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Veterans who could lose their jobs to rookies: Offense

Could Baltimore's draft plans mean trouble for Ray Rice?



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"It's important we add a running back," coach John Harbaugh said last week, echoing what the team has cited for months as a top need.

While the team has stood by Rice since his February arrest, NFL Media's Albert Breer reported last month that the Ravens see the position "in flux" and remain convinced that a yet-to-be-named back from the college ranks "may need to be their starter." Rice faces a potential league suspension to start the season.

It wasn't so long ago that Rice was among the game's premier threats on the ground, but his play declined last season and his 3.08 yards per carry were not only a career worst, but a league low among backs with 200 or more carries.

Rice has shed weight and says his hip problems are in the past. It's too early to write him off, but if the seventh-year runner doesn't shine this offseason, Rice is one of a handful of veterans on offense whose starting job could be threatened by an incoming rookie.

Here's a look at some others:

Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans: He's their presumptive Week 1 starter, but Locker could see those plans change if the Titans do what we expect them to do and draft a quarterback for Ken Whisenhunt to groom. The front office didn't pick up Locker's fifth-year option and he's aware he'll need to set the earth on fire to stick around beyond next season. If a rookie heats up in camp, the new regime might not give Locker a chance to win them over.

Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets: NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock predicted that six wideouts will come off the board in the first round, and the Jets are a logical target to pick one. After adding Eric Decker through free agency, pairing a blue-chip rookie alongside him would loom as bad news for the frustrating Stephen Hill. After two injury-filled campaigns, Gang Green's "patience is wearing thin" with Hill, who they reportedly no longer see as a No. 1 or No. 2 target, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini.

Brian Hoyer, QB, