It's clear that coming off a 5-11 season, the Ravens have some tough decisions to make regarding their 2016 roster. To be sure, injuries were a huge part of the story this past season, but there figures to be significant roster turnover after one of the worst seasons in team history. And as always, the salary cap will have a major influence on how the Ravens go about constructing their 2016 roster.
Over the past two weeks, we have been examining each Ravens position group with an eye toward 2016. Who stays? Who goes? Today we look at the defensive line.
Note: For the purpose of this discussion, we will limit the roster to those players on the final 53-man roster and injured reserve. (Here's more detail on free agency terminology.)
Under contract: Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy, Timmy Jernigan, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Brent Urban, Brandon Williams
Unrestricted free agents: None
Restricted free agents: None
Exclusive rights free agents: None
The fact that the Ravens have every defensive lineman under contract shows that this unit is in good hands. But that doesn't mean there won't be changes.
Chris Canty is probably going to be a salary cap casualty for the second straight year, but unlike last year, don't expect the Ravens to re-sign him. Canty, 33, missed seven games last season, and cutting him would free up about $2.1 million in cap space that the Ravens are going to need.
Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan figure to once again anchor the interior of the Ravens defensive front. Williams might have been the Ravens most consistent player last year, and set career highs with 53 tackles and two sacks. He was also one of the few who made it through the year without missing any time.
Jernigan is still just 23, and although he's found his way into the doghouse once or twice with lackluster play or dumb penalties, he's a force when he's on his game. He had 37 tackles and four sacks in 2015.
Second-year lineman Carl Davis started strong as a rookie but then saw little action over the final six weeks of the season. Still, he should be a factor in 2016.
Lawrence Guy should also be back. He capably helped fill the void left by Canty's injury, and Brent Urban, if he can stay healthy, should do so as well. Urban finally got on the field after essentially 1 1/2 years on injured reserve and showed promise in six games. The most notable play from the 6-foot-7 Urban was getting his big hand on the last-second field-goal attempt at Cleveland that was returned for a game-winning touchdown by Will Hill.
Time might be running out on Kapron Lewis-Moore, who saw limited action in five games. He faces an uphill battle to make this team given the crowd of incumbents and any influx of new defensive ends.
The Ravens have made it clear that pass rushers are a priority, so they will be looking for defensive ends who can do that. Those players would nicely complement an interior defensive front anchored by Williams and Jernigan.
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