Ravens' Projected Starting Lineup … for Now
As General Manager Ozzie Newsome made clear, Baltimore's roster will change before the Ravens travel to Cincinnati for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10.
But most of the players that will take the field as starters are already in place. And we have an even better idea of what that will look like after the draft.
With that in mind, NFL Media's Gregg Rosenthal projected the starting lineups of each team in the AFC North. Here's what he sees for the Ravens, followed by some of his takeaways:
QB: Joe Flacco
RB: Terrance West
WR: Mike Wallace
WR: Breshad Perriman
TE: Dennis Pitta
TE: Crockett Gillmore
LT: Ronnie Stanley
LG: Alex Lewis
C: John Urschel
RG: Marshal Yanda
RT: James Hurst
DE: Chris Wormley
DT: Brandon Williams
DE: Bronson Kaufusi
OLB: Terrell Suggs
ILB: C.J. Mosley
OLB: Albert McClellan
CB: Jimmy Smith
CB: Brandon Carr
CB: Marlon Humphrey
S: Eric Weddle
S: Tony Jefferson
- "Mike Wallace, who showed he wasn't just a one-trick pony last season, proved to be another nice value signing by general manager Ozzie Newsome. That doesn't mean Wallace should be the top option at Flacco's disposal in 2017. Newsome has a terrific history of signing free agents after the draft (Bryant McKinnie, Daryl Smith, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Willie Anderson), and I'd expect him to add a wideout to this thin group."
- "Kenneth Dixon is the most complete running back on the roster and a strong candidate to take the starting job when he returns from suspension in Week 5."
- "The depth in this secondary rivals that of any group in football. Tavon Young was terrific as a rookie and may be fourth in the pecking order at cornerback. Lardarius Webb adds great depth to a safety position that was bolstered by free-agent addition Tony Jefferson."
- "The team is strangely thin at defensive end after losing two starters this offseason in Lawrence Guy (signed by the Patriots) and Timmy Jernigan (traded to the Eagles). At this point, the favorites to start are a third-round rookie (Chris Wormley) and a second-year player in Bronson Kaufusi, who missed his entire rookie season due to a broken ankle. Coach John Harbaugh also wants little-seen second-year pro Kamalei Correa to take over the weak-side linebacker job left open by Zachary Orr's retirement."
Ravens fans have been trying to predict how the offensive line will shake out for months, and that will be determined over the course of the summer.
With that said, Rosenthal sees Urschel as the favorite at center and Hurst at right tackle. Hurst has the most experience of any option (Alex Lewis, Stephane Nembot, De'Ondre Wesley), although most of it has been at left tackle. There's no substitute for experience in the NFL, especially at that position.
One surprise selection is at outside linebacker opposite Suggs, where Rosenthal penciled in McClellan over second-year linebacker Matthew Judon and rookies Tyus Bowser or Tim Williams.
Rosenthal did, however, pick the rookie Wormley over the more experienced Brent Urban. He has Wormley and last year's third-round pick, Bronson Kaufusi, both as starters. What about Michael Pierce? Carl Davis and Willie Henry will also contend to take Jernigan's vacated spot.
Trading for a WR May be the Best Solution
As talked about in yesterday's LFW, the Ravens could bring back Anquan Boldin. They could sign wide receiver Victor Cruz or bring in Michael Floyd.
But what if those options don't work out, or aren't preferred by Baltimore's brass?
ESPN's Jamison Hensley reported that Boldin doesn't want to join a team until training camp in late July, and Floyd won't report to a team until his house arrest for a second DUI is over on June 17. The Ravens could have signed Cruz at any point without compensatory pick penalty since the New York Giants released him.
"Baltimore's best solution to solving its wide receiver problem is trade for one," Hensley wrote.
Hensley isn't alone in this theory.
"[Adding a free-agent wide receiver] seems to be the more likely scenario given that trades are relatively rare," The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "However, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has pulled [trades] off before, and giving up a mid-round 2018 draft pick or two might be easier to swallow with the Ravens in line to get a third-round compensatory pick in 2018."
The Ravens traded two picks for Boldin in 2010 and one draft pick for Lee Evans in August of 2011.
"In both situations, the Ravens were looking for a veteran receiver and found a team with a surplus of pass catchers and a desire to get some younger players into more prominent roles," Zrebiec wrote. "Could the Ravens again benefit from a similar circumstance?"
Hensley and Zrebiec named teams and players the Ravens could possibly target this year:
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills6-foot-1, 211 pounds; 23 years old; 2016 stats: 28 receptions, 430 yards, 2 touchdowns
Hensley: "Let's push aside the pipe dreams because Sammy Watkins won't be traded by the Buffalo Bills and Eric Decker won't fit under the Ravens' cap with a $7.25 million salary."
