Ravens not done building their roster

May, 12, 2014
5/12/14
8:45
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By the time the three-day NFL draft was over, the Baltimore Ravens added nine players but failed to remove question marks from a couple of positions.

The Ravens remain vulnerable at right tackle and cornerback after not addressing those positions in the draft. If the season began today, the Ravens would start Rick Wagner, a fifth-round pick from a year ago, at right tackle and they would go with either Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson, both of whom combined for 38 snaps on defense last year, at nickelback.

While the Ravens could end up going with these inexperienced players in critical roles, there are 118 days before the Ravens line up against the Cincinnati Bengals to kick off the 2014 season.

"As you all well know, we’re not done as far as building this football team," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

This isn't fleeting hope. This is the Ravens' history.

Over the past six seasons, the Ravens have found three starters as well as a kicker and No. 3 wide receiver long after the draft.

In 2008, right tackle Willie Anderson was signed two days before the season opener. In 2010, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was added a week before the season began. In 2011, left tackle Bryant McKinnie was signed a day before the third preseason game. And in 2013, middle linebacker Daryl Smith joined the Ravens 39 days after the draft.

There are no guarantees that the Ravens will bring in a veteran at right tackle or cornerback, although I would be surprised if the Ravens didn't add an experienced corner at some point over the next three months just to bolster depth.

At this point, you get the feeling that the Ravens are going to give Wagner, Brown and Jackson a chance to win those jobs before thinking about signing more veteran free agents. Ravens officials are quietly optimistic about Wagner's potential at right tackle. Newsome talked about how their young players "should fail on the field."

That means the Ravens aren't going to write off players before giving them an opportunity to play. If they do fail on the field in training camp or preseason, the Ravens will look at who's available elsewhere, whether by trade or signing someone after the last round of cuts, just like they've done so many times over the years.

In this year's draft, the Ravens landed two immediate starters (linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Terrence Brooks) as well as a rotational player on the defensive line (Timmy Jernigan) in the first three rounds. While the Ravens didn't set out to make this a defensive draft, that's the way the draft played out.

In the first round, the top four offensive tackles were taken in the first 16 picks. A Ravens official confirmed that the team would've still taken Mosley at No. 17 overall even if Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin had gotten past the Dallas Cowboys at No. 16.

It was a different story in the second round. The Ravens would've considered either Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio or UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo but both were gone in the first three picks of that round.

Offensive linemen just didn't fall to the Ravens this year.

"We were not going to just reach down and just take a player at the tackle position," Newsome said.

It was the same situation at cornerback. The only time the Ravens even had talks about taking a corner was in the first round, but it wasn't much of a debate because Mosley was clearly the highest-rated player on their board.

In the second round, the Ravens took Jernigan over Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste. At the end of the third round, the Ravens selected tight end Crockett Gillmore even though Utah cornerback Keith McGill, who had been brought in for a pre-draft visit, was still available.

"When we got to all the other picks [after the first round], a corner was not in the conversation," Newsome said. "We would have liked to have had a corner in the conversation, but that was not rated highly enough.”

While the Ravens will add more players from now until the season begins, team officials were pleased with the prospects they drafted. Most analysts have given the Ravens either an "A" or "B" for their draft.

"This just ended up being really a draft about substance," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' assistant general manager. "We got guys that we think are going to be here for a long time and are going to help us win games. They’re guys in the fourth quarter that should be big-time players for us over time. We’re excited. If you had said to me or Ozzie that we would’ve gotten these guys in these rounds back in the fall, we would’ve taken it."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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