With free agency set to start next week, It is time to take a position by position look at some of the Ravens options in the coming months. Today we start with Inside Linebackers.
With the departure of Ray Lewis and the possible departure of Dannell Ellerbe, along with the injury concerns with Jameel McClain, the Ravens are pretty weak at inside backer. McClain is the only starting caliber player that is currently on the roster for 2013. Here are what I consider the top options for the Ravens.
1. Resign Dannell Ellerbe to a reasonable deal- Word broke yesterday that Ellerbe is looking for a ton of money with this contract. If that is really the case then i have trouble imagining the Ravens paying that type of cash for a player that still has a ton of questions around his work ethic and only has about 10 really good games in his career. If Ellerbe backs off of that amount, then he is by far the Ravens best option and easily the best ILB in the free agency market.
2. Move Albert McClellan to ILB- I am a big fan of McClellan. He was brilliant in the early parts of this season and played well at ILB last year when Ray Lewis missed 6 games with Turf Toe. McClellan has a ton of versitility and a broad skillset, it wouldnt surprise me at all to see him fill a big role in next years lineup.
3. Draft Alec Ogletree- Ogletree would be number one on the list if the draft came before free agency, but since the opposite is true, you have to put things in order of most pressing questions. Ogletree is a straight up stud from the SEC(georgia) who has some off field issues that could cause him to fall. He has top 10 talent and I beleive he compares very favorably to Luke Keuchly who was a top 10 pick last year. Ogletree is a playmaker and has a much higher ceiling than almost any player in the draft if he can get his head on straight.
4. Draft Manti Teo- I know everybody is super down on Teo, but I could care less about his 40 time or the catfishing thing. Teo looked really good in combine drills(he vastly outperformed almost every ILB prospect this side of Ogletree) and is a true football player, not an athlete. While being an athlete is a very good thing, I value football ability over athleticism and thus, i like Teo. The knock on Teo, to me, is the questions surrounding his ability to perform in pressure situations. he wasnt great during the 40, the most important combine drill for him to prove his athletic ability, and he was horrible in the biggest game of his career. That said, Teo has had a ton of clutch moments in his career and i think he is going to have a good pro career(emphasis on good not great). Minter has a higher ceiling, but Teo has a much higher floor.
5. Draft Kevin Minter- Kevin Minter is an interesting guy. He seeks out the football like a missile and is a monster hitter, but in this day and age of pass defending, I am not sure how good of a pro he will be. Minter doesn’t ever seem to feel very comfortable in pass coverage and has a tendency to get lost in his zone. That wouldn’t be a deal breaker if he had the athletic ability of a guy like Ogletree, but he doesnt. I see minter being a constant target in the opposing teams passing game for his entire career. He is still a solid prospect, but i would rather have Ogletrees ability or Teos instinct if i had my choice.
6. Draft Arthur Brown or Khaseem Green- I am not crazy about either of these guys in a 3-4 defense. i know they bulked up for the combine, but both of them looked slow in the drills and never seemed comfortable with the extra weight. that said, maybe this is the start of a new generation with smaller backers that are better in coverage than against the run. The NFL moves in cycles and eventually, as defenses get smaller to defend the pass, running backs will start to take over again as undersized defenders are unable to match up with them one on one in the open field. then defenders will bulk up and get slower allowing the passing game to come back into vogue. The Ravens played a big role in the start of the transition to the passing game by having linebackers like Ray Lewis who were run stuffing nightmares, maybe they will also have a hand in the transition back to the run game by drafting pass coverage gurus like Green and Brown.