Baltimore Ravens: Cornerback Now a Position of Strength


Ozzie Newsome continues to work his magic with the acquisition of cornerback Kyle Arrington to a three-year, $7.5 million contract on Wednesday. Ozzie has routinely shown us that once a weakness is found, he quickly addresses it. The revolving door at cornerback was the Ravens problem last season, and they pounced on the opportunity to snatch one of the top slot corners in the league from a rival team as well. 

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A lot of people were wondering how the Ravens were going to address the cornerback position in the offseason. When free agency opened, the Ravens were linked to a few corners, but never made a deal. Instead, they gave Jimmy Smith a contract extension and Lardarius Webb restructured his deal. Those deals took care of the long-term questions at the position.

The draft was filled with terrific talent at the cornerback position, and the Ravens scouted many of those corners, including holding several visits with projected first-round talents. Judging by those pre-draft interviews and workouts, it looked likely that the Ravens would select a corner in the early rounds of the draft. Instead, they waited until the fourth round to select Tray Walker, a large bodied corner prospect coming from a smaller school at Texas Southern.

That shifted the focus to the post-draft free agency period. This is the first year that the NFL made a rule change that doesn’t require to wait until June 1 to sign unrestricted free agents without them counting against the compensatory pick formula. It was then that Ozzie basically told us that they had a plan in mind, which ultimately led to the signing of Arrington.

"“This is the time of the year where because of the draft, teams start to tweak their rosters,” Newsome said. “We’ll be on the lookout not just for additions to the secondary, but for any other good players that may get released over the course of the next three months.”"

The Ravens are suddenly loaded with depth at cornerback. Webb, Smith and Arrington will be with the team for at least the next two seasons and form one of the top secondary units in all of football. The question now is whether or not they can keep all of the remaining corners on the roster.

The aforementioned trio are locks to make the team. While it has happened around the league before, it’s very unlikely that the Ravens selected Walker in the fourth round and don’t keep him on the roster. They also won’t be able to stash him on the practice squad because another team is sure to pick him up.

Julian Wilson was one of the Ravens highly recruited undrafted rookie free agents, but broke his leg in rookie minicamp. He will be on injured reserve and could be a part of the team next season. That is already five corners with Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin and Anthony Levine still in the mix as well.

Jackson is a likely candidate to stay with the club because of his value as a kick returner. The Ravens don’t have that player on the roster who has a set role as the kick returner with Jacoby Jones now in San Diego. It’s likely that Jackson and wide receiver Michael Campanaro will compete over the return duties or the return duties could be split between the two.

This is where things interesting. It remains to be seen how many cornerbacks the team keeps in the fold. Most teams keep five cornerbacks on the roster. John Harbaugh could decide to keep an extra corner around with either Melvin or Levine. Melvin has the advantage because he started the final two games of the regular season. He did not fair well in the playoffs, especially against the New England Patriots, allowing 12 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Levine has been with the Ravens since 2012, and has been a solid special teams performer in his time in Baltimore. What makes Levine unique is his ability to play safety as well.

The Birds open the season with a trip to Denver to face off against Peyton Manning and his weapons. What we don’t know know is whether it will it be five or six corners on the roster that night. Having a surplus of cornerbacks after last year’s debacle is a good problem to have.

Never doubt Ozzie’s mission. He had a plan for the position all along and it worked out perfectly. The Ravens weakness is now a strength.

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