We’re exactly three months away from rookies and quarterbacks reporting to McDaniel College in Westminster for the start of training camp. With the 2009 NFL Draft complete and the names of undrafted free agent signings beginning to leak, we will start to get a better idea of how the training camp roster will look.
Much can change between now and July 27, but here is a look at the Ravens’ selections and how they affect the competition at their respective positions. Listed in parentheses is the projected number of players kept at the position. Since undrafted free-agent signings are not officially announced until minicamp, I have excluded them from the current breakdown.
Round 1 (23rd overall): Michael Oher (Mississippi), OT
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
Locks: Jared Gaither, Michael Oher
Bubble: Willie Anderson, Adam Terry, Oniel Cousins
Longshot: Joe Reitz, Tre Stallings
Analysis: The selection of Michael Oher immediately transforms offensive tackle from a position of weakness to one of depth. Gaither is firmly entrenched on the left side, so the real battle will take place on the right side between Anderson and Oher.
While Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta currently envision Anderson as a mentor for the rookie, he could be released to clear cap room if the Ravens pursue other veteran free agents that could be released before training camp. Cutting Anderson would reportedly clear close to $3 million from the cap.
If Anderson remains on the team, Terry and Cousins would figure to battle for the last tackle spot. Terry has the edge in experience, but Cousins can play both guard and tackle and was the team’s third round pick last year. He is raw but promising.
Round 2 (57th overall): Paul Kruger (Utah), OLB/DE
Round 5 (137th overall): Jason Phillips (TCU), ILB
LINEBACKER (8 or 9)
Locks: Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Tavares Gooden, Paul Kruger, Jason Phillips, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Jameel McClain
Bubble: Antwan Barnes, Edgar Jones
Longshot: Prescott Burgess
Analysis: Though the Ravens hope Kruger can put on the necessary weight to eventually move to defensive end when Trevor Pryce retires, he will likely be a hybrid-rush end in his rookie season.
Phillips will provide depth at inside linebacker after the departure of Bart Scott. The Ravens envision him eventually becoming the replacement for Lewis in the starting lineup in a few years. In the mean time, he will push Gooden for playing time at the other inside spot.
Despite showing much promise in his first two seasons, Barnes will need to show more versatility to make the 53-man roster. He has great speed off the edge but fell behind McClain in the rotation last season. Jones will be moved back to linebacker with the signing of L.J. Smith and selection of Davon Drew at tight end. He must continue to contribute heavily on special teams to stay on the roster.
Burgess appears to be a longshot with the drafting of Phillips. As always, special teams play will figure heavily in deciding the final spot or two.
Round 3 (88th overall): Lardarius Webb (Nicholls State), CB
Lock: Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Samari Rolle, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb
Bubble: Frank Walker, Derrick Martin
Longshot: Anwar Phillips, Evan Oglesby
Analysis: The selection of Lardarius Webb further increases the likelihood of Walker being cut to clear cap room in case a veteran free agent shakes loose at another position. Releasing Walker would reportedly save $1.6 million against the cap.
Martin missed most of last season with a shoulder injury but showed promise in 2007, making three starts and grabbing two interceptions. He would be a cheaper alternative to Walker.
Phillips and Oglesby do not figure to seriously challenge for a roster spot after the signings of Foxworth and Carr pushed them further down the depth chart.
The team could elect to keep an extra corner if they view Carr or Webb as a primary returner over Yamon Figurs.
Round 5 (149th overall): Davon Drew (East Carolina), TE
TIGHT END (3)
Lock: Todd Heap, L.J. Smith
Bubble: Davon Drew, Quinn Sypniewski
Longshot: Isaac Smolko, Edgar Jones
Analysis: Heap and Smith are obviously safe, so the real battle will be between Drew and Sypniewski. The Ravens like Drew’s potential, as he’s only spent a few seasons as a tight end. He could eventually develop into an H-back in the offense. Sypniewski showed promise in his first two seasons but missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Jones will have to make the team as a linebacker and special teams contributor. Smolko will be little more than training camp depth.
Round 6 (185th overall): Cedric Peerman (Virginia), RB
RUNNING BACK (4 or 5)
Lock: Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Cedric Peerman
Longshot: Matt Lawrence, Jalen Parmele
Analysis: McClain figures to play more regularly at fullback in 2009, but he will still get carries in short-yardage situations and the fourth-quarter jumbo formation. Peerman provides more depth at running back, allowing Cam Cameron to move McClain back to the more traditional fullback spot.
The team has reportedly signed undrafted free agent Jason Cook, Oher’s teammate at Ole Miss and described as a traditional power fullback. Veteran Lorenzo Neal does not fit in the team’s current plans, but that could change in August.