When analysts look at how the Ravens can upgrade at tight end, the options are limited.
The top players on the open market have already found new homes and the draft class is considered weak at the position. That leaves the Ravens in a challenging predicament as they look to replace Owen Daniels and potentially find a stopgap until Dennis Pitta can return.
"The tight end is going to be a struggle," ESPN's John Clayton said during an interview at the NFL Owners Meetings.
The Ravens likely won't know Pitta's status until training camp nears this summer, so they will have to prepare contingency plans in the event that he misses all or part of the 2015 season.
Baltimore's top tight ends currently on the roster are second-year players Crockett Gillmore and Phillip Supernaw, who have started just one NFL game between them.
If the Ravens look to the draft to replenish the position, most draft experts says there will be slim pickings in terms of impact players. Minnesota's Maxx Williams is the consensus top tight end in the class, and then Miami's Clive Walford and Florida State's Nick O'Leary are likely early-round picks.
"The trouble is that it's a bad tight end draft. You're maybe talking two tight ends in the first three rounds," Clayton said. "What might have to happen is that the Ravens might have to reach a little bit in the early rounds to get that one tight end."
Instead of using the draft to bolster the position, the Ravens may try to find a bargain in free agency. That approach isn't a new one for the Ravens, as they signed Daniels on April 4 last year after he was cut by the Texans. Daniels signed a one-year deal with Baltimore and the move came without much fanfare because he was coming off an injury.
Players like Jermaine Gresham and Zach Miller would fall into that category this year.
"It would help if somebody like a Jermaine Gresham was a little bit more clear in where he is. But unfortunately he needed back surgery. That could have been an option," Clayton said. "You're talking about a former first-round pick. He probably would have come in at a nice number."
"There's not much left out there on that market," Sports Illustrated's Don Banks added. "Perhaps the draft is the only recourse, or maybe someone gets cut loose later in the offseason."
The Ravens may also explore a trade to address the need, which they did last year by trading for Tampa Bay's center Jeremy Zuttah. The Ravens acquired Zuttah for a fifth-round pick, and he ended up starting all 16 games.
With 10 picks in this year's draft, the Ravens have ammunition to look into trade possibilities.
"A trade can be an option, but the one thing is that it would have to be a trade where you're not giving up too high of a pick," Clayton said. "You go back last year, and there was not a single player traded for a net value above a fourth. You can see that any trade involving a tight end is probably going to be from the fifth-round on down.
"Now if that works, fine, but that's more on the other team than the Ravens."