Ravens Post-Lockout Checklist

The Ravens need to be prepared for a lot once the work stoppage ends. Where to start?

Posted by Mike Duffy on Saturday, July 2nd, 2011 at 11:20 am | Categories: Mike Duffy

It’s not certain when the NFL’s work stoppage will come to a close, but many are hopeful its weeks away. With a much-shortened offseason ahead, league and club affairs will be kicked into overdrive.
Where should the Ravens look first once the labor conflict is resolved?
Here’s what to look for when Ravens’ business resumes:

  1. Begin Contract Talks With Haloti and Marshal Yanda
    The Ravens applied the franchise tag to their two-time Pro Bowl behemoth Haloti Ngata earlier this year, but they have also made it very clear that they want to sign him to a long-term deal. Ngata has emerged as one of the NFL’s best at his position, and at the age of 26, his best days are still ahead of him.
    Think back to 2009, when the Ravens locked franchised linebacker Terrell Suggs into a lucrative six-year contract that July.  Perhaps it could happen again for their other young defensive stud.
    In addition, Yanda’s name has been mentioned by many, including Head Coach John Harbaugh, as a top priority in free agency, as the four-year veteran could potentially become an unrestricted free agent.  Yanda’s ability to excel at both tackle and guard make him invaluable to the Ravens.
  2. Solidify Cornerback Position  

    The Ravens drafted Jimmy Smith to be their next shutdown corner, but with only Lardarius Webb, Domonique Foxworth, Cary Williams and rookie Chykie Brown guaranteed to be on the roster, they’ll likely need another one or two bodies.
    The Ravens have two or three corners who are familiar with their defense, but are ready to hit the open market – five-year vet Josh Wilson and six-year guys Chris Carr and Fabian Washington.
    All three started games in 2010, so they can be relied upon, but the Ravens may want to check out who’s available. There will be some big names, such as Nnamdi Asomugah or Antonio Cromartie.

  3. Find A Pass Rusher Opposite Terrell Suggs
    The Ravens did not draft a straight pass rusher, an area they wanted to improve upon next year after Suggs led all Baltimore sackers with 11 during the regular season.
    So, it’s off  to free agency to find the next person who can apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks.  2010 draftee Sergio Kindle could be that guy, but the Ravens might want to grab some insurance if Kindle cannot return to full action after missing his rookie year with a head injury.
  4. Gauge The Market For McClain, Gaither, Chester And Landry
    The speculation surrounding potential Ravens free agents has been rampant, so it’s tough to gauge where some of their key starters could end up.
    It might be in Baltimore if no other team makes substantial offers – either monetarily or in regards to playing time.  If the market’s not there, many of those players bordering on the four- and five-year tenure mark – including fullback Le’Ron McClain, tackle Jared Gaither, safety Dawan Landry and guard Chris Chester – could be in purple and black next year.
    Earlier this week, John Eisenberg offered a breakdown of who he expects to be back, offering positive thoughts for Chester.  As far as McClain, Gaither and Landry go, Eisenberg did not like the Ravens’ chances of re-signing them.
  5. Address Backup Quarterback
    First, the Ravens should see if Marc Bulger is keen on signing with the team again and accepting a backup role.  The two-time Pro Bowler is capable of winning if Joe Flacco goes down with an injury.  The main issue is whether Bulger would agree to remain a backup, as there are several teams in need of a starting-caliber passer and the former St. Louis Ram fits that bill.
    If not, it’s to the free-agent pool, where a veteran backup is a want for the Ravens, according to Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome.  Names that have been linked to Baltimore include Kerry Collins, Todd Collins, Billy Volek and Todd Bouman.
  6. Hold A Rookie Crash Course
    By many accounts, the Ravens brought in one of the top draft classes this year with Jimmy and Torrey Smith at the head of the class, but just how much those rookies will be able to contribute in their first season remains to be seen because of their limited contact with the team this offseason.
    Flacco has worked out with Torrey and Tandon Doss and Tyrod Taylor, but there is something to be said for hands-on coaching.  Depending on the time limits outlined in the new collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens should get their rookies to team headquarters as soon as possible.
  7. Check Physicals on Injured Players
    Kindle’s comeback will be highly anticipated, and the Ravens are eager to see what he can do on the field.  He’ll need to prove that he can absorb contact in a football environment, as the amount of physical work Kindle’s been able to put in remains in question.  If he can return to the field, he could be a major boost to the Ravens’ pass rush.
    Additionally, the Ravens will want to check up on Jared Gaither’s back, Domonique Foxworth’s knee, Ben Grubb’s ankle and Ed Reed’s hip and neck once they can open up their training rooms. Gaither, Foxworth and Grubbs have all said that they are fully recovered, while Reed says he is not 100 percent but could still play.
  8. Open Up The Classrooms

    With all this down time, the Ravens’ coaches have been able to self-scout down to the tiniest details, tweaking both their offensive and defensive playbooks.  They have said they want to get the running game going again, while Chuck Pagano takes over as a new coordinator on the other side of the ball.
    That’s why the meeting room will be one of the most important places to be before the 2011 season opener.  However much time the Ravens have must be spent judiciously in order to see that all the offseason work on the coaches’ end is realized.

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