Major Overhaul Not Coming To Secondary

The secondary was a revolving door throughout the 2014 season.

Cornerbacks and safeties constantly shuffled in and out of the lineup, and by the end of the year the Ravens had started 11 different players on the back end of the defense. Injuries brought on most of the changes – the Ravens had five cornerbacks go on injured reserve – and ineffectiveness was also a factor as the coaches constantly searched for the right combination.

Issues in the secondary hurt the Ravens this year, and that was ultimately evident in the divisional-round loss to the Patriots where quarterback Tom Brady picked apart the unit for 367 yards and three touchdowns.

Improving the secondary is a top offseason priority, but Head Coach John Harbaugh doesn't expect the Ravens to make massive changes in the coming months.

"It's really not a major overhaul in the sense of everybody is going to be cleaned out and we're going to bring a bunch of new guys in," Harbaugh said. "There are a lot of good players sitting in there because of the fact that we'll be healthy and the fact that we brought some good players in because of what happened this year."

The Ravens expect the secondary to make drastic improvements once key players are healthy:

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was one of the team's best players through the first half of the season before going down with a lisfranc injury. Lardarius Webb was hobbled for the first half of the season because of a back injury he suffered on the first day of training camp, but he came on strong at the end of the year. Asa Jackson showed promise in his six games as a starter, but his season was ultimately cut in half by injuries.

All three are expected to come into next year's training camp fully healthy. Smith will even to start running again in about a month, and his return alone would help solidify the group.

"Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are capable of playing at the highest level," Harbaugh said. "Jimmy will actually go into the offseason healthy."

In addition to getting healthy, the silver lining with all the injuries was that the Ravens were forced to scour the cornerback market throughout the year. Rashaan Melvin showed potential after becoming a starter in Week 16, and Danny Gorrer had bright spots during his brief stint in the lineup before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Either of them could be No. 3 or No. 4 cornerbacks, assuming the Ravens re-sign them in the offseason. Gorrer is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and Melvin an exclusive rights free agent.

"We have a nice group to work with, including between two and four guys that have proven themselves as starters, even here as Ravens," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens are in a similar situation with the safeties.

Will Hill emerged as a quality starter midway through the year, but Matt Elam struggled in his second season and Terrence Brooks was up-and-down as a rookie. Jeromy Miles and Darian Stewart both had their chances to start, and now they are headed into free agency.

The Ravens could try to bring back the safeties, allowing them to keep the group mostly intact next season.

Bringing back the free agents, getting key players healthy, and continuing to develop young players like Melvin and Gorrer gives the Ravens options. The secondary is one of the most important areas to improve, and the Ravens like the options they have in front of them.

"It's pretty encouraging that way, but that doesn't mean we're not going to be looking for more corners," Harbaugh said. "We have the draft; we have, maybe, free agency. The same goes for safeties. We have some safeties we like, but we're looking at safeties, too."

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