3 biggest offseason needs for the Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore suffered greatly from key injuries this season—John Breitenbach gives three areas the team must address in 2016.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

3 biggest offseason needs for the Baltimore Ravens


A number of issues have plagued the Ravens in 2015, resulting in a 4-9 record. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has failed to get the best out of Joe Flacco, and the loss of defensive stalwarts Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs has set back a once-dominant defensive unit.

Clearly, depth on the offensive line is an issue too; James Hurst (26.6 overall grade) is not yet a serviceable NFL player, but the Ravens are financially committed to Eugene Monroe (79.1), and will be relying on a bounce-back year from Ricky Wagner (42.0). Although the offensive line could do with an injection of talent, it was far from the Ravens’ biggest weakness this year. Joe Flacco was pressured on just 30.2 percent of dropbacks this season, the sixth-lowest mark in the league, and the line currently has a pass blocking efficiency of 78.5, which is 10th-best.

Baltimore isn’t a bad team, and one or two slight adjustments could see the Ravens re-emerge as a contender in the AFC in 2016. Here are three priorities for the Baltimore Ravens’ offseason, along with some solutions.

Star receiver

The problem:

It may be that the competitor in Steve Smith, Sr. (92.0) will not allow one of the best NFL receivers of the past decade to retire on the back of an injury-curtailed season. The former Panther has been one of the most exciting players to watch over the course of his career, and it’s a massive shame that he couldn’t finish a season where, despite not playing since Week 8, he sits as our 10th graded WR, in terms of receiving alone. The Ravens can’t rely on him, though, and need a difference-maker on the outside to open up their intermediate threats. Kamar Aiken (84.2) has had an impressive season, and currently ranks as our 18th-best wide receiver. The mid-season trade for Chris Givens (67.8) has added a deep threat to the mix, as well. Neither player can really take over games, though, and should be considered merely complimentary pieces.

The solution:

If the season ended today, the Ravens would have the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Such a lofty position would see Ozzie Newsome have his choice of this year’s crop of top wideouts. Baylor’s Corey Coleman graded as one of the best wide receivers in the nation this season. He picked up the fourth-best receiving grade amongst Power-5 receivers after catching 73 passes for over 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns. While he had a few too many drops (17 over the past two years), Coleman has made his fair share of plays (29 broken tackles), too. Alternatively, the Ravens might target Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell, who finished with the seventh-best receiving grade among Power-5 peers. Treadwell’s numbers—77 catches for 1,100 yards and eight scores—are impressive. He’s capable of bullying defensive backs when he gets into a rhythm. The draft looks like the best personnel route for finding a solution at WR this offseason, with an unconvincing crop of free agents.

Interior pass rusher

The problem:

Haloti Ngata was undoubtedly on the decline in 2014, and it’s reasonable that the Ravens were reluctant to offer him anything close to the five-year, $61 million contract ($37 million guaranteed) the Lions handed to the 31-year-old defensive tackle in the 2015 offseason. With that said, the Ravens have really missed a player that can push the pocket from the interior. No interior defensive lineman has gotten close to Ngata’s pass rushing grade from 2014. Timmy Jernigan (76.0) has done a fair job; his four sacks, seven hits, and 16 hurries are a decent return, but nothing more.

The solution:

It isn’t like Newsome to splash the cash on free agents, but he’s open to bargains when they become available. Daryl Smith’s addition in the 2013 offseason is a good example. Smith was one of the best coverage linebackers back then, and filled a niche in the Ravens’ defense perfectly. One of the most intriguing impending free agents is Eagles’ defensive end Vinny Curry. His pass rushing grade is fifth-best amongst 3-4 defensive ends, and he’s taken fewer snaps (268) than all those above him. Curry is versatile, too, having played on the edge in a 4-3 defense, as well as inside in the 3-4. While he’s not a guy you’d want dropping into coverage much, he’s a capable pass rusher from both the interior and exterior.

