OWINGS MILLS – A year ago, the Baltimore Ravens had three set starters along the defensive line — Haloti Ngata at nose tackle, Chris Canty at defensive end and Arthur Jones at defensive tackle.
Now, they have to replace Jones, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent.
They have more pressing concerns — notably running back and free safety —but the defensive line is one of the many positions general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens hope to address during the NFL draft this week.
They may even take a defensive lineman during the first few rounds.
“In terms of adding a D-lineman, yeah, you would love to have the opportunity to add one,” Baltimore director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said.
The Ravens do still have Ngata and Canty. However, Ngata is 30. Canty will be 32 in November and only had 22 tackles and two sacks last season.
Baltimore took Brandon Williams in the third round last year and hopes he can be the long-term answer at nose tackle, but the team does not have any clear long-term answer at either defensive end or defensive tackle.
And in the short-term, the Ravens would like to add more depth as well as more competition for the starting defensive tackle job vacated by Jones.
Williams will compete for time at that spot. So will DeAngelo Tyson and Kapron Lewis-Moore, a 2013 sixth-round pick Baltimore has high hopes for. However, none of the three have proven capable of being a reliable starter to this point.
Williams was inactive for nine games as a rookie last season. Lewis-Moore missed his entire rookie year because of a knee injury suffered during his final college game, and Tyson is a former seventh-round pick who has seen inconsistent playing time during his two seasons with the Ravens.
Two possible fits in the draft are Ra’Shede Hageman from Minnesota and Stephon Tuitt from Notre Dame.
Hageman is a potential first-round pick. Tuitt is considered a second-round prospect.
Hageman was inconsistent during his college career, but he showed glimpses of his potential at Minnesota as well as at the Senior Bowl in January.
He is 6-foot-6, 310 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.02 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, an excellent time for a player of his size. He also did 32 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, which was tied for third-most among defensive linemen.
“Hageman is a guy who is physically gifted and talented, and you really started seeing all he could do once the Senior Bowl came around,” Hortiz said. “He got out there on a level playing field and really had a great performance out there.”
The Ravens likely would not take him at pick No. 17, but he could be an option if they trade back.
If they do not take Hageman or another defensive lineman in the first round, Tuitt may be of interest in the second.
Like Hageman, the 6-foot-5, 304-pound Tuitt has the size to play either end or tackle in a 3-4 like the Ravens run and had 19.5 sacks during his last two seasons at Notre Dame — 12 as a sophomore in 2012 and 7.5 last season.
“[He] was not in peak condition for his junior season, but has disruptive upside,” former NFL scout and current NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote in a scouting report on NFL.com.
Another intriguing option for Baltimore is former Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.