Let’s start by ranking the Ravens’ five biggest needs at this early juncture. We’ll update them in this space throughout the offseason.
1. Wide receivers: Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro are pending free agents, Jeremy Maclin is a potential salary cap casualty, and Breshad Perriman had 10 catches this year and will hardly be a lock to make next year’s team. That leaves Chris Moore and 2017 undrafted rookies Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White. The Ravens badly need help here, and it must come in both the draft and free agency.
2. Pass-catching tight end: Even with Benjamin Watson and Crockett Gillmore hitting free agency, the Ravens will still have Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams and Vince Mayle on the roster, and Darren Waller could be reinstated after his season-long suspension. But Waller is a wild card at this point, and none of those other options are threats to stretch the field or become reliable red-zone targets. An athletic and explosive tight end is a must this offseason.
3. Inside linebacker-hybrid safety: Patrick Onwuasor plays fast and hard, and the converted safety should improve the more he plays at a new position. However, the Ravens and C.J. Mosley need help defensively in the middle of the field, specifically in coverage. A fast and physical linebacker who can stick with tight ends is something the Ravens lack.
4. Young quarterback: Joe Flacco’s relatively strong finish has quieted some of the calls to find his eventual successor. It’s still something the Ravens should do sooner rather than later. Flacco turns 33 in two weeks and hasn’t played consistently well since 2014. Give him a few new weapons to work with and a healthy offseason, and he should be solid in 2018. Regardless, the Ravens need to start grooming a young quarterback.
5. Center: The Ravens could fill this one relatively easily by just re-signing pending free agent Ryan Jensen. If they don’t, this will have to be addressed. The healthy returns of Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa, coupled with Matt Skura’s solid season, mean the Ravens will be extremely deep at guard. Ronnie Stanley is entrenched at left tackle, and Austin Howard is serviceable at right tackle. Center will be the big question mark this offseason.
Not a great wideout group: Davante Adams’ decision last week to eschew the open market and sign a contract extension with the Green Bay Packers further weakens a free-agent wide receiver class that doesn’t provide a lot of high-end options for the Ravens.
The top guys available figure to be Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson, Terrelle Pryor, Marqise Lee and Jordan Matthews. Other than Landry, who would be a nice addition, none of those receivers have been especially durable.
A weak free-agent class is one more reason the Ravens would be well-served to try to re-sign Wallace and prioritize adding a wide receiver early in the draft.
‘Hard Knocks’ life? As Pro Football Talk wrote yesterday, the Ravens are one of six teams that the league could force to appear on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” a reality show that annually chronicles an NFL training camp.
The other five that fit the profile — they don’t have a new head coach, haven’t been to the playoffs in the past two years and haven’t been on the show in the past 10 — are the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins.
The Ravens were also eligible last season, but they informed the league that the major renovation of the Under Armour Performance Center would create too many logistical problems in housing the HBO crew as well as all the additional staffers and equipment.
Plus, practices with no fans, which were the case in Owings Mills last summer, wouldn’t have made for great TV anyway. The Ravens might not have that excuse this summer, but I still can’t see them being the focus of the show. The league prefers not forcing teams to do it, and as long as general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh are around, I can’t imagine the organization volunteering.
The Ravens haven’t exactly been a story-filled team in recent seasons either. With Jimmy Garoppolo’s emergence and general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan’s media-friendly ways, I’d imagine HBO would be plenty pleased to get the 49ers on the show.
Ten quick thoughts
1) If the guide is how the Ravens handled cornerback Jimmy Smith’s contract extension as he neared the end of his rookie deal, the Ravens will initiate contract talks with Mosley at some point before the draft. Getting him signed long-term is a must this offseason.
2) It would be interesting to see whether any team that has an offensive coordinator opening comes after Ravens senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach Greg Roman and the lengths the team would go to keep him if they did.
3) Here are some veterans under contract in 2018 who the Ravens potentially face decisions on if they want to create more salary cap flexibility: Maclin, Howard, running back Danny Woodhead, cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Lardarius Webb. I don’t think Terrell Suggs belongs on this list because it’s inconceivable to me that they would release him when his base salary is just $4 million next season.
4) In the past two seasons, Justin Tucker has made 72 of 76 field-goal attempts and 66 of 66 extra-point tries. Two of his misses were blocked, and the other two were from 58 and 62 yards. I think I said this last year, but I don’t know you’ll find too many people better at their respective jobs than Tucker is at his.
5) Hmm … The Ravens badly need a wide receiver. They have the 16th overall pick. Calvin Ridley is projected as a mid-first-round pick. Ridley plays for Alabama. Almost sounds too obvious.
6) The three-year, $25.5 million contract the Green Bay Packers gave to pending free-agent center Corey Linsley had to be music to Jensen’s ears. I don’t know that Jensen breaks the bank, but he should do pretty well for himself on the open market, whether it’s from the Ravens or someone else.
7) It was tough to not feel at least some empathy for running back Terrance West as he packed up and exited the Ravens’ locker room for probably the final time this week. The Baltimore native and former Towson University star is a pending free agent and it’s tough to foresee him being back, given Alex Collins’ emergence and the expected return of Kenneth Dixon. West went from the starting running back to not getting a single carry after his Week 5 calf strain, and he was a healthy scratch for six of the final seven games. West made $1.8 million this season, so nobody should shed any tears for him. However, he does deserve praise for how professionally and maturely he handled the situation. He grew exponentially in both areas after signing with the Ravens.
8) Seeing the 37-year-old Watson kneel in solitude at midfield after Sunday’s game and wearing cleats with pictures of his family members on them made me wonder whether the venerable tight end has played his last game of a standout career both on and off the field.
9) Maurice Canady went from making the first pass breakup of his career in preserving the win against the Indianapolis Colts to breaking down in coverage eight days later on the Cincinnati Bengals’ late game-winning touchdown. Tough to imagine a bigger swing of emotions for an improving young player.
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10) This offseason probably would be a good time to move Kamalei Correa back from inside linebacker to outside linebacker to see whether you can get some production from the 2016 second-round pick.