Monday, February 11, 2008

Team Needs: Baltimore Ravens

1. Quarterback
Steve McNair has been one of my favorites over the past decade or so, but it's pretty clear he's not his old self. I'm not positive, but I believe it would be only a small cap hit—basically a wash—if the Ravens were to release him. And though I hate to say it, if that's true, it's what I would do. At a cost of only $2 million dollars in 2008, Kyle Boller might have one last chance to win the starting job. If he does start, it will most likely be to keep the seat warm for whichever young QB the Ravens draft. Troy Smith can be fun to watch, but he's a career backup at best.

2. Offensive Tackle
If Jonathan Ogden doesn't retire, this need gets knocked down a peg or two. But no matter what, with Ogden at the end of his career and Adam Terry battling injuries last season, the Ravens need to add a starting-caliber tackle.

3. Cornerback
Chris McAlister struggled with a knee injury last season that cost him eight games. He will turn 31 in June and could be headed for the swift decline that has hit many cornerbacks before him. Samari Rolle, who turns 32 in August, is well into such a decline. Corey Ivy provides depth, but he can't be counted on as a starter.

4. Wide Receiver
Like McNair and Rolle, Derrick Mason is a former Titan who isn't nearly up to his old All-Pro level. He caught a lot of passes, but for relatively little value, ranking 65th in DVOA out of 87 WRs with a minimum of 50 passes thrown their way. Mark Clayton had a disappointing year but should be able to bounce back if the Ravens can get more consistent play from the quarterback position. Demetrius Williams will enter his third season hoping it's a breakout year for him as it has been for many a receiver before him. Devard Darling showed some flashes of big-play ability after making almost no impact his first three seasons, but now he's a free agent.

5. Outside Linebacker
The vaunted Ravens defense only registered 32 sacks, not terrible (they ranked 14th in adjusted sack rate), but a number they'll certainly look to improve in 2008. Terrell Suggs will receive the franchise tag and be brought back to start on one side. But last year's other starter Jarret Johnson will likely be replaced. 2007 fourth-rounder Antwan Barnes could be the guy who wins the job. But even if that happens, the Ravens need to add another pass rusher to rotate in.

6. Tight End
Todd Heap is a top-ten tight end at a time when there seem to be more great ones than ever before. That said, the Ravens lack depth behind him; and should he struggle with an injury the way he did in 2007, the Ravens would again be in trouble at this position. Not to mention that it helps to be able to run two-tight-end sets effectively.

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