NFL Free agency is a month away and there are numerous holes that need to be filled in order for the Baltimore Ravens to be successful in 2015. We all know that key offensive weapons from last season like Torrey Smith, Justin Forsett and Owen Daniels will be unrestricted free agents, and the Ravens need to negotiate extensions/paycuts with Haloti Ngata and Lardarius Webb. I addressed these issues in a previous post (https://jmcdonnell95.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/what-the-ravens-need-to-do-this-offseason/). Going off what I said, I believe the Ravens will be able to keep Daniels and Forsett, and will be able to tweak Ngata and Webb’s contracts. Even after getting those deals done, there are still holes at wide Receiver, cornerback, safety and possibly tight end because of Dennis Pitta’s status being up in the air. Here are five free agents the Ravens should look to pick up if given the opportunity.
Cecil Shorts, WR
Cecil Shorts played his first four seasons in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In that span, he caught 176 passes for 2,343 yards and 12 touchdowns (espn.go.com). Shorts may not be a true #1 receiver, but neither was Torrey Smith. Shorts would be a nice compliment to Steve Smith Sr. and would simply take Torrey’s spot on the depth chart over Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken (Aiken is a RFA). The downside with Shorts is that he has had some trouble staying on the field and has never played in all 16 games in his four years in the NFL. With the Ravens cap issues, it is unlikely that they will be able to get Torrey Smith back, but with Shorts you get around the same amount of production at a cheaper price. There have also been rumors that Chicago Bears wideout Brandon Marshall wants to stay in Marc Trestman’s offensive system. If Chicago were to cut Marshall due to salary cap issues, the Ravens could go that route, but Marshall is 30 and has a history of behavioral problems. With everything that happened off the field for the Ravens last year, I doubt John Harbaugh wants anymore headaches. Shorts is 27 and is a safer option. Not the #1 receiver Marshall is, but a solid player nevertheless.
Charles Clay, TE
Let’s just say for the purpose of discussion that Dennis Pitta is unable to come back from two serious hip injuries and the Ravens have to part ways with him. The Ravens could fill
the hole left at the tight end position by bringing in Charles Clay. Charles Clay spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. So far, he has racked up 161 receptions for 1,809 yards and 14 touchdowns (espn.go.com). Clay is 26 and would provide a solid double tight end tandem with Owen Daniels in the passing game. The Ravens could then use Crockett Gilmore in their blocking scheme, which is what Gilmore specializes in. Again, this should only happen if Pitta is unable to return. Pitta is Flacco’s best friend off the field and one of his favorite targets on the field, but if he is unable to come back Clay presents another threat in the passing game, something Flacco needs with his big time arm.
Byron Maxwell/Kareem Jackson, CB
The Ravens secondary was by far the worst unit on the 2014 team, and led to their demise in the divisional round against the eventual Super bowl champion Patriots. Injuries took its toll on the unit as cornerbacks dropped like flies, including shutdown corner Jimmy Smith. Lardarius Webb was not the same for the majority of the season after again battling injuries, and it appears that he may never be the shutdown corner he once was earlier in his career again. With all this being said, the Ravens need to look to free agency to straighten this unit. There are lots of cornerbacks on the free agent market, but lots of them are either over the age of 30 or not affordable. The Ravens do not have the cap room for players like Darrell Revis and Brandon Flowers, so they will have to go after players like Byron Maxwell or Kareem Jackson. Maxwell, a sixth round pick (Wikipedia), played his first four seasons for the Seattle Seahawks, and notched 68 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 6 interceptions (espn.go.com). Jackson was the Texans first round pick in 2010 (Wikipedia) and has played five seasons for Houston, notching 241 tackles, a forced fumble and 10 interceptions. Note that Jackson has started many more games than Maxwell, but Maxwell has proven that he is more than capable of being a starter. Sometimes it takes a year or two for defensive backs coming out of college to adjust to the pro football level. Both are not a top tier shutdown corner, but they would provide a significant upgrade and would provide stability to the secondary. Opposite from Jimmy Smith, this would allow Lardarius Webb to play the slot, something that may be in his best interest at this point in his career.
Louis Delmas, FS
The Ravens cornerback situation was a mess last season, but the safeties were not much better. Will Hill was suspended for the first six games and did perform well when he came back from his suspension, but Darian Stewart gave up more plays than he defended and Matt Elam was awful in his second NFL season. The Ravens have a good shot at getting Hill back because he is a restricted free agent. Stewart is an unrestricted free agent. If I’m Ozzie Newsome, I am pursuing Delmas and letting Stewart walk. Delmas is a former second round draft pick (Wikipedia) in 2009 who spent five seasons with the Lions before joining the Dolphins last season. In his career Delmas has 289 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 7 interceptions (espn.go.com). With a lack of safeties entering their prime on the free agent market, the Ravens should go after Delmas who would be an upgrade over Stewart. Jimmy Smith, Louis Delmas, Will Hill and Webb/Maxwell. Now thats a secondary right there.
2014 was a bounce-back year for the Ravens. But now that they know they are capable of making it to the playoffs again, its time to start thinking about winning another championship. In order to do that, the Ravens must make some moves in free agency and draft well. Hopefully we see some of these players look to land in Baltimore as free agency begins.
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