Zrebiec: "There has been speculation about Sammy Watkins' availability after the Bills confirmed that they weren't going to pick up his fifth-year option for 2018. Watkins, the fourth overall draft pick in 2014, is extremely talented and is just 23 years old. However, he's missed 11 games over the past two seasons and was limited last year with foot problems. There's been no indication Watkins is available, but with him expected to hit free agency after the 2017 season and a new regime in charge in Buffalo, it wouldn't hurt to ask."
Dontrelle Inman, San Diego Chargers
6-3, 205; 28 years old; 2016 stats: 58 receptions, 810 yards, 4 touchdowns
Hensley: "Philip Rivers raved about Inman's dependability because he could always count on him to run the right route. What should also interest the Ravens is Inman's reliable hands (three drops on 89 targeted passes), his size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and his commitment to run-blocking. … The Chargers might be inclined to part with him because [Keenan] Allen is back from injury, Mike Williams was drafted in the first round and Tyrell Williams is coming off a season in which he led the team in catches."Zrebiec: "Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams both had breakout seasons last year when pressed into bigger roles because of injuries. One or two of those guys could become available at some point."
Marquise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
6-0, 200; 25 years old; 2016 stats: 63 receptions, 851 yards, 3 touchdowns
Hensley: "Allen Robinson, Jacksonville's No. 1 receiver, isn't going to get traded, and Allen Hurns is too expensive to move ($7 million guaranteed in 2016). The situation is different for Lee, the Jaguars' No. 3 receiver. Jacksonville has options to replace him in Rashad Greene and rookie fourth-round pick Dede Westbrook. Lee produced career highs in catches (63), receiving yards (851) and touchdowns (three) last season. He was extremely consistent, catching at least four passes in 11 of 16 games. Lee can also be a factor on special teams, ranking third on kickoff returns in the NFL with a 30.3-yard average. The concern with Lee is staying healthy. He was in and out of the lineup the previous two seasons due to hamstring injuries."
Danny Amendola, New England Patriots
5-11, 190; 31 years old; 2016 stats: 23 receptions, 243 yards, 4 touchdowns
Hensley: "He's on the downside of his career at age 31, and he's coming off a season in which he managed 23 catches for 243 yards and four touchdowns. But Amendola did step up in the postseason. In the Super Bowl victory, he totaled eight receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. Amendola's ability to work over the middle would complement the speed of Wallace and Perriman. The Patriots can afford to trade him because they have Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. Amendola is also very affordable after taking another pay cut. He can make a maximum of $1.7 million this season."
Zrebiec: "It would be hard to imagine these two AFC rivals matching up on a trade. However, the Patriots certainly have a surplus of wide receivers. … Nobody uses their personnel better than the Patriots, so they might want to keep them all. However, if a guy such as Amendola were available, it would make a lot of sense for the Ravens."
Nelson Agholor/Dorial Green-Beckham/Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles
Zrebiec: "The Eagles clearly prioritized getting impressive young quarterback Carson Wentz help this offseason. They added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. They drafted Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. They also still have Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham on their roster. It's almost inconceivable they'll be able to carry all seven on their regular-season roster. Agholor and Green-Beckham, former first- and second-round picks, have been significant disappointments. However, Matthews would seemingly be a nice fit for the Ravens, and he probably wouldn't cost a ton in return."
Garrett Downing and I will get into this subject, and even more possibilities, later today in Mailbag, so tune in for that.
Bowser Tabbed Ravens' Most Impactful Rookie
While Rosenthal doesn't see Bowser as a starter, ESPN's Jamison Hensley views the situation differently.
Each ESPN NFL Nation reporter was asked to predict the rookie on their team who would have the biggest impact in 2017, and Hensley pointed to the versatile linebacker out of Houston.
"The second-round pick should be an immediate starter at outside linebacker opposite Terrell Suggs," Hensley wrote.
"Bowser can play the run, drop back in coverage and, most importantly, get after the quarterback. He had 8.5 sacks in eight games for Houston last season. After Baltimore signed veteran cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency, first-round pick Marlon Humphrey can be brought along more slowly and used in a rotation at cornerback."
Bowser will face competition. The Ravens liked what they saw from Judon in his first year, in which he notched 27 tackles and four sacks. McClellan and Za'Darius Smith are also options for the starting gig.
What may be most surprising is Hensley's* *selection of Bowser over Humphrey, the team's first-round pick at No. 16 overall. It comes down to immediate need.
Smith is entrenched as a starter on one side and Carr hasn't missed a start in his nine-year career. Injuries could always change things, and they've happened too often at cornerback in Baltimore, but the Ravens signed Carr, in part, because of his durability.
Still, Humphrey will be given the opportunity to wrestle a starting job away from a veteran.
And watch out for one of the Ravens' rookie offensive linemen, Nico Siragusa or Jermaine Eluemunor, who could just find themselves in the starting lineup as Lewis and Stanley did last season, if they perform well this summer.
Rounding out the rest of the AFC North, the most impactful rookies are projected to be wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers), running back Joe Mixon (Bengals) and defensive end Myles Garrett (Browns).