Free Agency Outlook: Defense

Featured, Sports and Bets — March 11, 2013 at 11:23 am by

We are just a few hours away from seeing our starting defense get raided, as the start of free agency begins tomorrow.  There is a distinct  possibility that the Ravens could lose four starters.  Nature of the beast though, and the Ravens know that better than anybody. Don’t fear folks.  “In Ozzie We Trust”.  Let’s look at who the Ravens do have coming back and where they could possibly make some free agent additions.

DL-Haloti Ngata, Mount Cody,  Art Jones, Pernell McPhee, Deangelo Tyson (Upgrade Priority):  Haloti is one of the best in the business, but the Ravens need a lot of help otherwise.  After dominating against the run this entire century, the Ravens ranked a meager twentieth against the run last year,which is an unacceptable ranking in Baltimore.  Art Jones is a restricted free agent who has rumored to receive  a second round tender, which should ensure his return.  An upgrade is needed at nose guard where Terrance Cody has been underwhelming for the most part.  Look for the Ravens to almost certainly bolster this group via the draft but a couple veterans are needed here as well.  The Ravens have been linked to free agent defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois of San Francisco, as a possible addition.  He would be a nice fit as a utility lineman who is stout against the run.  Another nice addition at a reasonable price would be to bring back Justin Bannan, who has spent the last two years in Denver.  Bannan can play either the five technique in the base defense or a two technique in a four man front on passing downs.

Inside Linebacker-Jameel McClain, Josh Bynes, Brendon Ayanbadejo (Upgrade Priority).  Let’s face it if Ellerbe does leave in free agency this might be our most pressing need.  With McClain coming back off a spinal injury and Bynes best suited as a backup, a starter is badly needed here. Unfortunately there is not an available inside linebacker that can fill the void.  Most available free agents are two down run stuffers, not complete three down backers. Ravens may have to look to the draft for the complete linebacker.  No thanks on Urlacher by the way. Local Aberdeen and Maryland standout Erin Henderson might make some sense here as a run stuffer. He played mostly the Will linebacker position in Minnesota but it would not be too much of a transition to kick inside in a 3-4 alignment and play the buck linebacker on first and second down.

OLB-T Sizzle,  Courtney Upshaw,  Albert McClellan,  Michael McAdoo(Solid) : This group is solid even with the loss of Kruger because we should be getting a healthy Sizzle back and Upshaw really seemed to finally get it down the stretch last year. He proved to be very good setting the edge on run plays and can generate a decent pass rush on early downs. Where we need help is on third down with our pass rush. Once again the Ravens will no doubt address this need in the draft, but looking to free agency a name that might make sense is former Redskin Rob Jackson. Jackson played very well in place of Brian Orakpo last year and could flourish as a pass rush specialist. McClellan is one of Baltimore s best special teams players and watch out for McAdoo this year if he can finally stay healthy. The guy is 6’7″ with a huge wing span;  measurables that usually bode well for rushing the passer.

Corner– Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Corey Graham, Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson(Upgrade Priority): You simply cannot ever have enough corners in today’s game, so depth is needed here. With the Ravens losing Cary Williams to free agency and Webb coming back from yet another ACL tear, there are some questions marks here. Will Jimmy Smith step up and take over the starting spot opposite Webb?  Will the slot corners Graham and Brown play as well as they did last year down the stretch? This is yet another position that the Ravens will probably look to in the  draft to supplement their talent, but a possible cheap addition via free agency would be Greg Toler the former Cardinal. Toler is another player in the mold of Corey Graham that can contribute on special teams and that may surprise you if you’re forced to put him into the starting lineup occasionally.

Safety– Bernard Pollard Christian Thompson(Solid?): We could be facing another end of an era scenario if the Ravens don’t choose to bring back Ed Reed. With Pollard solidly entrenched as the strong safety, the departure of Reed would leave a void at free safety, one that I don’t believe Christian Thompson is ready to fill. There are a few plugs available via the draft but that means you’re investing probably a number one or high two pick to get one of them.  Best case scenario is that Reed and the Ravens find some common ground on a contract figure and he comes back at least another year. That would help ease the loss of Ray Lewis as far as leadership and continuity throughout the defense.bpoll

With free agency just one day away now a lot of these questions will be quickly answered. I don’t see the Ravens being big players in free agency, at least at first, but there are only so many holes that can be filled through the draft. So look for them to be frugal in their free agent shopping this Spring.

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