Baltimore Ravens team needs: Someone must fill Ray Lewis' shoes

Jonathan Daniel

Following their Super Bowl victory, the Ravens will have a busy offseason as they try to lock up their own free agents while filling any holes created by departures.

After winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens will now be tasked with the difficult challenge to repeat as champions. We know they will have to attempt another run without Ray Lewis who is retiring, but Lewis' departure creates just one of several holes for the Ravens.

Baltimore has a number of key free agents and not enough salary cap space to keep them all. As a result, the Ravens' front office will have its work cut out this offseason.

Biggest need: Inside linebacker

Inside linebacker being the biggest priority now that the Ravens have locked up Joe Flacco to a long-term deal, a deal that also eases the cap hit considerably compared to what the franchise tag would have cost.

Lewis' retirement creates a hole at inside linebacker, but the Ravens had a need at the position even if Lewis returned for another season. Baltimore opened the season with Lewis and Jameel McClain as starters, but McClain ended the season on injured reserve with a spinal injury. Dannell Ellerbe stepped into a starting role and played well, but he is a free agent.

If Ellerbe departs, the Ravens may need to replace both starters on the inside. Even if Ellerbe returns, Baltimore will possibly add two new inside linebackers as depth is currently lacking.

Bruce Raffel of SB Nation's Ravens blog Baltimore Beatdown has more on the Ravens biggest need:

That said, keeping inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is quickly becoming the next highest priority after Flacco. That means guys like DE Paul Kruger and CB Cary Williams are probably going to find big paydays with other teams and the Ravens will have to find a way to either re-structure Anquan Boldin's $6 million salary as well as a bunch of other key contributors to their Super Bowl run, perhaps none more notable than safety Ed Reed.

Other needs: Safety, offensive tackle, wide receiver, nose tackle

Lewis may not be the only notable Raven to depart Baltimore as safety Ed Reed is also scheduled to be a free agent. If Reed departs, Baltimore will have to find a new starting free safety. They may also need a strong safety as Bernard Pollard could be a salary cap casualty if the Ravens find themselves up against the salary cap.

Baltimore's offensive line played well in the playoffs, but that was with Bryant McKinnie stepping in at left tackle. McKinnie is 33 years old and a free agent. If Baltimore doesn't bring him back, they will need to find a replacement. Even if McKinnie does return, depth is needed.

The Ravens have a talented wide receiver corps, but Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones are potential salary cap cuts. If one or both don't return next season, wide receiver becomes a top priority.

Baltimore invested a second-round pick in Terrence Cody in 2010, but he is yet to develop into a starter. Cody struggled for much of the 2012 season, as did starter Ma'ake Kemoeatu. The 34-year-old Kemoeatu is also scheduled to be a free agent.

NFL Draft outlook: Ravens will pick last in each round

After winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens hold the 32nd pick in each round. Baltimore currently has one pick in each of the seven rounds.

With a number of holes to fill and not a lot of cap room, the draft will be key for the Ravens. Baltimore is projected to add to its middle linebacker depth by selecting Notre Dame linebacker Matin Te'o with the No. 32 pick according to SB Nation's Dan Kadar.

Salary cap situation: Ravens have cap room, but will need more.

ESPN's John Clayton projects the Ravens to have $15.7 million in cap space for 2013, but that is before signing Flacco. The good news for the Ravens is that Flacco's new deal only accounts for $6.5 million in cap space this year, but that number climbs after this season.

Boldin is one potential cap causality as he's owed a base salary of $6 million next season, according to Spotrac. Jones, Vonta Leach, McClain, and Pollard could also be on the chopping block.

More in the NFL:

NFL Mock Draft: New names rising in first round

Uffsides: Von Miller talks with SB Nation

Ranking the NFL's top offensive free agents

Joe Flacco and the history of $100 million contracts

The NFL's disappearing middle class

NFL news roundup: Roger Goodell terrified, Shawne Merriman retires and the latest on free agency

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