Last month at the Baltimore Ravens state of the team address, Ozzie Newsome emphasized that depth would be the key to improving the roster. Losing 19 players to injured reserve will make you recognize how important it is to have talent throughout the program.
The Ravens top priority this offseason was to keep Justin Forsett. He was undoubtedly the hero of 2014. If you had asked me if that would have been the case when he was signed, I would have questioned your football intelligence. However, in the wake of the Ray Rice dilemma, no one in the NFL would have thought Forsett would gain 1,266 rushing yards and led the league with 5.3 yards per carry.
With Forsett re-signed to a three-year, $9 million deal, the Ravens shored up a key cog on the offense. They lucked out in a sense because we have no idea where they would be without him. They are still feeling the pain from Rice’s stupidity. They lead the league in dead money at $20.66 million and Rice accounts for $9.5 million of it.
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That is what makes the Forsett contract a thing of beauty. Baltimore hit the salary cap jackpot with Forsett accounting for just $1.6 million against the cap. What makes it more remarkable is the total money does not even compare to the contracts handed out to LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray. In fact, the Philadelphia Eagles gave Ryan Mathews a three-year, $11.5 million contract to essentially be a backup. Talk about a bargain for the Ravens.
The Ravens made the right move to bring Forsett back, but they cannot stop there. They still have needs on offense, particularly in the passing game.
They realistically need two tight ends. Owen Daniels has signed with the Denver Broncos and Dennis Pitta is no guarantee to come back. Crockett Gillmore and Phillip Supernaw are inexperienced. John Harbaugh needs a veteran presence at the position so it is almost certain they will make some kind of move.
The problem with that is the free agent market is scarce. There were rumors that Baltimore had interest in Scott Chandler, but he has now signed with the New England Patriots. Jermaine Gresham and Jacob Tamme are arguably the two best options available, but neither is really what to you call a difference maker.
The same could be said for the wide receiving corps. The Ravens like guys who are cap casualties and that list includes Stevie Johnson and Dwayne Bowe. Both would be a welcomed veteran presence, but both are guilty of having “butter fingers.” The Ravens have seen plenty of that over the past few seasons.
My colleague Cole Moog has previously stated that the Ravens need Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro to step. Marc Trestman has thrived with big bodied receivers and the hope is Brown will make that leap in his third season. Campanaro can take over the return duties in the wake of Jacoby Jones’ departure.
Their most important, but least talked about need is a quarterback to back up Joe Flacco. Tyrod Taylor has signed with the Buffalo Bills. That leaves Harbaugh with just Keith Wenning, last year’s sixth-round pick, as the only other quarterback on the roster. To this point, there has been no talk of the team having any interest in the current field of free agents. The Ravens need a veteran presence to compete with Wenning. Someone who could run the offense if something were to happen to Flacco – knock on wood.
The Ravens do have needs on defense. They need a ball-hawk at safety. They have lost two key players along the defensive line. You can never have enough linebackers in their style of defense. Harbaugh proved in last season’s cornerback shuffle that he can make do on that side of the ball.
The same cannot be said for the offense. Flacco needs more targets and they just do not exist with the current makeup of the roster. Steve Smith is the only pass catcher on the team with more than three years of NFL experience. There is no chance that this stays the same entering the regular season.
The front office should give themselves a pat on the back for striking a cap friendly deal with Forsett, but their work is not done. They have plenty more to do.
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