Baltimore Ravens: 2013 Ravens position analysis

The Baltimore Ravens' team page concludes its position-by-position review and outlook. If you want to go back and look at the previous position breakdowns, you can click here.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): P Sam Koch ($2.8 million), LS Morgan Cox ($855,000), K Justin Tucker ($570,000).

2014 free agents: KR-PR Jacoby Jones (unrestricted), PR Tandon Doss (restricted).

Tucker
The good: Justin Tucker was the Ravens' Most Valuable Player and a first-team All-Pro. In his second NFL season, Tucker set Ravens records for field goals (38) and points (140) in a season. His 38 field goals tied New England's Stephen Gostkowski for most in the league this season, and his 92.7 percent success rate ranked sixth. Jacoby Jones was a threat to score a touchdown every time he got his hands on a return. He averaged 28.8 yards on kickoffs (fourth in NFL) and 12.5 yards on punts (fifth in the NFL).

The bad: Tandon Doss was such a liability in terms of turning the ball over that the Ravens took him off punt returns even though he led the NFL with a 15.6-yard average. The usually consistent Sam Koch finished 22nd in net average (38.9 yards) and 13th in punts inside the 20-yard line (27). He had a punt blocked for the first time since 2009. Koch also shanked a 25-yard punt in Cleveland that helped set up the Browns' final clock-eating drive.

The money: Koch is considered a likely salary-cap casualty. The Ravens might feel a $2.2 million salary is too much for a punter, and they can gain $1.6 million in cap room by releasing him. Baltimore also has to figure out how much it's willing to pay for a playmaking returner. Jones earned $4 million in the last year of his contract, which is double than what other returners make.

Draft priority: Low. If the Ravens need a punter, they could use a late-round pick on one. Their last two punters -- Koch and Dave Zastudil -- were both drafted. But, considering how they recently turned an undrafted rookie into a Pro Bowl kicker, the Ravens know they don't necessarily have to use a draft pick on a specialist.
The Baltimore Ravens' team page wraps up its position-by-position review and outlook for the defense:

SECONDARY

Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): CB Lardarius Webb ($10.5 million), CB Jimmy Smith ($2.3M), Matt Elam ($1.5M), CB Chykie Brown ($681,140), CB Asa Jackson ($604,015).

2014 free agents: SS James Ihedigbo (unrestricted), CB Corey Graham (unrestricted), SS Jeromy Miles (unrestricted), S Omar Brown (exclusive rights), S Anthony Levine (exclusive rights) and Brynden Trawick (exclusive rights).

The good: Jimmy Smith was a full-time starter for the first time in his career and he established himself as the team's best cornerback. James Ihedigbo was one of the biggest surprises on defense last season, finishing second on the team with 101 tackles. Matt Elam, the rookie first-round pick, looked better toward the end of the season and had a game-ending interception against the Detroit Lions. Lardarius Webb led the team with 23 passes defensed, and nickel back Corey Graham topped the Ravens with four interceptions.

The bad: The low point of Smith's season came in the finale when he took the wrong angle in trying to tackle Bengals running back Giovani Bernard on a 27-yard screen pass. That was the key play in a 90-yard touchdown drive that ended the Ravens' playoff hopes. Webb wasn't the same one year removed from ACL surgery, and he was faked out badly for a touchdown in a loss at Cleveland. Elam got lost in coverage at times and made the biggest mistake for a safety -- letting a receiver get behind him.

The money: The Ravens are making it a priority to find an athletic free safety, which means they won't aggressively try to re-sign Ihedigbo. If the Ravens can retain Graham in free agency, they will keep all of their cornerbacks from this year. The Ravens may want to reduce Webb's $7.5 million salary.

Draft priority: Low. There's a need for a free safety, but the Ravens used a first-round on a safety last year. I can't see the Ravens spending a high pick on a safety in back-to-back drafts. The Ravens can get an athletic safety in free agency while adding experience at the position. The Ravens have all but one of their top cornerbacks under contract, so there is no pressing need at this position.
The Baltimore Ravens' team page continues to a take a position-by-position review of the team's 2013 season and give a sneak peek of what lies ahead:

LINEBACKERS

Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): OLB Terrell Suggs ($12.4 million), ILB Jameel McClain ($4.4M), OLB Elvis Dumervil ($3.375M), OLB Courtney Upshaw ($1.444M), OLB Arthur Brown ($807,780), OLB John Simon ($591,413), OLB Pernell McPhee ($681,140).

2014 free agents: ILB Daryl Smith (unrestricted), ILB Albert McClellan (restricted), ILB Josh Bynes (exclusive rights), OLB Adrian Hamilton (exclusive rights), OLB D.J. Bryant (exclusive rights).

Smith
The good: Smith made everyone forget that Ray Lewis was gone. He led the Ravens with 123 tackles and finished with five sacks, three interceptions, 19 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Suggs and Dumervil combined for 19.5 sacks, which was nearly half of the team's total. McClain made an admirable comeback from a spinal cord contusion and recorded 52 tackles in 10 games.

