As the Ravens begin the serious work of recrafting their roster for the 2014 season, we are taking a look at each Ravens position group – seeing which players are under contract, which players are free agents and what the group is expected to look like next season.
Unrestricted free agents: Bernard Scott
Restricted free agents: None
Exclusive rights free agents: None
Under contract: Kyle Juszczyk, Vonta Leach, Bernard Pierce, Ray Rice
Fixing the running game will be among the top tasks next season, after the Ravens ranked last in the league in yards per carry (3.1) and 30th in rushing yards per game (83.0).
All eyes will be on Ray Rice, to see whether new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak can help Rice rebound from the worst season of his pro career (214 carries, 660 yards), or whether his career is on the decline at age 27.
Bernard Pierce also has much to prove after a disappointing season (152 carries, 436 yards), but there's no reason to think Rice and Pierce won't again get the majority of the workload in the backfield.
Bernard Scott hardly played last year after being signed in midseason and is likely gone. Look for the Ravens to draft a No. 3 running back or to find one on the waiver wire.
At fullback, it's hard to believe Leach will be back. He has a cap figure of $2.3 million and was used sparingly last season as the Ravens went increasingly to one-back, three-receiver looks. The Ravens even struggled to gain a yard in the classic third- or fourth-and-short situations that were seemingly made for Leach.
Of course, Kubiak could come in and substantially rewrite the playbook, but if Kubiak is looking for a versatile fullback, he has Juszczyk, the second-year back out of Harvard who is more versatile and much cheaper than Leach. Juszczyk isn't the road-grade blocker that Leach is, but he has college experience as a tight end and could line up wide, as an H-back or in the backfield and gives Kubiak a lot of options. Look for Juszczyk to emerge as a key component of Kubiak's system next season.