Ravens need a defensive end, but that's not the end of it

March 12, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

After re-signing wide receiver Derrick Mason on Wednesday night, the Ravens probably will turn their attention to the only void remaining in their starting lineup: defensive end.

The easiest solution is retaining Dwan Edwards, a 2004 second-round pick who replaced Trevor Pryce in the starting lineup in Week 6 last season. Edwards made free-agent visits to the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, but he left without being signed.

This could become a similar situation to Mason, where the lack of interest elsewhere might increase the Ravens' chances of re-signing Edwards. Teams could be wary of signing Edwards to a long-term deal because he had spinal fusion surgery in 2008. The agent for Edwards hasn't returned repeated messages from The Baltimore Sun since the start of free agency a week ago.

The top three unrestricted free-agent defensive ends (Julius Peppers, Aaron Kampman and Kyle Vanden Bosch) have been signed. The next tier of available ends are the Chicago Bears' Adewale Ogunleye, New Orleans Saints' Charles Grant, Detroit Lions' DeWayne White, Miami Dolphins' Jason Taylor and Oakland Raiders' Greg Ellis.

The Ravens have some flexibility in free agency. Even after three moves this offseason, the Ravens still have their one big-money contract to give out. Under the "Final Eight" plan, the Ravens are allowed to sign one unrestricted free agent to a contract that can exceed $5.8 million in the first year of the deal. The Ravens have no cap in signing their own free agents, and they can sign any free agent to a contract that pays $3.3 million or less in the first year.

The only defensive end on the Ravens' roster is Pryce, but he might not be able to handle the workload at age 34.

Besides defensive end, the Ravens need to address depth in other positions. Here are the top four:

1. Tight end: Other than Todd Heap, the Ravens have no experienced players at this position. L.J. Smith isn't expected to be re-signed after making two catches (that was $750,000 per reception). Quinn Sypniewski, the team's top blocking tight end, was released after two seasons on injured reserve. Best free agents available: Alge Crumpler, Benjamin Watson, Chris Baker and Randy McMichael.

2. Cornerback: The Ravens need more depth because Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington are coming off season-ending knee injuries. The team is hoping Webb or Washington can start alongside Domonique Foxworth. Best free agents available: Lito Sheppard, Nick Harper and Phillip Buchanon.

3. Defensive tackle: Kelly Gregg has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons, and Justin Bannan signed with the Denver Broncos as an unrestricted free agent. Best free agents available: Damione Lewis, Cornelius Griffin and Cory Redding.

4. Offensive tackle: The Ravens have two of the best young starters in Jared Gaither and Michael Oher. But their third tackle is Oniel Cousins, who struggled at times last season. Also, there is a chance that the Ravens might be willing to give up Gaither for a high draft pick. Best free agents available: Mike Gandy, Mark Tauscher, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan.

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