The bad: Suggs disappeared in the second half of the season, contributing 20 tackles and one sack in his final eight games. Dumervil was equally non-effective with nine tackles and one sack in his last six games. Brown was projected to start as a rookie, but he was limited to passing downs.

The money: The Ravens want to sign Suggs to an extension to reduce his $12.4 million cap hit and increase his chances of retiring as a Raven. It'll be interesting to see whether the Ravens can re-sign Smith. He exceeded expectations but he'll turn 32 in March. The Ravens are expected to cut McClain because they can free up $3.2 million in cap space.

Draft priority: Low, at this point. If the Ravens can't reach an extension with Suggs and decide to release him, the need for an edge rusher increases significantly. But right now, linebacker is a low priority. The Ravens are banking on Brown to step up and fill McClain's starting spot. There is solid depth (and quality special teams play) from the likes of Bynes, McClellan and Simon.
The Baltimore Ravens' team page continues to a take a position-by-position review of the team's 2013 season and give a sneak peek of what lies ahead:

DEFENSIVE LINE

Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): Haloti Ngata ($16 million), Chris Canty ($3.16M), Brandon Williams ($623,750), DeAngelo Tyson ($581,898), Kapron Lewis-Moore ($517,058), Cody Larsen ($420,000).

2014 free agents: Arthur Jones, Terrence Cody.

The good: Arthur Jones had a breakthrough season in his contract year and became the Ravens' top defensive lineman this season. With Haloti Ngata drawing double teams, Jones made the plays up front with 53 tackles and four sacks. Ngata finished the season strong with 18 tackles in his final three games. Chris Canty had a sack in two of his first three games and batted down a total of four passes. DeAngelo Tyson made an impact in a limited role with two sacks and his first career interception, which showed his athleticism.

The bad: This was the second straight season that Ngata wasn't the same playmaker as in previous seasons. His 1.5 sacks were his fewest since 2009. Canty didn't live up to expectations. He was limited to one or no tackles in five games. Marcus Spears was a free-agent bust who was released in the middle of the season.

The money: The situation with Jones in free agency may be similar to what the Ravens faced with Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe last year. Another team will likely offer a contract to Jones, a top 20 free agent this offseason, that the Ravens aren't going to be able to match. Jones could receive a contract that averages $5 million to $6 million per season. The other issue is Ngata's $16 million salary-cap number, which is the highest on the team. The Ravens will look to extend his contract to lower his cap hit.

Draft priority: Moderate. The Ravens have to figure out how they're going to replace Jones in the starting lineup if they're unable to re-sign him. They'll have to decide whether a prospect like Williams or Tyson is ready to start. If not, the Ravens will have to look elsewhere. This has become an aging group with both returning starters -- Ngata and Canty -- in their 30s.
The Baltimore Ravens' team page continues to a take a position-by-position review of the team's 2013 season and give a sneak peek of what lies ahead:

OFFENSIVE LINE

Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): G Marshal Yanda ($8.45 million), G Kelechi Osemele ($912,510), G Jah Reid ($785,810), C Gino Gradkowski ($691,106), G-C A.Q. Shipley ($570,000), OT Rick Wagner ($531,140), C Ryan Jensen ($514,670), C Reggie Stephens (future-reserve contract).

2014 free agents: OT Eugene Monroe, OT Michael Oher.

The good: The Ravens stabilized Joe Flacco's blind side when they traded for Eugene Monroe in October. He's not a Pro Bowl left tackle, but he was a significant upgrade over Bryant McKinnie. Right guard Marshal Yanda remains the most talented lineman for the Ravens, and he finished the second half of the season strong. Yanda earned a Pro Bowl invitation for a third straight season. A.Q. Shipley, who is a center, did an admirable job at left guard after Kelechi Osemele went down with a season-ending back injury.

The bad: This was the weakest group on the team. The line failed to open running lanes and had too many breakdowns in pass protection. The Ravens found out they need to upgrade at center after Gino Gradkowski got pushed back too often in his first full season as a starter. Right tackle Michael Oher struggled in pass protection and whiffed too many times in run blocking. Yanda led the Ravens offensive linemen with seven tackles, including five false starts.

The money: The Ravens only have enough salary-cap space to re-sign one tackle in free agency, and Monroe is considered the first choice. He not only plays the higher-profile position but the Ravens gave up fourth- and fifth-round picks to get him four months ago. If they're unable to sign Monroe, the Ravens will likely look to bring back Oher. In that scenario, the Ravens would put Oher back at left tackle. The Ravens may also look for a center in free agency. With young centers like Gradkowski and Ryan Jensen on the roster, it doesn't make sense to draft another one.

Draft priority: High. The Ravens need to find a starting right tackle, unless they're sold on Rick Wagner (a fifth-round pick from a year ago) can step up next season. A right tackle -- like Michigan's Taylor Lewan or Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio -- could be available in the middle of the first round for Baltimore. The Ravens will look at guards if they're unsure if Osemele can fully recover from back surgery.
For the next two weeks, let's a take a position-by-position review of the Baltimore Ravens' 2013 season and give a sneak peek of what lies ahead:

TIGHT ENDS

Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): Matt Furstenberg (future-reserve contract), Nathan Overbay (future-reserve).