Alternatively, the Ravens might use their top-five pick on a defensive lineman. This draft has depth at the position but players like DeForest Buckner don’t come along very often. Assuming Joey Bosa is gone, Buckner would be a great pick for the Ravens. He’s suited to the 3-4, having played five-technique at Oregon, and was one of the most productive players in all of college football in 2015. This season, he led all interior defensive lineman with his pass rush grade (11 sacks, 14 huts and 39 hurries) and had the eighth-highest run defense grade. We think he’s definitely deserving of a top-five pick.

Shutdown corner

The problem:

Both Jimmy Smith (48.5) and Ladarius Webb (73.0) have flattered to deceive at points in their Baltimore careers. Smith looked like he’d finally turned a corner in 2014, before going down with an injury in Week 8. Webb, meanwhile, had an excellent 2013 season when he graded as our 16th overall corner. Both players have regressed, however. Smith has a negative cumulative coverage grade this season, having allowed 62 percent of passes to be caught, six touchdowns surrendered, and a QB rating when targeted of 102. On the other side, Webb also has a negative coverage grade and is giving up 66 percent of targets to be caught, seven touchdowns surrendered, and a QB rating of 113.7. The Ravens need to re-tool the secondary.

The solution:

Again, though the Ravens front office are unlikely to target a big name in free agency, they might aggressively target a mid-tier guy. Rams CB Trumaine Johnson (88.8) is set to hit the open market. He suits the physical press man style the Ravens like to run, and has impressive coverage numbers in 2015. Johnson’s coverage grade is eighth-best in the league, and he’s allowing a QB rating of just 54.0 when targeted (fourth-best). He’s allowed just a single touchdown and has five picks and four pass deflections. Baltimore might wish to target a corner early in the draft. FSU’s Jalen Ramsey is one option, but he performed better in 2014 as a safety who could come down and man the slot rather than a purely perimeter defender in 2015.

| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • Ravens

    Baltimore will draft defense with their top pick.

    Steve Smith Sr., Perriman, and Aiken will be WR.

    Money best spent on secondary and O-Line.

  • anon76returns

    LOL!
    I have a 1 step approach for how Baltimore can bounce back: get healthy.
    No team could play well with the sort of injuries they’ve had. They might not be a SB contender next year, but assuming all of their starters can come back near to their 2014 form, they’ll at least be back in the playoff hunt.

    • AKjester

      Poor Baltimore has been absolutely rocked with injuries this year. Perhaps it puts them over the hump with getting some cheap good talent with higher draft picks next year. I am betting on a 10-win season for them next year.

      • crosseyedlemon

        Good cheap talent? LOL….even mediocre talent doesn’t come cheap anymore.

        • Mark Erickson

          He’s referring to drafted rookies.

          • crosseyedlemon

            The drafting of rookies is always a crap-shoot and no one in the first couple of rounds comes cheap even if they turn out to be a total bust. Players that go in the later rounds might be cheaper but there is generally some part of their game that is suspect which prevented them from going higher in the draft.

  • Tyler Ferree

    There’s something missing here, defuse the nuke, Flacco’s contract reaches critcal mass in March, had he not been injured he probably would end up forcing Newsome to make him the highest payed playing in football come February, the injury muddles that somewhat.

    Though an interesting, albeit unlikely, possibly to address the defensive line issues would be a trade for Mo Wilkerson (yes he’s technically a pending free agent the Jets have the tag to recoup a first rounder for him), the Jets need a Quarterback, probably swap ones and Baltimore throws in a 3, not likely but an interesting and potentially mutually beneficial possibly.

    • Ravens

      Jets seem happy with Fitzpatrick. I think Rams would be a more likely trade target for Flacco. Or maybe Texans.

      Or go crazy, and maybe QB trade with Lions.

      • crosseyedlemon

        Joe’s alma mater was Michigan but there’s about as much chance of Flacco going to Detroit as there is seeing Muslims dedicate a mosque to Donald Trump.

        • Richard Nixon

          Joe’s Alma mater was michigan? Dafuq? Proves you don’t know shit.

