap casualty and Terrell Suggs is 34 years old. Matthew Judon and Za'Darius Smith should improve with another offseason, but the Ravens badly need pass-rush reinforcements, either via the draft, free agency or both. The draft is loaded with edge rushers and the Ravens are expected to pick one relatively early.

Inside linebacker: Can Kamalei Correa replace Zachary Orr?

Last week's surprise retirement of Orr, the team's leading tackler last season, because of a congenital spine condition was a significant setback for the Ravens. Orr was an ascending player and the Ravens don't have an obvious NFL-ready replacement on their roster. It should mean that Correa, a second-round pick who played sparingly as a rookie, will get a greater opportunity to contribute.  He has a lot to prove after an extremely disappointing first season.     

Cornerback: Will the Ravens finally find a good complement to Jimmy Smith?

The Ravens' secondary fell apart this past season when the oft-injured Smith was unable to play. Tavon Young had a solid rookie season, but his size makes him better suited to play in the slot. The Ravens need to find another long and physical cornerback on the outside, as Shareece Wright clearly wasn't the answer. It's a good draft for cornerbacks, and the Ravens also will look to sign a veteran in free agency.


Safety: Will the Ravens keep Lardarius Webb?

In his first year as a safety, the converted cornerback had a solid year and got better throughout the season. He and veteran Eric Weddle developed nice chemistry. With Matt Elam and Anthony Levine Sr. hitting free agency and Kendrick Lewis a potential salary cap casualty, the Ravens don't have any insurance behind Webb. However, Webb's $7.5 million cap hit could be prohibitive for a team looking to get younger and quicker.