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Monday, February 25, 2013
Horton: Ravens' biggest offseason need

By Jamison Hensley

In the start of a league-wide series, ESPN Insider Gary Horton takes a look at the Baltimore Ravens' offensive and defensive philosophies and identifies the team's biggest needs off of that. You'll need a subscription to view the entire piece Insider, but I can let you know about the No. 1 need.

Horton believes it's inside linebacker for the Ravens, and it's hard to argue with him. There's uncertainty with Baltimore's top three inside linebackers from last year. Ray Lewis has retired, Dannell Ellerbe is a free agent and Jameel McClain is coming off a season-ending spinal cord injury.

As Horton pointed out, the Ravens' defensive line struggled to keep blockers off the linebackers in 2012. Unless Baltimore upgrades its defensive front, the Ravens need physical inside linebackers who can shed linemen. There's a chance the Ravens will address inside linebacker in the first round. Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree (if his stock drops from off-the-field concerns) and LSU's Kevin Minter have been linked to Baltimore.

If the Ravens lose Ellerbe in free agency and are unable to draft an immediate starter, they may have to make an adjustment on defense. Horton speculated Baltimore would be forced to play more 4-3 fronts.