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Where will Ravens turn to replace Steve Smith next year?

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Where will Ravens turn to replace Steve Smith next year?

Now that the Ravens know this will be Steve Smith's final season, is it too early to start thinking about next year?

The Ravens hope they have found a No. 1 receiver for the long haul in rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but the performance of he and the Ravens other young receivers this year will dictate how critical replacing Smith from the outside will be.

And if the Ravens do choose to add from outside the organization, who will be out there? As always, there will be some marquee names available in free agency. Pending free agent receivers include the Falcons' Julio Jones and the Bengals' A.J. Green. Alshon Jeffery, who had back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons under Marc Trestman with the Bears, is also due to hit free agency. As is the Colts' T.Y. Hilton, who is coming off a 1,300-yard season.

Of course, their current teams will have the first shot at retaining those players via the franchise tag, which could then lead to a long-term deal, as was the case this summer with Dez Bryant in Dallas and Demaryius Thomas in Denver.

But if you think the Ravens are going to make the splashy free-agent signing of a wide receiver next spring, you haven't been following how the Ravens do business. The Ravens rarely jump into the free-agency frenzy in its opening hours, almost always preferring to wait on the sideline until the madness dies down and the prices drop.

Ozzie Newsome's mantra has always been right player, right price.

Remember how they ended up with Steve Smith? They signed him after he was released by the Panthers. They picked up T.J. Houshmandzadeh after he had been released by the Seahawks. The Ravens traded for Anquan Boldin, and they traded for Lee Evans during training camp in 2011. Those signings didn't all work out as the Ravens had hoped, but none of those receivers was signed as an unrestricted free agent.

True, the Ravens will probably need to look outside the organization next year to help compensate for the major loss of Smith. But they will cast the net wide, and not just at available free agents. 

MORE RAVENS: Steve Smith unplugged: some of his best quotes

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

With OTAs underway, Peter King has released his 2019 NFL preseason power rankings and of the biggest surprises is the Baltimore Ravens landing at No. 12 on the list. Although stud Lamar Jackson surprised people last season, given the substandard state of their defense and the burden on Jackson to shoulder the load offensively, King may have the Ravens ranked a few spots too high. 

Let's start with the defense; it's got more holes than a slice of swiss cheese. Most notably they lost linebacker Terrell Suggs, the heart and soul of their defense for the past decade. Although past his prime, Suggs is still a productive player and they will undoubtedly miss his leadership. They released defensive back Eric Weddle, who was coming off two straight Pro-Bowl appearances. Their justification was that he's 34 and by releasing him, they could allocate the money to re-signing All-Pro linebacker C.J. Mosley. Solid reasoning, if Mosley didn't sign with the New York Jets in the offseason.

Credit must be given, however, to the four-year, $55 million contract given to former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. Coming off a broken leg, he is easily the biggest X-factor for this defense. If he produces like the Earl Thomas of old, it'll more than makeup for the loss of the Weddle. They'll also be getting back defensive tackle Willie Reed from injury, who's young and hungry.

Although last years' defense was one of, if not the top unit in the NFL, all anyone could manage to talk about was the dynamic offense led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. Coach John Harbaugh threw caution to the wind and handed the reins to Jackson in Week 10, and the Ravens proceeded to win six of their next seven games behind a run-dominated offense.

It's a toss-up if they'll be able to replicate that success this season. On the one hand, the unconventional attack took the league by storm last year and one could argue the league just needed time to adapt to this new-look offense. On the other hand, the Ravens did add some electric new pieces to the offense to replace the losses of wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown. 

They added Mark Ingram who is one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league when healthy. Their first-round pick, wide receiver Marquise Brown, is one of the fastest players Todd McShay has ever evaluated. Third-round pick wide receiver Miles Boykin was one of the 20 fastest players at the draft and fourth-round pick  Justice Hill registered the fastest 40 time for running backs at the combine. Adding young, electric talent will enhance Jackson's already stellar playmaking ability. 

At tight end, they're one of the deepest teams in the NFL, headed up by Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst. Keep in mind, however, that this is the NFL: it all starts with the quarterback. Jackson completed passes at a 58.2% clip last season. If the Ravens are serious about building around him, he'll have to improve as a passer. 

Taking the defensive deficiencies and questions on offense into account, and 12 is too high for the preseason power rankings; 16 is more appropriate. In his article, King writes about the Ravens saying, "They could win 11. They could win six." If I had to choose one outcome I'd take the latter. 

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

Kick off your Tuesday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including a recap of the first day of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. Yesterday, (Monday) was the first day of the Ravens' OTAs. OTAs continue today (Tuesday) as the Ravens work on developing a new offense. Check out some of the highlights here. 

2. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. 

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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