Baltimore Ravens

Keep them or cut them? Ravens have decisions to make on several veterans

The nucleus of the Ravens won't change for the 2017 season, but there should be quite a few new faces on the roster.

The Ravens came up a just a few inches short of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Day, a loss that knocked them out of playoff contention, so changes have to be made in order to take the next step as far as challenging for a championship.


Don't be surprised if the Ravens cut a few veterans such as safeties Kendrick Lewis and Lardarius Webb, linebacker Elvis Dumervil and cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Shareece Wright.

And what about outside linebacker Terrell Suggs?


Well, let's put him in the untouchable category right now. He is in the same class with former Ravens greats Ray Lewis — one of the game's best-ever linebackers — and Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. He'll probably leave on his own terms.

Not only is he a favorite of general manager Ozzie Newsome, but even at age 34 he is still better than most at his position. Plus, Suggs has one other factor working in his favor: He is the last dynamic personality from the Ravens' great alpha-male purge of 2013.

With receiver Steve Smith set to retire, Suggs is the only player on the roster who can bring that type of energy and leadership to the Ravens. But after Suggs, it could be open season as far as getting rid of veterans.

The Ravens' defense imploded at the end of the last season, especially in the secondary, so there is no need to bring back Arrington ($2.1 million base salary in 2017) and Lewis ($1.8 million) who both finished on injured reserve last season. Webb had his moments in 2016, but at age 31, he isn't worth paying $5.5 million next season.

Keeping Dumervil around would be even worse because he played in only seven games last season and is expected to make $6 million in 2017. As for Wright, it is still hard to explain why the Ravens signed him to a three-year extension in March. He was so bad that at the team's end-of-the-year press conference this month, team owner Steve Bisciotti not only threw him under the bus but backed it over him.

Bye bye.

The Ravens need some new blood in the secondary. They need playmakers. If they had players who could simply tackle at the end of the game they would have beaten Pittsburgh. Now, it's time to move on.

The Ravens have talked about redefining their offense and developing a running game to complement the passing game and quarterback Joe Flacco. It will be interesting to see what they do at the tight end position.


New assistant coach Greg Roman will coordinate the running game and he likes to use formations with two tight ends. The Ravens have one good blocker in Nick Boyle, but finding another could be a problem.

Neither second-year player Maxx Williams nor Crockett Gillmore can stay healthy, and Dennis Pitta isn't physical enough. Veteran Ben Watson used to be able to do the job, but he has to prove at age 36 that he can come back from an Achilles injury suffered in the preseason.

The assumption here is that Watson prove himself in training camp and preseason games, and the Ravens need to ask Pitta to take a pay cut. They shouldn't be paying a part-time tight end $5.5 million in 2017.

Receiver Mike Wallace is another veteran the Ravens have to make a tough decision on. He still has speed and can make big plays, but at the end of last season he showed why he has played for four teams since 2012.

He wanted to be targeted more and when that didn't happen he pouted and wasn't aggressive in attempting to catch the ball. If third-year receiver Breshad Perriman was more consistent the Ravens might be tempted to cut Wallace, but now they might have to sign another speedster via free agency.

The decision won't be as difficult for veteran center Jeremy Zuttah. He is too small.


Bye, bye.

The Ravens have to replace Zuttah, and that could happen through the draft. John Urschel has been mentioned as Zuttah's possible replacement, but he has struggled with big nose tackles

As far as their own free agents, re-signing nose tackle Brandon Williams should be the team's top priority, followed by locking up right offensive tackle Rick Wagner and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Wagner might command too much on the open market, though, Meanwhile, receiver Kamar Aiken probably won't return because he felt underused this season.

The Ravens could bring back other free agents such as defensive lineman Lawrence Guy and safety Matt Elam, but they have to come cheap.

Overall, it won't be a drastic makeover. But the Ravens have to make progress or there could be changes in the coaching and front office staffs next season.

Those few inches that led to disappointment in 2016 will cast a shadow and put a lot of pressure on the organization in 2017.