As the Ravens reviewed their 2013 season at the annual "State of the Ravens" press conference, General Manager Ozzie Newsome revealed his personnel priorities heading into next season.
Newsome pointed to three specific additions he wants to make to the roster:
- Bigger interior offensive linemen
- Reliable pass catcher
- More athletic safety
Upgrading the offense after one of the statistically worst seasons in team history is a critical part of the offseason, and that process likely starts in the trenches. The line was an issue all season, as the Ravens dealt with a season-ending injury to left guard Kelechi Osemele and also had to replace retired center Matt Birk.
The Ravens replaced Osemele (6-foot-5, 330 pounds) and Birk (6-4, 310) with A.Q. Shipley (6-1, 309) and Gino Gradkowski (6-3, 300). The drop-off in size hurt the line and the group had problems protecting quarterback Joe Flacco and clearing holes in the running game.
"We've got to get bigger in the interior of our offensive line," Newsome said. "That's one of the areas that I think we need to improve on."
Another issue on offense was in the passing game, as the Ravens lacked a sure-handed receiver to move the chains in clutch situations. The Ravens had big-play threats with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, but they didn't have an intermediate target as in previous years with Anquan Boldin. The injury to tight end Dennis Pitta also hurt the offense's ability to attack the middle of the field.
Getting Flacco another reliable target is important to Newsome.
"We need to be able to get a receiver – whether it's a tight end or a wide receiver – that can make a third-and-7, third-and-8 catch and run some after the catch," he said.
Newsome said he and Harbaugh have even identified the type of receiver they want.
"I already know this and I won't share it with you," Newsome joked.
Defensively, the Ravens likely don't need to make as many changes after finishing the year ranked 12th in the NFL in total yards and points allowed.
The biggest change Newsome pointed to was the need for* *a rangy free safety to make more plays on the back end.
"I think we need to have a more athletic safety in the defense," he said.
Rookie first-round pick Matt Elam played free safety this year, while James Ihedigbo started at strong safety. Elam is better suited to play strong safety, so the Ravens could add a free safety this offseason, thus allowing Elam to play his more natural position.
"I also believe in this: you get better by getting yourself better," Newsome said. "And I have no doubt with the work that John and his staff have done in the past, we can have that. The players that we retain on this team will be better players."