Ravens may have a 'situation' mapping out their offensive priorities

It's a great problem to have to solve.

In fact, let's not call it a problem, but a situation.

It will be interesting to see how the Ravens offense evolves in 2013, because a lot of the featured players are going into their peak years.

Once Jim Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator late last season, quarterback Joe Flacco took his game to another level and the Ravens were able to spread the field more. Flacco wasn't hesitant about checking out of running plays and throwing down field.

So, naturally, you would assume the Ravens will throw the ball more in the upcoming season. But what about the running game?

Veteran Ray Rice is still one of the best all around running backs in the NFL, rushing for 1,143 yards last season and also catching 61 passes for 478 yards. But rookie Bernard Pierce outplayed Rice in the postseason, and his downhill running style seemed to fit better with the Ravens' blocking scheme as opposed to Rice's jump and cut back approach.

Caldwell made it all fit last season, but that was before the Ravens won a Super Bowl, Flacco signed a six year, $120.6 million contract and Pierce emerged as a consistent runner. Caldwell has to make it all work again this season, but a lot of teams would like to have to manage these issues.

McClain a win-win

The Ravens signed Rolando McClain out of desperation, not because they wanted to give the troubled inside linebacker a second chance.

Let's not kid ourselves here. With Ray Lewis out of the picture and fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain recovering from back and leg injuries, the Ravens have a gaping hole in the middle of their defense. They could draft a rookie in the first round to fill the spot, but that's not the ideal situation.

In a perfect world, NFL teams prefer to have proven veteran in place, so the rookie has at least a season to sit and learn. With Rolando McClain, the Ravens are practically in a win-win situation unless he gets in major trouble again.

If he plays well, then the Ravens have possibly the steal of the offseason. If he doesn't, then they lose about $700,000, which is big money for a lot of people, but just another day of car shopping for owner Steve Bisciotti.

Sometimes, people get confused between taking a player with serious issues and one with an edge. Flacco had an edge because he came out of a small school, Delaware. Rice had an edge because he was considered too small to play in the NFL.

If Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is available when the Ravens pick in the first round, the Ravens would probably take him because he has an edge. Rolando McClain? He has more baggage than BWI.

Leach a cap casualty?

If I were Ravens fullback Vonta Leach, I'd be a little nervous these days.

Once the Ravens cut special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo, Leach became the next man up, so to speak. If the Ravens need salary cap room, they might ask him to take a pay cut or cut him. Leach is expected to make $3 million in salary this season and count $4.33 million against the cap.

That would be a shame if he leaves, because football is a tough game, and Leach is a tough guy. He has a strong presence in the locker room and the Ravens could use a few more tough guys like him on the roster.

Looking at safeties

The Ravens have a number of candidates who will compete for the two starting safety jobs, including recently signed Michael Huff. But they still might draft a safety with the No. 32 pick in the first round.

Some of the recent mock drafts have the Ravens taking Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien, and he appears to be the second-best safety in the draft behind Texas' Kenny Vaccaro.

According to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Cyprien could emerge as the best safety to come out of this class in two to three years because of his great range and tremendous coverage skills.

2010 draft a bust

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has an impressive draft record, but one day after he retires he'll look back on the 2010 draft and wonder what he was thinking.

In the second round that year, the Ravens selected Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle and Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody. Kindle was let go near the end of last season, and Cody recently had hip surgery after three disappointing seasons.

Time to sign Pitta

The Ravens are reportedly $4.1 million under the salary cap, so this might be the perfect time to sign a budding star like tight end Dennis Pitta to a long-term contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Even though he still needs to improve as a blocker, Pitta is going to be in demand if makes it to the market. Last season, he had 61 catches for 669 yards and eight touchdowns.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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