Ranking the Ravens’ biggest offensive needs

February 13, 2012 | Luke Jones

Pro Bowl back Ray Rice isn’t going anywhere, but the abrupt retirement of Ricky Williams last week makes this a position to address at some point during the offseason. Whether the Ravens will use the franchise tag on Rice will determine the amount of urgency they’ll need in finding another running back.

Second-year running back Anthony Allen will have an opportunity to earn a larger role within the offense, but it’s tough to envision the Ravens simply awarding the 2011 seventh-round pick roughly 100 carries without at least bringing in a competent veteran or a rookie with a high ceiling to compete.

What might force the Ravens’ hand for finding a suitable backup would be a potential holdout by Rice during training camp if he’s given the franchise tag. Several affordable veterans will be on the market including Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant, and Mewelde Moore, so finding a veteran backup of Williams’ caliber shouldn’t be a problem should the Ravens choose to go in that direction.

Ultimately, the Ravens would love to reach a long-term agreement with Rice prior to the March 5 deadline for designating a franchise player, which would save cap room to pursue other free agents this offseason.

5. Left tackle*

This final offensive position includes an asterisk because both left tackle Bryant McKinnie and right tackle Michael Oher are under contract for 2012. The Ravens could elect to maintain the status quo at both tackle positions for the upcoming season.

However, if Grubbs departs via free agency as expected and the Ravens go with either a rookie or a cheaper veteran at left guard, they would be well served to use the money saved to upgrade the left tackle position if the right opportunity presents itself. McKinnie will be 33 next season, and while he did an adequate job considering the circumstances of a late-August arrival in Baltimore and the absence of Grubbs for the first half of the season, he’s not someone you can count on beyond 2012.

With left tackle being the most important offensive position behind the quarterback, Baltimore needs to start thinking about who will be protecting Flacco after he receives a long-term contract some time in the next 12 months.

The Ravens have always looked to the draft to address their left tackle position in the long term, so it’s unlikely they would go the free-agent route like they did with McKinnie last August. If a rookie tackle such as Matt Kalil or Jonathan Martin slips to the 29th pick in a similar way that Oher did in 2009, the Ravens will snatch him up.

Again, Newsome doesn’t have to do anything at tackle, but this position moves to the top of the list next offseason if the Ravens haven’t addressed Flacco’s blind side by then.