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Baltimore Ravens Offseason Team Needs: Keys for the Ravens to Retool and Reclaim the AFC North

After sitting on the brink of a playoff berth, the Ravens are in prime position to reclaim the AFC North.

Following a disappointing 2016 campaign, that still almost included a playoff run, Baltimore is a few key pieces away from competing at the elite level that has become the standard of the Harbaugh era. If the front office can center around the stellar run defense already in place,  improve the secondary, rejuvenate the receiving core, and bolster the non-existent pass rush, then expect to see the Ravens reclaim the AFC North and make a playoff run in 2017.

Pass Rush

The number one issue that needs addressed is the pass rush, and there are two ways this can be developed, free agency and the draft. If the Ravens look to add through free agency, the prime candidate would appear to be Nick Perry. Perry, fresh off a twelve sack season in Green Bay, would translate well to the Ravens 3-4 defense. A less ideal, but still viable target, is Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP, out of a 4-3 defense in New York, would likely move to an outside linebacker role to better fit the Ravens 3-4 scheme. Such a move could greatly benefit Pierre-Paul because it would allow him to have a greater focus on his pass rush instincts that brought him to be a household name in the league. A third possible, but very unlikely free agent acquisition, would be a reunion with Paul Kruger. Kruger, who left for Cleveland after the Ravens won Super Bowl 47, hasn’t played up to the level that he had with Baltimore, so if he hits the market for the right price a reunion may be in place.


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The draft offers very promising pass rushers, but the drop off from top tier prospects to the next best is incredibly large. The top two targets the Ravens could aim for are both coming out of Alabama. The first option being punishing outside linebacker Tim Williams. Williams would be an explosive jolt of youth to the aging pass rush. A second option would be Jonathan Allen, a stalwart on the Alabama defensive line. Allen would provide a solid edge presence and be a commanding force that would allow Suggs and company a free run off the edge.

Receiving Core

For the Ravens to improve the receiving core, the draft is key. With many of the receivers set to hit the market with price tags way out of the Ravens budget, the best bet is to retain Kamar Aiken. Building through the draft is key, but receiver is the lowest priority out of the three needs, so the Ravens need to be sure to not reach and let talent fall to them. A prime example could be Noah Brown, a very talented receiver out of Ohio State who scouts are being cautious on due to a small sample size. This theme could be a trend when the Ravens look to fill out the depth chart at wide receiver in the draft.

Secondary

This past season, the Ravens biggest weakness was the secondary, the unit was regularly exposed and unable to produce turnovers. While the upcoming free agent class is lackluster in terms of playmakers in the secondary, someone that the Ravens could look to add for the right price is Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore is a young and lengthy corner who could bolster the woes in the secondary.

Through the draft, the Ravens could fix their entire secondary with one pick. I love the thought of Ohio State University safety Malik Hooker falling to the Ravens, Hooker is the type of playmaker who can only make you reminisce over the days of Ed Reed. Hooker is a middle of the field ball hawk, who has range to cover the entire field, and when he makes a play on the ball he is always a threat to score. Malik would compliment Eric Weddle in the back end of the secondary, allowing for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to run the aggressive scheme he prefers.

Outlook

Baltimore has their weaknesses, but there are several solutions to patch together a dominant defense that can lead them to a third Lombardi trophy. The first step to the retooling of the team comes in April at the draft, and the rest of the wholes can be filled in free agency. With many questions looming for other teams in the division, the seat at the top is for the Ravens taking.