"There are going to be players that are going to be released in training camp. We are not done," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
There is no deadline for improving an NFL roster. Ozzie Newsome reminded everyone of that at every opportunity during the three-day draft, and his history as Ravens general manager bears it out.
Newsome has consistently been able to plug holes and find contributors long after the draft is over and sometimes just as the regular season is about to begin. He added quarterback Steve McNair and middle linebacker Daryl Smith in June. He signed offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie in August and wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and offensive tackle Willie Anderson in September.
After making six selections in the draft and bolstering his defense while failing to provide any help at the offensive skill positions, Newsome said he'd immediately get back to work to try and get coach John Harbaugh's team more help.
"For those of you that have been here for years, you know there are going to be players that are going to be released after the draft. There are going to be players that are going to be released in training camp. We are not done," Newsome said. "The draft is a big part of it, and we are not done with the 53-man squad that we are going to play with when we open up against Cincinnati. We probably will still add some after that."
The draft left the team's roster in an interesting state. Barring injuries or releases, the Ravens probably have more depth than they can possibly use at tight end and outside linebacker. They are well stocked on the defensive line and in the secondary.
However, there are obvious questions about what the Ravens' plans are at wide receiver and a couple of spots along the offensive line, and it remains to be seen what they'll do at weak-side linebacker if 2016 second-round pick Kamalei Correa doesn't show enough growth in his sophomore season.
"We have got to give our own players every opportunity," Newsome said. "That is what John and his staff do: give them every opportunity to compete and win jobs before we just start scouring the waiver wire or do things."
Team officials will get their first look at their 2017 draft class on the field later this week at the rookie minicamp. The primary purpose of the camp is to allow first-year players to get their feet wet and start acclimating themselves to the NFL. No conclusions will be made, but the workouts will give Harbaugh and his coaching staff a better idea of how the pieces fit.
Until an addition or two is made, the offense will remain the biggest puzzle after Newsome and company failed to draft an offensive skill position player for the first time in franchise history.
While they surprisingly didn't delve into a loaded running back draft class, they seemingly are fine at the position with Terrance West (Towson University, Northwestern High), Kenneth Dixon, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Stephen Houston. It's inconceivable that the Ravens will be able to carry all six of their tight ends — Dennis Pitta, Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller — on their regular-season-opening roster, so a decision or two will have to be made there.
At wide receiver, they'll need to add not subtract. They lost Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken from last year's group and haven't added anyone aside from a few rookie free agents. That leaves a depth chart headed by Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and Chris Moore. Other roster options include Chris Matthews, Keenan Reynolds (Navy), Kenny Bell and Vince Mayle.
Newsome said team officials will first look internally at their wide receiver options, but he knows there are other avenues to finding another target for quarterback Joe Flacco. The free-agent class includes a number of accomplished-yet-aging pass catchers, including former Raven Anquan Boldin, Victor Cruz, Vincent Jackson and Stevie Johnson.
That group figures to grow in the coming weeks, with teams potentially moving on from older receivers to make room for players they just drafted. Trading with a team that has an excess of receivers, such as the Philadelphia Eagles, is an option as well.
"Am I going to be spending between now and up until we play Cincinnati to continue to improve the football team and try to get an additional wide receiver? Yes," Newsome said. "We will continue to work to get that done."
The Ravens added San Diego State guard-center Nico Siragusa and Texas A&M tackle Jermaine Eluemunor on the draft's third day, but it isn't clear whether either is a likely day-one starter. Right now, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right guard Marshal Yanda are set in their spots. The Ravens would like to keep Alex Lewis at left guard, but they also could use him at right tackle and Harbaugh even brought up the fact that he believes Lewis can play center.
The top candidates to replace Jeremy Zuttah at center are John Urschel, Ryan Jensen and Siragusa. The right tackle spot, vacated by Rick Wagner, is even murkier, with James Hurst, De'Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot and Eluemunor. If they're not comfortable with their options, veteran center Nick Mangold and tackles Ryan Clady and King Dunlap are still free agents looking for work.
"We are going to have some guys competing in there for different spots, but we have to find our best five players," Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh's defense, which was upgraded by free-agent additions of defensive backs Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr and the addition of five draft picks, has far fewer questions. In fact, the only spot where the Ravens really lack depth is at weak-side linebacker. Correa, Albert McClellan and Patrick Onwuasor are the options.
Otherwise, they have an abundance of edge rushers in Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon, Za'Darius Smith and rookie draft picks Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. They're not lacking in depth in the interior of the defensive line either, with Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi and rookie third-round pick Chris Wormley.
They have four potential starters at cornerback with Jimmy Smith, Carr, Tavon Young and first-round pick Marlon Humphrey, and their top three safeties are set with Eric Weddle, Jefferson and Lardarius Webb.
"There are plenty of offensive guys that we looked at in both the draft and in free agency and we tried to get. It worked out for defense," Harbaugh said. "So, we've made our team that much stronger, and our offense and defense and special teams will all play off each other in a complementary way and the best way that they can."