The Baltimore Ravens backed into the playoffs, losing four games in their last five. They looked like a really week fourth seed in the AFC Playoff picture, and some even thought Andrew Luck and the Colts had a shot to upset them in the first round.
Luckily, Ray Lewis announced that this year’s playoffs would be his “last ride.” The Ravens rallied around Lewis, got really healthy really fast, and wound up winning the Lombardi Trophy and the second Super Bowl in two tries for the franchise.
Lewis will ride off into the sun, Joe Flacco will be paid–in all likelihood–in excess of $100 million, and the Ravens likely will be among the NFL’s elite again in 2013. Here are their team needs in my opinion, in no particular order.
1. Inside Linebacker
Ray Lewis is retiring, and Dannell Ellerbe is a free agent. This is a clear position of need for the Ravens, who lost four of their last five games due in large part because they had health problems up the middle of their defense. Ray Lewis wasn’t a huge impact player in his final season in terms of his ability to be an elite middle linebacker, but his leadership will be sorely missed.
Ed Reed is a free agent, and I think while Bernard Pollard is a solid player, I think he could stand to be upgraded. Either way, the Ravens need to look to get younger at this position early in the draft.
3. Nose Tackle
Terrance Cody hasn’t been as good as many thought he could be coming out of Alabama, and the Ravens need to start looking for some competition for him. He’ll likely wind up as the starter going into next season, but I think a young player could be brought in early in the draft to compete with him.
4. Wide Receiver
The Ravens could have a huge need at receiver this offseason. There are some rumors that Anquan Boldin will be released due to all of the impending contract situations in Baltimore, and the money situation could also affect receiver/return specialist Jacoby Jones, who made some HUGE plays in the playoffs.
If either player is let go, it will be a huge loss for the Ravens.
4. Left Tackle
Bryant McKinnie has been a good addition for this team, but there’s a definite need to get younger at the left tackle position. The Ravens’ offensive line played great in their Super Bowl run, but this is a position that could use an infusion of youth.
Matt Birk has been great for Baltimore since coming over from Minnesota, but he’s not getting any younger, and I think it”d be wise to look at a potential center upgrade in this year’s draft. Perhaps with needs along the OL, the Ravens could look to a guy like Alabama’s Barrett Jones who has played and succeeded at multiple positions.