Question #1: Should the Ravens be looking at Nnamdi Asomugha?
While it makes for an interesting discussion as we await the official word that football is officially on for the 2011 season, there are few in the fan base, I think, that have the Ravens realistically entertaining the notion of bringing in Asomugha at the price he’s likely to command. While the hope of Asomugha along with the potential of Jimmy Smith make for an intriguing fantasy for Ravens fans, given that the new CBA will also signal the return of the salary cap, and given that Asomugha will have no shortage of suitors on the open market, it seems unlikely that the Ravens would choose now to endeavor so whole-heartedly into free agency.
Question #2: Speaking of Jimmy Smith, how much can he be counted on for in 2011?
Two things seem clear since the Ravens picked up Jimmy Smith in the first round of this year’s draft. First that the fans seem split on their expectations as to how Smith’s off the field behavior might impact his career longevity and overall usefulness. The second is that regardless of their expectations fans seem united in their hopes that Smith will work out here in Baltimore. If indeed he’s able to stay on the field, his talent seems undeniable, the questions however are given the lack off-season work as the lockout drags on, when and how much might Smith be able to contribute in 2011?
Many are already envisioning Smith “locking down” 1/3 to ½ of the field. Whether or not that ever comes to fruition remains to be seen and likely won’t be determined for a few seasons to come. For 2011 however, reliable, efficient, workmanlike play from Smith would be seen as a coup, and depending on how free agency ultimately treats the Ravens, could be a hopeful necessity.
Question #3: How much can you count on Dominique Foxworth?
Again depending on whom the Ravens endeavor to bring in or bring back through free-agency, it would seem that Foxworth at least for now, is one of the proven commodities the team can count on at corner. Coming back from season ending ACL surgery however, and without the ability of the team to monitor his rehab, counting on Foxworth to that degree becomes a hopeful proposition at best. Working in the Ravens favor seems to be the fact that because his injury happened so early in 2010 that Foxworth should be well ahead of the curve on the road to recovery. Fans can at least hope that Ravens officials have been monitoring Foxworth’s mobility in and out of the negotiating rooms as he’s been one of the central figures in lockout negotiations and therefore at least visible.
Question #4: Should the Ravens bring back Chris Carr?
He’s no Asomugha, but it could be argued that Carr was the Ravens’ best corner last season, and while critics will still offer that may not be saying much, it’s not bad for a guy brought in largely as a special-teamer a couple of seasons earlier. The 28-year old corner will likely make a bit more than the $2 million he brought home in 2010, but certainly nowhere in the stratosphere of Asomugha. Carr has indicated an interest in returning to the Ravens for 2011, and a willingness to convert to safety too if necessary. That kind of versatility along with his special teams experience would seem to make retaining Carr a top priority.
Question #5: What’s the market for Josh Wilson?
Most fans seem resigned to the Ravens retaining either Carr or Wilson but not both. Maybe that’s because they’re still entertaining ways to pay a talent like Asomugha. I’m greedy though, as I’d like to see both back. Further, it doesn’t seem wholly unrealistic, especially given the money we’re saving on Nnamdi. It seems that no matter how well Josh Wilson has played throughout his career, he simply can’t shake the fact that he’s only 5’9″. Year after year, that fact alone seems to relegate Wilson to the bench to start the season, and year after year his play manages to command him more time and opportunities. Last year the Ravens scored big with Wilson, as a new coaching staff again seemed to question his physical limitations. I’ll bet they can score big again with him in free agency too as teams will continue to hang up on his size and ignore his abilities.
Question #6: Is Cary Williams still in the mix?
Williams was an afterthought of an addition to last year’s team, further pushed below the fold by his suspension to start the 2010 campaign. And while his statistical impact may have been minimal, Williams always seemed to be around the ball at the right time, and made heady plays in his limited opportunities in the mix, especially on special teams. Keeping Williams around and in the mix seems like a no-brainer, and certainly seems to increase the football IQ of the team overall.
Question #7: What do we expect from Chykie Brown?
Brown, the Ravens’ 5th rd pick (164th overall), was the 3rd Texas corner taken in this year’s draft. Maybe he’s a hidden talent who fell buried on the depth chart by prolific (and NFL caliber) talent at Texas. Maybe he’s better than advertised and largely an unknown commodity because of the forearm injury that cut his 2010 season short. Maybe as Sergio Kindle’s former roommate there’s a bigger reason to have him on and around the team. Whatever the actual case is, Brown, as a contributor beyond special teams in 2011 seems unlikely. Like Smith he’ll have the inherent struggles of a rookie learning on the fly in the post lockout NFL, but unlike Smith he won’t be making the kind of money or carrying the kind of notoriety that might compel the team to press him into deep waters too soon.
Question #8: Could Lardarius Webb be headed back to safety?
Even without Asomugha, if the Ravens come back for 2011 with a corner unit that includes Smith, Carr, Foxworth, Wilson, Brown, Williams and Webb, the battle for depth chart supremacy could be a contentious one in Baltimore this summer. Safety however might be another matter altogether; despite Carr’s willingness to play safety or corner, and based on their respective calibers of play at corner in 2010, Webb might be the more deserving choice to provide safety depth if needed. If the Ravens can indeed look to the corner position as one of strength for a change, then moving Webb to safety, at least part time, might be deserving of some consideration?
Question #9: Can you ever have enough depth at corner?
Question #10: How much does a pass rush improve corner play?
Immensely. And as priorities go, in a salary cap era, it would seem the Ravens’ money would be better spent in brining in guys who can compel the opposing quarterbacks to throw the ball before they want to throw it. That, and a more concerted effort to be deceptive pre-snap would go a long way toward making the Ravens defensive backfield look good in 2011 regardless of who winds up at the top of the depth charts.