As the Ravens prepare for the combine next week,* *followed by free agency and the draft, let's take stock of each position.
Here's a look at linebacker:
What Ravens Have
Two Strong Pass RushersAt the midway point last year, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil looked like perhaps the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL. Suggs had nine sacks in his first eight games. Dumervil had 8.5 sacks in his first nine contests as a Raven. But both dropped off. Suggs had just one sack in the second half of the year. Dumervil, who was limited by an ankle injury, notched one in his final six games. The duo combined for 19.5 sacks on the year.
Bruising UpshawCourtney Upshaw didn't deliver the sack totals he was hoping for, and he had half as many tackles in 2013 as he did in 2012. But one thing Upshaw continued to do is beat up the opposition. Watching tape, it's easy to see that Upshaw is an edge-setting force who tosses around tight ends frequently. He could have a bigger role next season.
Young Outside LinebackersHeading into his third year, Pernell McPhee is an alluring talent. His sack totals dipped from his breakout rookie year, but he developed his overall game. The Ravens drafted John Simon in the fourth round last year, and due to the abundance of outside linebackers, he was mainly limited to special teams. Adrian Hamilton has been a prospect that has intrigued Ravens fans before with his pass-rush potential, and is a restricted free agent coming off a season-ending wrist injury.
What Ravens Are Looking For
Brown To Take Next StepThe Ravens were very excited to get Arthur Brown in the second round of last year's draft. He didn't have a huge impact on the field in his rookie season, notching 15 tackles, a half sack and forced fumble. He was focused on learning the game and Ravens system while teammates Daryl Smith, Jameel McClain and Josh Bynes took most of the snaps. After the season, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he expects Brown to win the starting Will linebacker job this summer.
Will Suggs Be Back?Suggs' future is unknown at this point, as indicated by General Manager Ozzie Newsome. Newsome said the Ravens are not afraid when it comes to letting players go. Suggs is reportedly slated to eat $12.4 million into next year's salary cap, so the Ravens could cut him or look to give him an extension with a more favorable cap number.
What About Smith?Daryl Smith was a success in his first year in Baltimore. The veteran was signed to help fill in after Ray Lewis retired, and answered with a team-leading 123 tackles and 19 passes defensed. He was good against the run and pass. Smith is back on the free-agent market, but said "I think [the Ravens] want me back."