Paul Kruger carried the Ravens in the pass rush department last year, notching 13.5 sacks in the regular season and playoffs. He made up for the decrease in production from Terrell Suggs, who battled through injuries the entire season and was never at full strength.
But now Kruger is an unrestricted free agent and could wind up leaving Baltimore in free agency, creating a potential need for a pass rusher opposite Suggs that the Ravens could look to find in the draft.
"We still would need an elite pass rusher to match the guys that we have," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said during the end-of-season press conference.
Traditionally, the elite pass rushers get gobbled up early in the first round because they're one of the NFL's prized positions.
But the good news for the Ravens this year is that they may be able to nab a promising pass rusher at pick No. 32, or possibly even later in the draft. There are a few defensive ends and outside linebackers that could be available at the end of the first round mostly over injury concerns.
One prospect is Oregon's Dion Jordan, a 6-foot-6, 248-pound defensive end who was regarded as a top-10 talent coming into the pre-draft process. But Jordan recently announced that he played through a shoulder injury for much of the season and is having surgery next week to repair a torn labrum.
The injury will sideline Jordan leading up to the draft and could scare off some teams early in the first.
"Give me about 3-4 months as far as my rehab," Jordan said. "I'm going to attack my rehab after the surgery as hard as I did before, just to make sure I'm able to show up to camp and compete with all the other guys."
Jordan competed in most of the workouts and position drills at the NFL Combine, showing off his promise as a speed rusher when he clocked a 4.60 in the 40-yard dash. Jordan's showing in the 40 has some draft experts again projecting him as a top-10 pick, as long as he convinces teams he's able to bounce back from the shoulder injury.
"It shows my athleticism," Jordan said about his ability to get after the passer. "It shows that like I said I can line up all over the field and get after the quarterback, it shows that I understand defense, just adjusting to the defense on the fly, and just my speed. Just having the speed to come off the edge every play. I never came off the field. I was all three downs, even four downs if you needed."
Another pass rusher with plenty of potential is Florida State defensive end Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, who is more likely than Jordan to be available at the end of the first round. He could be available in the second or even third round and said he had a formal meeting with the Ravens at the combine.
The former junior college player transferred to Florida State last season and was off to an impressive start with 11 sacks before tearing his ACL in November, which may move him into the second or third round range.
At 6-foot-4, 276-pounds, Carradine brings a mixture of size and speed that makes him difficult to stop as a pass rusher or against the run.
"A guy that's got a motor," Carradine said when asked to describe himself. "A guy that is physical against the run, disruptive against the pass, and a guy that can shoot through gaps, and a guy that's just all over the field, and a guy that you'll want on your team that will come in and make impact plays on your defense." [add]
The injury took a toll on the draft stock for Carradine, who was believed to be making his way up draft boards before getting hurt. He is now in the middle of his rehab and told reporters that he'll be ready to go for training camp.
"I expect to be 100 percent in April," he said. "Before the draft I'm going to do everything they did at the combine – run the 40, do position drills at my pro day."
Another possible target is Carradine's Florida State teammate Brandon Jenkins, who missed nearly all of the 2012 season with a foot injury, but is still believed to be a first or second round pick. He notched 21.5 total sacks between his sophomore and junior seasons at Florida State. Jenkins had a formal meeting with the Ravens at the combine.
Some other possible targets for the Ravens for the first two rounds would be LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery and possibly Texas defensive end Alex Okafor.