We begin our preview of the Ravens' draft possibilities with a look at the interior offensive line, where they need a young starter and where the 2019 class features an array of appealing first-round targets.
To make up ground in the AFC North as well as the conference, the Ravens need to have a quality draft because they might not have enough salary cap room to bring in high-profile free agents. The team's draft record has been disappointing since the late 2000s when the Ravens selected players who made an immediate impact, like guards Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda in 2007 and quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice in 2008.
Ravens offensive guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele had spoken about their respective contract situations before and they had a mutual understanding. They loved playing together and they would be supportive of each other. But when it came down to deciding their futures with the Ravens as they entered the final year of their contracts, each of them was on their own.
Despite re-signing left tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Jacoby Jones, adding veteran playmaker Steve Smith and hiring a new coordinator, the Ravens still have work left to do this offseason to improve an offense that plummeted to 29th in total yards and 25th in scoring in 2013.
Individually, Ravens right offensive guard Marshal Yanda and left offensive guard Kelechi Osemele solidify their spots on the offensive line. Together, they represent arguably one of the top guard tandems in the league
As general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens put the finishing touches on their draft board in preparation for Thursday's 2013 NFL draft, there is a new class of collegiate prospects who have smitten Ravens scouts, coaches and front-office decision-makers. The scouting process is long, tiring and taxing, but each spring, there are players like Yanda who become the object of the Ravens' eye and other NFL teams.
The Ravens are the owners of that final first-round pick this year. The Ravens always think big at this time of year but their focus is not on finding the next Darrell Green. It's on restocking a roster that lost a number of key players from the team that beat the San Francisco 49ers 2 1/2 months ago to win Super Bowl XLVII.
While team officials have yet to comment on Pollard's release, it continues a trend of offseason activity that has the Ravens' roster — particularly on the defensive side — getting younger, thinner, quieter and in some cases, cheaper.
The Ravens have decided to terminate the contract of Bobbie Williams, according to a team source. Looking to find a steady replacement for departed left guard Ben Grubbs, the Ravens signed the veteran guard before the 2012 season. He made six starts and played in 12 games, but was a reserve during the playoffs.
The Ravens rank 21st in rushing yards and 18th in yards per carry, and only eight quarterbacks have been sacked more often than Joe Flacco. But while their offensive linemen cannot hide from criticism whenever Rice hits a wall or Flacco hits the turf, Rice said he isn't worried about his big blockers, who at times have gotten pushed around on and off the field in recent weeks.
Jarret Johnson was equally significant to the Ravens throughout much of the last decade. Drafted in the fourth round out of Alabama in 2003, Johnson, 31, started every game for the organization in his last four seasons, and his streak of 129 consecutive games played was the longest in team history.
Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain was standing on the edge of the field, watching backup Dannell Ellerbe take the majority of the workload opposite middle linebacker Ray Lewis during a 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
For Ravens' Joe Flacco and company to rank in the top 10 in total offense for the first time since 1997, they need an aging offensive line — one that is in the middle of a transition — to hold steady for one more season.
With three teams making the playoffs and two winning 12 games during the regular season, the AFC North was arguably the NFL's most competitive division last season. Unfortunately for the Ravens, it figures to be hyper-competitive again in 2012 -- well, except for anything involving the hapless Cleveland Browns.
Yanda found a way to block out the pain, like he has throughout his career as he enters his sixth NFL season. The discomfort Yanda felt months ago after he suffered bruised ribs Week 16 against Cleveland, was just a memory on Tuesday as he participated in training camp. When asked to reflect on playing through the pain, Yanda chose to focus on the present, saying he is 100 percent.
STANDOUT PERFORMER NO. 1: Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle enjoyed a strong day. He finished with five sacks, including 2 1/2 sacks of quarterback Tyrod Taylor in a span of four plays. Kindle also came away with an interception off a Taylor pass tipped by rookie linebacker Nigel Carr.
Bobbie Williams, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, looks to be the frontrunner, but youngsters such as Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski and Jah Reid will also be in the mix. Williams, who joined the team during last month's mandatory minicamp, ran with the first-team offense during the minicamp.