Ravens Post-Draft Roster Analysis
The Ravens drafted 11 players and have signed an additional 11 undrafted free agents to fill out the 90 man roster to start Training Camp. While a number of positions, highlighted by the offensive skill positions, have excellent depth, there are some areas that could still use some bolstering. What are the biggest holes on the roster as it stands right now, and who are some potential players that could be signed or traded for to fill those holes?
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The Ravens are clearly set with Joe Flacco as their starting QB, and Ryan Mallett did enough for himself in the 2015 season to most likely hold onto the back-up QB position coming out of Training Camp. But as we saw last season, it’s never a bad idea to at least get a look at some other options in case of injury. Jerrod Johnson has never attempted an NFL pass, and it makes sense to bring in a veteran with real NFL experience to push Mallett. A few potential options:
Tarvaris Jackson: Jackson has spent the last 3 seasons backing up Russell Wilson in Seattle after starting for them in 2011. He doesn’t have the same athleticism he used to, but he could still be a viable back-up if called upon.
Christian Ponder: It’s certainly possible that Ponder’s career in the NFL is over, but there was a time not too long ago where he was a marginally competent NFL starter. There’s probably no upside with a player like Ponder, but it never hurts to take a look in training camp at a player with his pedigree.
Josh Freeman: Similar to Ponder, Freeman’s career took a precipitous fall after a brief time when he was considered one of the more promising young QBs in the NFL. Attitude problems didn’t help his cause, and he quickly found himself out of work. However, he did make a cameo start for the Colts last season and should at least find his way onto a roster as a camp arm.
Linebacker was one of the few positions that the Ravens did not address in the draft despite having a perceived need at the position after the release of Daryl Smith. C.J. Mosley doesn’t come off the field on defense, but next to him the Ravens have no sure thing. Right now the depth chart consists of 4th year LB Arthur Brown, who has barely seen any action in 3 seasons, and 3rd year UDFA Zach Orr who played a part-time nickel LB role in 2015. Albert McClellan is another option if needed, but is best suited to ST play. While it’s certainly possible that Brown and Orr could battle it out for the starting spot next to Mosley, there is a real lack of experience and depth at ILB. However, there are some FA options the Ravens could pursue:
Donald Butler: Butler was given a massive 7 year/$50M+ contract by the Chargers in 2014 after several very solid seasons, but after he cashed in his play fell off of a cliff. It’s certainly possible that he has no desire or motivation to put the necessary work in to be an impactful player once again, but there is some potential upside in this 27 year old LB.
A.J. Hawk: The long time starter in Green Bay had a 1 year stint in Cincinatti this past season before finding himself unemployed. While assuredly not the great athlete he used to be, Hawk is an instinctive veteran player who could still bring some value to a team.
DeMeco Ryans: Another veteran whose best years are behind him, Ryans could still bring strong leadership and a role on early downs against the run.
After the Ravens were unable to trade up in the 1st round for Jalen Ramsey, they ended up not taking a DB until drafting CB Tavon Young in the 4th round. Young projects to be a solid slot CB, and fellow draft pick Maurice Canady may end up playing safety, but there is still a lack of proven depth behind projected starters Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright at CB. Free agent acquisition Eric Weddle should be the captain of the defense, but he is probably close to the end of his prime and Lardarius Webb is still a bit of a question mark at safety. As the roster currently stands the Ravens are likely depending on either Will Davis or Kyle Arrington to bounce back after injury and ineffectiveness respectively, while Matt Elam will need to step up as a reliable in the box safety. However, there are still some potential players in free agency that could help the Ravens secondary:
Leon Hall: The longtime Bengal is still a free agent and has versatility to play almost anywhere in the secondary. He’s drawn interest from several teams, and as of yet the Ravens have not been reported to be one of them, but he would be a good veteran signing who still has some ability.
Walter Thurmond: Thurmond is reportedly considering retirement, but at 28 years old he still likely has a couple good seasons left in him at least. He’s been a quality slot CB throughout his career before making an impressive transformation to the safety position last year in Philadelphia.
Donte Whitner: Whitner was let go by the Browns in their offseason purge even though he played fairly well for them over the past 2 seasons. He’s never been an elite coverage safety, but he has excelled as a big hitter who can come up in the box.
Antrel Rolle: At 33 years old, Rolle is nearing the end of his career but he is still playing well enough to find a role on a team in need of some safety help. He dealt with some injuries in 2015, but if he has a clean bill of health he might be a good fit for the Ravens.
Gabe is an avid fan of the NFL and Ravens football. He grew up in Westminster, MD, and attended college at Johns Hopkins University majoring in Biology. He earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and now works as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where he studies cartilage development and cancer. Gabe has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan.