What Record Will Ravens' Offseason Roster Overhaul Lead To?
After coming just a few inches short of stopping an AFC North-winning Antonio Brown touchdown on Christmas day last season, the Ravens have undergone a substantial offseason roster overhaul with the hopes of wrestling back the division.
"Team officials are quick to point out that there is roster change every offseason, and they're absolutely right," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "But even by Ravens' standards, this season's turnover comes across as significant."
Looking at the offseason activity below, it's easy to see there have been many more losses than acquisitions, leaving the Ravens with plenty of work still to do.
Acquisitions:CB Brandon Carr, S Tony Jefferson, RB Danny Woodhead
Losses:WR Kamar Aiken, OL Vladimir Ducasse,* *OLB Elvis Dumervil, S Matt Elam, DE Lawrence Guy, S Marqueston Huff, DT Timmy Jernigan, FB Kyle Juszczyk, S Kendrick Lewis, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, LB Zachary Orr, CB Jerraud Powers, CB Jumal Rolle, WR Steve Smith Sr., T Rick Wagner, CB Shareece Wright, C Jeremy Zuttah
(Note: Dumervil, Lewis, Lewis-Harris, Powers, Wright, Elam and Rolle are still on the market.)
Re-signed: WR Michael Campanaro, S Anthony Levine, QB Ryan Mallett, DB Lardarius Webb, DT Brandon Williams
That's 17 losses, compared to three additions. Of those 17 losses, eight players started at least seven games last season. Two of the three additions address the secondary.
"When you look at what Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] is doing on defense, he's going all-in on the secondary," NFL Network's Shaun O'Hara says in the video below. "This secondary looks pretty unbelievable."
"It might not be the sexiest addition in the NFL, but the Ravens snagging Jefferson – for less than what the Browns were offering, no less – provides Baltimore with potential for the best safety pairing in the NFL," added NFL.com's Kevin Patra. "Eric Weddle and Jefferson offer the Ravens needed flexibility on the back end that will immediately upgrade both the run and pass defense. That flexibility will come in mighty handy when matching up against [running back Le'Veon] Bell, Brown and the dual-threat Steelers offense."
As strong as the secondary looks (and don't be surprised if there are more additions there through the draft), the Ravens have several other holes to fill with little salary-cap space.
That means the team needs to hit some home runs in the draft later this month, sign a strong undrafted rookie class, add a few more free-agent veterans and help develop younger players already on the roster.
So, what's next? Patra outlined pressing holes to address:
1) Add an edge rusher to help replace Dumervil and become the heir apparent to Terrell Suggs.
2) Find a veteran for Orr's inside linebacker spot in case youngsters like Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor or a newly drafted player aren't ready to take on the starting role.
3) Add another receiver to quarterback Joe Flacco's arsenal to complement Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace.
4) Replenish the offensive line, both at center and right tackle.
With so many remaining needs, the folks at ESPN's Football Outsiders don't envision a major improvement in the Ravens' overall record next year. Of course, it's still early and Newsome has more than four months to finalize his roster. But the competitors in the division don't seem to have as many holes to address.
As such, after finishing with an 8-8 record last season and missing the playoffs for the third time in four years, Football Outsiders sees more of the same in its early 2017 NFL projections.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 13-3 (13.1 mean wins; strength of schedule: 27)
2. Cincinnati Bengals: 9-7 (8.8 mean wins; SOS: 26)
3. Baltimore Ravens: 8-8 (7.8 mean wins; SOS: 19)
4. Cleveland Browns: 5-11 (5.4 mean wins; SOS: 11)
Ravens Ask To Skip Post-London Bye
Nobody wants their bye week to come after just three games of football, even if they are flying back from across the pond and adjusting to a five-hour time difference.
Playing the remaining 13 games in consecutive weeks is a lot to put on a player's body.
As such, the Ravens have requested from the NFL that it not schedule a bye following their Week 3 contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, according to ESPN. Per Jamison Hensley, it would mark only the second time since 2007 that a team wouldn't get a bye after playing overseas.
"Baltimore prefers the challenge of playing a game in the same week it returns in the early hours of Monday morning instead of receiving the earliest bye a team can have in the regular season. This is the first international game in the Ravens' 22-year history," wrote Hensley.
"The Ravens have dealt with tougher turnarounds than playing after a game in London. In 2015, Baltimore played a Monday Night Football game in Arizona, then traveled back across country to play a home game against San Diego in a shortened week."
The NFL schedule is expected to be released prior to the draft, and the Ravens could learn their fate as early as next week.
One Burning Draft Question For Each AFC North Team
NFL.com's Elliot Harrison asked one burning draft question for all AFC teams, and I focused on the AFC North below:
Baltimore Ravens: Prioritize pass rush over pass catching?"Take a glance at mock drafts dancing across the interwebs and you will see hordes of analysts projecting a wide receiver to this franchise in Round 1, be it John Ross out of Washington, Corey Davis from Western Michigan or the latest Mike Williams to hit the NFL as a wide receiver. … [B]ut who will be chasing the other team's passer? Maybe nobody. Baltimore notched all of 31 sacks last year, which, no, is not a healthy number. Not to mention, that was with Terrell Suggs getting eight. How long can he stay healthy (and productive) with his 35th birthday coming up in October? The next-closest guy, Timmy Jernigan, had five. He gone. Elvis Dumervil posted three sacks. He gone, too."
Pittsburgh Steelers: BPA or BF7PA?
"No, that is not a typo. Best player available or best front seven player available? That's the question in the Steel City. It will be quite interesting to see who the Steelers take at 30th overall."
Cincinnati Bengals: Time running out on Jeremy Hill?"Hill produced a so-so campaign with 839 yards and nine touchdowns, but certainly didn't look like the guy who burst on the NFL scene in 2014. … All of which lends more than just speculation to the report that the Bengals hosted Dalvin Cook on a recent visit. Going ninth overall would seem a bit high for the former Florida State star, but Cincinnati could also trade down." Cleveland Browns: Will Cody Kessler get a real chance?
"The Jimmy Garoppolo rumors persist, although it appears more and more likely every day that the Patriots simply don't want to deal him. (Their starting quarterback does turn 40 this year, after all.) So, if Cleveland can't package a deal for Garoppolo, will Kessler be given an opportunity to prove he can be a viable NFL starter?"