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Ravens' memorable offseason lessens chances of forgetting first names

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- As far as cornerbacks go, the Baltimore Ravens landed the second-best one in the draft and the most durable one in the NFL during free agency.

The additions of rookie Marlon Humphrey and veteran Brandon Carr represents one of the Ravens' biggest commitments to their secondary in recent memory -- with an emphasis on memory. Baltimore has gone through so many cornerbacks over the past two seasons that it put defensive coordinator Dean Pees in an awkward situation.

"A guy was actually playing for me, and I could not remember his first name off the top of my head, because we just signed him three days ago," Pees said during the draft. "That ain’t fun."

This Ravens' offseason will be remembered how they put nearly all of their resources into their defense, especially at cornerback. The Ravens had ignored the position for too long. Baltimore hadn't taken a cornerback in the first three rounds of the past five drafts before selecting Humphrey with the No. 16 overall pick this year. The Ravens also tried to patch up that spot with the likes of free agents Dominique Franks, Kyle Arrington and Shareece Wright before signing Carr this offseason.

Recent history says Baltimore had better bring in two high-quality defensive backs. In each of the past three seasons, the Ravens have started at least four corners. Over the past two years, Baltimore has gone through 14 cornerbacks.

Now, the Ravens have Jimmy Smith, who is the Ravens' top corner if he can stay healthy; Carr, whose streak of 144 straight starts currently leads all defensive players; Tavon Young, a starter last year who can move to his more natural position of nickelback; and Humphrey, who is the Ravens' highest-drafted defensive back since Chris McAlister was taken 10th overall in 1999.

“It is a sigh of relief, obviously, when you have the quality depth that we have now in our room," secondary coach Chris Hewitt said. "There is not going to be a drop-off if any one of those guys gets hurt. We can line any of those guys up. I feel very confident about the guys we have in our room right now."

The instability at cornerback resulted in 47 touchdown passes allowed to wide receivers over the past two seasons. That's three more than any other team in the league.

To make matters worse, Baltimore's cornerbacks couldn't make stops when it needed to do so. The Ravens gave up 17 touchdown passes to wide receivers in the fourth quarter last season, which included Antonio Brown's touchdown with nine seconds remaining last year that clinched the AFC North for the Pittsburgh Steelers and knocked the Ravens from the playoff race.

With more depth at cornerback, the Ravens hope they can finish off more teams, which can be the difference in returning to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

"There is nothing wrong with making yourself really strong in one area of your football team," coach John Harbaugh said. "This is the strongest we have been in the secondary in a long time. I expect those guys to play great back there."