      • Tyler Ferree

        Um where did i say flacco to the Jets, those were two seperate points. Logistically the Ravens can’t trade Flacco, there is too much prorated dead money in the deal it would all accelerate to 2016 leaving the Ravens gaining only about 2.7m in space versus 25.85 dead. The point of that trade for the Jets would be moving up for Lynch or Goff.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Are Raven fans wearing blinders or are they simply trying to ignore that teams like the Steelers and Cowboys were decimated by injuries just as badly as Baltimore? The Ravens have depth issues and are definitely past their ‘best before’ date.

    • Richard Nixon

      LOL is this serious? The Steelers basically have Bell, Beachum and a bunch of scrubs on IR. The Ravens have significantly more talented players on IR. Horrible comparison. No team has been decimated with injuries like the Ravens have. Except maybe Dallas.

      • Mark Erickson

        A team loses a couple name players and they’re suddenly perceived as dealing with a slew of injuries. I admit Dez isn’t 100%, but the only big losses Dallas has had to injuries were Scandrick, Romo, and Dunbar. Losing your QB is game-changing (Ravens fan trust me I know how this season feels), but don’t insinuate that Dallas is consumed to injuries because they’re playing bad. That front seven is healthy, and their offensive line as well as their intended starter as RB. Matt Cassell is terrible and Dez isn’t playing to his potential to open it up for the rest of the complimentary WRs. Back to my point, there are far more injured teams than Dallas, don’t be fooled…

        • Richard Nixon

          Valid points.

      • crosseyedlemon

        You just proved my point by conveniently ignoring that the Steelers were without Rothlisberger for several key games.

        • Richard Nixon

          How the hell does that prove your point? Flacco is on IR, Rapistberger isn’t. The Steelers have 2 decent players on IR, whereas the Ravens have about 10.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Your taking the narrow view while the original comment and my response deal with the entire season played so far.

      • Vitor

        Bell and Beachum sure are great and important injured players, but no way there’s any team in the league so affected overall this season as Baltimore.

        Ravens starters in IR:

        QB (Flacco)
        RB1 (Forsett)
        RB2 (Taliaferro)
        WR1 (S. Smith)
        WR2 (Perriman)|
        WR3/KR/PR (Campanaro)
        TE1 (Pitta)
        LT (Monroe)
        C (Zuttah)

        DE (Canty)
        OLB (Suggs)
        SS (Elam)
        CB3 (Davis)

        Anyway, don’t take this cross eyed guy serious. Dude comment in every single post trying to be funny, but I’ve never saw him saying anything useful…

  • JIm Croce

    Clearly they need a lot of help. Joey Bosa is the most likely guy they’d wish to have. Maybe they will get him. After all half the team has suddenly been put on the IR. What r the odds ya know? They’re not tanking they’re just hurt! Ha Ha.

  • James Winslow

    Everything

  • Richard Nixon

    Why are all Steelers fans so fucking fat? Just curious.

    • shaunhan murray

      Thats a weird question…especially from Richard Nixon…R u getting cranky?

      • JudoPrince

        Who the hell would have a Richard Nixon avatar?

        • crosseyedlemon

          At least he had the good sense not to use a Donald Trump avatar.

    • crosseyedlemon

      They’ve been eating quite a bit of crow this season but that wouldn’t account for the fat unless they are adding gravy.

  • JudoPrince

    The Ravens need an edge pass rusher, not an interior one. Timmy Jernigan is a good young player still growing in the interior; you’re not going to find a better option in free agency unless you splurge which the Ravens should not attempt to do. The outside rush has been dead this year compared to previous seasons with the absence of Suggs and McPhee and it has affected the line as a whole. Bear in mind Carl Davis also is a young player with plenty of upside and could grow into a solid threat from the interior. Not to mention the Ravens already have one of the better defensive tackles in the league in Brandon Williams. He gets busy in terms of bringing pressure up the middle.

    Dumerville is getting older and Suggs will likely never be the same again with the achilles injury plus age. Z’Darious Smith is a raw talent waiting in the looms but I expect the Ravens to be addressing an edge rusher somewhere within the first three picks of the draft. Certainly a priority over an interior rusher.

  • Tim Edell

    Did you forget their 1st round WR this year who has been hurt in Perriman??!!?