Don’t miss Orioles players, John Means & Paul Fry, as they guest host at our Brews and O’s event!

Ozzie Newsome keeps eye on the free agent market

In the past, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been able to add some quality players in the second phase of free agency because of patience, and that won't change in 2014.

In 2011, the Ravens added left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie shortly before the season began and last year signed inside linebacker Daryl Smith on June 5. Smith went on to lead the team in tackles last season with 123.

As of Monday, the Ravens were quite comfortable with their 90-player roster.

"Basically, most of the players have been pored over and picked through," Newsome said. "Because of the June 1 deadline and salary cap acceleration, we'll just have to wait and see who gets released. We might become more active later in the week, but right now we're holding steady."

When asked if the Ravens were still in the market for a right offensive tackle or another cornerback, Newsome replied, "We're happy with the guys we have, and if we brought somebody in, it would have to be a significant upgrade."

Finding another cornerback still should be a concern. The Ravens lost starter Corey Graham in March to the Buffalo Bills after Graham signed a four-year, $16 million contract. Even though they still have two quality starters in Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, they need to find a third.

The two top candidates are Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown, but Jackson served a four-game suspension in 2012 and eight games last year for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The two players have Webb's support, but Newsome still might add another corner through free agency.

"They're going to be big for us coming up this year, knowing that we didn't take any corners in the draft," Webb said. "Ozzie knows he has two great, young guys that are coming up.

"You've got Asa Jackson, who can play the nickel and outside but mostly better inside. And Chykie Brown has been playing good. He's had his chance to get out on the field and [gain] experience, but now he gets thrown in and it's his. He's going to get to show you all what he's capable of."

The Ravens still need a veteran presence at right tackle. Both starting candidates, Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen, are second-year players with little experience. Former Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston has been mentioned as a possible replacement, but so far the Ravens haven't been aggressive in pursuing him.

The Ravens will probably give both Wagner and Jensen time to claim the starting spot through the first two preseason games, and then make a move if neither earns the job.

Webb adding leadership

With former defensive leaders like Bernard Pollard, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis all one year removed, Webb is filling the leadership void.

He wants to return to his top form of two years ago, when he was on the verge of making his first Pro Bowl appearance when a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the second of his career, forced him to miss the remaining 10 games of the season. Webb went through rehabilitation quickly, but didn't appear close to 100 percent until midway through the 2013 season.

Now, he is just glad to participate in offseason mini camps.

"It feels good; it feels more bouncy," said Webb, comparing his knee to this time last season. "[I'm] just happy to be on the field, running around with no pain. [I'm] just trying to take over my leadership role in the back end and just be me."

"It was about the middle of the season [before I felt normal]," Webb said. "At first, I was just trying to get the trust back again. I couldn't plant when I wanted to, couldn't do the things I wanted to do, couldn't jump. Everything just wasn't as fast as I wanted it to be. And then, toward the end of the season, it just started coming back natural, as I kept working on it. I'm going to get back to where I'm supposed to be."

Reed an assistant?

The idea of Reed becoming an assistant coach is intriguing, but it's way too soon for the team to offer him that opportunity.

Reed works well with younger players and they flock to him. But there were times when his moodiness was disruptive, and some of the current players who were on the roster two years ago will remember.

As far as playing this season, Reed is going to need things to break his way. If you're not currently on a 90-man roster, then there's the real possibility you won't be playing in 2014.

He should stay away, anyway. It's not worth sustaining another neck or shoulder injury playing part of a season.

Missing players from OTAs

Quarterback Joe Flacco has taken a lot of criticism for not conducting off-site passing sessions with his receivers, but there haven't been many complaints about outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty failing to appear for last week's voluntary, three-day organized team activities.

Flacco didn't play well last season but at least he showed up last week. Suggs disappeared in the second half of the 2013 season and Canty performed below expectations. Ngata was solid, but not dominating.

Those three could use the extra work.

Maintaining weight

Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw struggled with his weight last offseason but appears to have gotten it under control in this offseason. Running back Ray Rice also looked good last week.

One of the most surprising players was second-year defensive tackle Brandon Williams, who was running from drill to drill. Improved play by Williams would be a major plus for the Ravens, especially since he struggled last season as a rookie.

My choice for Ravens breakout player this season is cornerback Jimmy Smith. He has the size, speed and can play press coverage at the line of scrimmage.

Now, if he can improve his ball awareness skills, that will take his game to the next level. Smith, a 2011 first-round pick, is in his fourth season, so it's about time for him to start dominating.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad