Can the 2014 Baltimore Ravens improve their offense without sacrificing their defense?
While the answer to that question remains unknown for now, one sure thing – after the whooping Seattle gave Denver in the Super Bowl – is that there is a still a firm place for defense in the ever-changing world of the NFL.
As we all know the Ravens spent much of last offseason shoring up the defensive side of the football and this year the front office has made it clear they intend to do the same on offense.
Of the 46 players the Ravens have under contract for 2014, only 18 reside on defense.
There are currently 14 players that will be free agents this season – six are on the defensive side of the football, including Arthur Jones, Daryl Smith and Corey Graham – all of whom were key contributors for defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ unit in 2013.
Sure, we’ve all heard the “next man up” philosophy that every team employs; however, the Ravens cannot afford to leave those cleats unfilled.
It is likely Arthur Jones will be in high demand much like Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger were a year ago – the Ravens probably won’t be able to afford him. The same could possibly be said about Graham.
Keeping Daryl Smith would be ideal and I would expect the team to make Smith a formidable offer after he played lights out in 2013, and anchored a defense that lined up without Ray Lewis at the helm.
There are some promising young players who will get a chance to step up including DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Arthur Brown and Asa Jackson. But will that be enough?
The Ravens finished the year with the 12th-ranked defense in the league and certainly had their share of struggles. Some of those were attributed to the lack of time of possession from the offense but by no means was the “D” perfect. The inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks late in the season coupled with failing to come up with stops at crucial times proved costly on a few occasions.
The team will leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding quality personnel either through free agency, cap casualties or the draft.
For now, as our own Brian McFarland reported, the Ravens, barring an early release or re-signing of a player, will enter the 2014 offseason with around $7-9M in Cap space.
As teams begin to overhaul their rosters the Ravens will no doubt have their eyes peeled for the talent that becomes available. Lets just hope they don’t rob Peter to pay Paul and go backwards on defense as they try to boost the offense.
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