Baltimore Ravens: Free Agents To Fit Team Needs
By Cian Fahey
Since their conception, the Baltimore Ravens have been a franchise that has built their success through the draft. However, even though Ozzie Newsome's primary focus has always been on that event in late April, dipping into the free agent market to find role players who can fill needs has always been an option. Newsome may not have the same kind of flexibility this year that he has had in the past, but presuming he can find some cap space after the Joe Flacco negotiations, he should venture into adding some experienced NFL bodies on the open market.
Focusing on their own free agents coming free will take first priority. Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger top the list of players who need new contracts, but if the Ravens can't afford either of them they will need to pursue cheaper options. Depending on how much money they can spare at inside linebacker, the Ravens could sign anyone from Erin Henderson to Bart Scott. A player with experience of being a Ravens' linebacker is also available, Tavares Gooden. Gooden may have only been a special teams player in San Francisco, but that means that he could be signed for a very small deal. Gooden wasn't overly impressive in his 12 starts for the Ravens in 2009, but he is still only 28 and would have instant comfort with his surroundings.
Should Kruger leave, the Ravens will still have two starting options in Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw. However, Suggs is somewhat fragile at this point in his career and Upshaw doesn't offer the pass-rushing threat that the Ravens would like. In order to find a low priced replacement for that lost pass rush, Antwan Barnes and Andre Carter could come in to contribute. Like Gooden, Barnes is a former Raven who has 14 sacks over the past two seasons in a very limited role. At 33 years of age, Carter has 12 seasons under his belt and had a 10 sack season as recently as two years ago. In just 323 snaps for the Oakland Raiders last year, Carter had 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
Long-time starter Ed Reed could potentially find pastures new elsewhere, which would leave the Ravens with a gaping hole on the back of their defense. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable replacements for them on the open market. High-priced players such as Jairus Byrd, William Moore and Dashon Goldson aren't possibilities, but Kenny Philips, Abram Elam, Chris Crocker, James Sanders and Yeremiah Bell could all find their way to Baltimore. None are on the same level as Reed, but they would all be significantly cheaper.