2014 free agents: Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Dallas Clark.

The good: Pitta was able to return to the field only five months after having hip surgery. That falls in the "remarkable" category. Pitta made an immediate impact in his first start with six catches for 48 yards, including a touchdown catch on fourth-and-goal. Clark had a strong game in the season opener with seven catches for 87 yards, both of which ended up being season highs for him. Clark's 1-yard touchdown catch in Pittsburgh tied the game with 1:58 remaining, but the Ravens ended up losing that game.

The bad: Dickson dropped a lot of passes early, and Joe Flacco never had any trust in him after that. This is probably Dickson's final season with the Ravens. Clark had two or fewer catches in half of the 12 games that he played, and he looked like a player who had nothing left in the second half of the season. If not for the major struggles on the offensive line and in the backfield, this would've been the weakest position on the team.

The money: The Ravens know they have to keep Pitta. It's just a matter of whether it's a long-term deal or the franchise tag. Because Pitta splits out so often, he may try to get classified as a wide receiver. The franchise tag for tight ends is projected to be $6.7 million, and it's expected to be $11.5 million for wide receivers. In free agency, Pitta is expected to command a deal that averages $4 million to $5 million per season.

Draft priority: Moderate. The Ravens are going to need to draft a tight end at some point because there are no experienced tight ends under contract. This led Mel Kiper Jr. to link North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron to the Ravens in the first round. From my perspective, there are only two reasons why the Ravens draft a tight end in the first round: they don't believe they can sign Pitta long term or the prospect is ranked so high on the board they can't pass on him.
For the next two weeks, let's a take a position-by-position review of the Baltimore Ravens' 2013 season and give a sneak peek of what lies ahead:

RUNNING BACKS

Rice
Rice
Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): RB Ray Rice ($8.75 million), RB Bernard Pierce ($708,986), FB Vonta Leach ($2.33M), FB Kyle Juszczyk (570,146) and RB Cierre Wood (reserve-future contract).

2014 free agents: RB Bernard Scott.

The good: Rice didn't have a terrible finish to the season, averaging a season-high 3.9 yards per carry and 7.2 yards per reception in the month of December. The high point of his season was rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown at Chicago, the NFL's worst run defense. That accounted for 20 percent of his rushing total for the season. Pierce didn't make as much of an impact as expected, but the Ravens were 6-1 when he gained at least 30 yards rushing.

The bad: Rice (3.1 yards per carry) and Pierce (2.9) ranked in the NFL's bottom four in rushing average, an indication that the bigger problem was the offensive line. Rice ran for 660 yards, the first time he didn't gain gain at least 1,100 yards since becoming the featured back in 2009. Pierce had 44 more carries than his rookie season, but finished with 96 fewer yards. Leach was phased out of the offense after the Ravens acknowledged they couldn't run the ball. He averaged 14 offensive plays per game, earning nearly $9,000 per snap.

The money: Rice is not a candidate to be a salary-cap casualty even though he has a high cap number (fifth-highest on Ravens) and had a career-worst season. His contract was front-loaded, so the Ravens wouldn't create any cap room by cutting him. The more likely cap casualty is Leach. He had almost no role in the offense after the Ravens went to a three-receiver set, and the Ravens can free up $1.75 million in cap room.

Draft priority: Moderate. Rice could be on his way out with another lackluster season in 2014, and Pierce can't stay healthy. Pierce will have rotator cuff surgery, which might keep him out until training camp. Don't look for the Ravens to use a first- or second-round pick on a running back, but no one should be surprised if the team took one after that.
For the next two weeks, let's a take a position-by-position review of the Baltimore Ravens' 2013 season and give a sneak peek of what lies ahead:

QUARTERBACKS

Under contract: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor and Nick Stephens (practice squad).

2014 free agents: None.

The good: Not much in this category in what was a nightmarish season for the reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. It may not have seemed this way, but Flacco threw for a career-high 3,912 yards. He was able to put up this total without much help from an offensive line or running game. Flacco's biggest improvement was throwing outside the pocket, which came out of necessity. His four-game winning drives accounted for half of the Ravens' win total this season.

The bad: Flacco threw 22 interceptions, which were tied for second-most in the NFL. In fact, Flacco had as many interceptions this season as he did in the previous two seasons combined. Not having last season's top two receivers (Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta) for most of 2013 played a major factor in the turnovers. Flacco also was sacked a career-high 48 times, and he has to learn to get rid of the ball quicker. He took a beating and ended the season with a sprained MCL in his left knee. The lack of consistency on throwing the deep ball was a problem. Flacco's 24.3 completion rate on passes of 30 yards or longer was 25th in the NFL.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Flacco ($14.8 million) and Taylor ($671,327). The Ravens are set to go with Flacco as their starter for a seventh consecutive season. His cap number doesn't become a burden until the 2016 season. Taylor is an inexpensive option as a backup. The Ravens will likely bring in competition at backup like they did in 2012 (Curtis Painter) and 2013 (Caleb Hanie).

Draft priority: Very low. The Ravens haven't used a pick on a quarterback since taking Taylor in the sixth round in 2011.

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