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Ravens need to double down at CB instead of signing another Band-Aid

The Baltimore Ravens cut cornerback Shareece Wright on Tuesday, exactly one year to the day that they signed him.

It's more than coincidence. It's another sign that the Ravens can't try to solve their cornerback issue with a bargain Band-Aid again.

If Baltimore wants to add quality depth in the secondary, it has to sign a second-tier corner like Prince Amukamara, Morris Claiborne or Dre Kirkpatrick in free agency and select a cornerback in the early rounds of this year's draft.

The Ravens have ignored this position for too long. It's time to double down at cornerback, which means investing money and a high draft pick at that position.

Baltimore hasn't taken a cornerback in the first three rounds of the past five drafts, and it has given only one big-money deal to a corner (Jimmy Smith's extension in 2015) in the previous four offseasons. Both of those droughts need to end.

The Ravens have tried to patch up that position with economically friendly defenders like Dominique Franks, Kyle Arrington and Wright -- none of which averaged more than $4.5 million per season. That's not going to cut it when the Ravens need to slow down Ben Roethlisberger to win the AFC North and get past Tom Brady to reach the Super Bowl.

"We need to add more corners -- there is no question about it -- corners that can play at the highest level," coach John Harbaugh said at the end of the season. "If we can do that, it is going to dramatically impact our defense.”

On the current roster, the Ravens can only have faith in two cornerbacks: Smith, who is repeatedly injured, and Tavon Young, who is best suited to play nickelback. Depth is an obvious concern and should be a priority considering the desperate times at that position.

Recent history says Baltimore had better bring in two high-quality defensive backs. In the past three seasons, the Ravens have started at least four corners.

In a perfect world, Baltimore would add Stephon Gilmore, Logan Ryan or A.J. Bouye. But they're going to command deals that average $13 million to $14 million per season.

The Ravens, who have limited cap space, probably can't afford anyone over $8 million per season and that could be stretching it. There's talent in that second tier. Amukamara, Claiborne and Kirkpatrick are all former first-round picks who have shown flashes in recent years. The drawback with each one is durability issues, which is a risky proposition for a team that has had trouble keeping its corners healthy.

The real scary part for the Ravens is the alternative. Baltimore can go cheaper again like it did last year, when the team gave $4.76 million guaranteed to Wright on the strength of 10 games and end up in this same quandary in 2018.

Maybe the Ravens thought they didn't need premier cornerbacks because they won the Super Bowl in 2012 with Corey Graham and Cary Williams as their starters. That was certainly impressive. It just shouldn't be a blueprint.

The lack of depth at cornerback cost the Ravens in the playoffs in 2014 and hurt their chances of reaching the postseason last year. During the playoffs, Baltimore lost at New England in large part because of the struggles of Rashaan Melvin, the seventh cornerback to start that season. Last season, the Ravens watched their hopes of winning the division end as Roethlisberger marched the Steelers 75 yards for the winning touchdown against a secondary that was without Smith.

Baltimore can solidify its starting lineup by pairing Amukamara, Claiborne or Kirkpatrick with Smith, which would allow Young to play his natural position of slot corner. The Ravens then can take someone like Washington's Sidney Jones in the first round or Clemson's Cordrea Tankersley in the second, knowing they will likely need a rookie to step up at some point that season before taking a bigger role in 2018.

If the Ravens can do something like this, a long-time problem will turn into a strength this offseason.