The priority for the Ravens in the early part of free agency has clearly been to bolster their defensive front.
The Ravens have brought in two unrestricted free agents – defensive linemen Marcus Spears and Chris Canty – who both have reputations as run stuffers. Their arrival in Baltimore will upgrade the Ravens defensive line and create tight competition among a group that finished last year ranked 20th in the NFL at defending the run (122.8 yards per game).
"The base of a good defense is to be good along the defensive line," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We didn't play to our standards last season, partly because of injury."
Baltimore dealt with a handful of injuries along the front line, most notably to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. He fought through knee and shoulder injuries throughout the season, which limited his effectiveness. Defensive end Pernell McPhee also had knee and thigh issues, and he didn't have the same explosion he showed during his rookie season.
By adding Spears and Canty to the mix, the Ravens will have more depth to withstand injuries and can also keep a steady rotation of bodies throughout each game.
"With the expected better health of players like Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee and the additions of* *Marcus Spears and Chris Canty, we have a chance to improve," Newsome said.
Canty (6-foot-7, 317 pounds) and Spears (6-foot-4, 315 pounds) are both flexible in where they can play. They could play up the middle as a nose tackle, and also slide outside to play defensive end.
Both players are expected to compete for playing time with nose tackle Terrence Cody. They will also challenge McPhee and Arthur Jones for time at defensive end.
"Spears, like Canty, can play multiple positions along the line," Newsome said. "[Spears] brings a lot of snaps and big game experience to us. We like the way Marcus plays. He will fit in with the Ravens'way of playing."
Canty, 30, has been compared to former Raven Cory Redding in his ability to stop the run and also get after the passer. While he's not an elite pass rusher, he's able to get after quarterbacks and has notched 8.5 sacks over the last three seasons.
"Chris is a good player and an upgrade for our defense," Newsome said.
Spears, 30, is more of a traditional run stuffer and he has eight sacks over the course of his eight-year career.
In addition to challenging Cody, McPhee and Jones for playing time, the two new additions will be part of a group that is very crowded. Young players like Bryan Hall and DeAngelo Tyson will be competing with them for a roster spot, and the Ravens still have to decide whether to bring back unrestricted free agent nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu.