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Ravens should pick a top cornerback in the NFL draft

Ravens should pick a top cornerback in the NFL draft
Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes looks on before the start of the Cotton Bowl. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

The NFL draft is several months away, but early indications are the Ravens will be able to draft a top cornerback late in the first round, according to ESPN analyst Mel Kiper.

Kiper says the position has some depth and the Ravens will probably be able to draft one of college football's top four cornerbacks if they keep their No. 26 overall pick. Signing a top cornerback is one of the team's top priorities, if not No. 1.

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The top four cornerbacks right now appear to be Michigan State's Trae Waynes (6-1, 185 pounds), Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson (6-2, 215), Washington's Marcus Peters (5-11, 193) and LSU's Jason Collins (6-1, 195).

"There is some talent here, but no elite cornerbacks, no Darrelle Revis," Kiper said. "But we still have the combine and Pro days, and these players could go up and down according to their workouts. Everybody is always looking for that great cornerback, which is why some teams will stretch in getting one. But by the time the Ravens draft, according to past history, at least two of the top four should be available.

"Waynes is a really good prospect and Johnson is going to be a good player once he adds some weight and strength. Perhaps the best of them all, certainly one of the most athletic, is Peters, the kid out of Washington, but he has some baggage because he was dismissed from the team because of disciplinary issues."

Kiper said the Ravens could also find some cornerback help in the second round out of Florida State. The Seminoles have two prospects in Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams.

Last year, the Ravens were ranked No. 23 in pass defense, allowing 248.7 yards per game. They will have one top cornerback returning, Jimmy Smith, who missed the remainder of the season after a foot injury in Week 8. The Ravens would like to find another one to complement him on the other side.

Webb might take pay cut

If defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is the most likely player to take a pay cut and get the Ravens some salary cap relief, then cornerback Lardarius Webb has to be next.

Webb started 11 games in 2014 and finished with 46 tackles and only one interception. He showed signs of slowing down because of recurring knee and back injuries. Opposing teams didn't hesitate going after Webb.

He is expected to make $8 million in base salary in 2015 with $12 million going against the cap. His performances the past two seasons have not warranted such a high salary.

It was interesting to note that at the end of the season Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the secondary didn't need a major overhaul, but the Ravens can't win with cornerbacks such like Rashaan Melvin, Anthony Levine and Danny Gorrer playing primary roles.

And do the Ravens really trust Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks at safety?

Here is a word of advice for the Ravens scouting department: Please find some corners with ball awareness skills, and some smart safeties.

Surprised by J. Lewis

It was surprising and sad to hear about former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis auctioning off a Super Bowl ring for $50,000.

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For Lewis to do that, he must be in a dire situation. He always played with such pride and off the field seemed composed and well grounded as far as running his businesses.

Those memories of Jamal Lewis and linebacker Ray Lewis pounding both sides of the line of scrimmage in the Ravens 2000 Super Bowl season will never be forgotten.

Offensive insurance

I am assuming one of the reasons Harbaugh hired Marty Mornhinweg as his new quarterbacks coach is because he needed an insurance policy.

If new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has as much success as Gary Kubiak last year, he might get another shot at being a head coach, just like Kubiak.

If that happens, Mornhinweg, who has experience as an offensive coordinator in both New York and Philadelphia, can step right in.

What about Forsett?

I want to see how the Ravens handle negotiations with free agent running back Justin Forsett during the offseason. Was he a product of the system implemented by Kubiak or just a late bloomer?

Forsett rushed for 1,266 yards in 2014 after playing sparingly during the previous five seasons for four teams. While in Denver, Kubiak had a habit of turning no-name running backs into 1,000 yard rushers, and he pulled off the same magic with Forsett.

But with Kubiak heading back to Denver in 2015 as the head coach, how much do the Ravens value Forsett and does Trestman, who runs the same system as Kubiak, believe in Forsett or want his own feature back?

So much for that

Remember when Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was harshly criticized for not throwing to his receivers during the offseason last year? Apparently, there were devastating consequences.

Flacco had career best in yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27). He averaged 7.2 yards per completion and finished with a quarterback rating of 91.0 — both the second-best marks of his career. He also completed 62.1 percent of his passes, third-best of his career.

I hope he doesn't throw a lot to his receivers again this offseason.

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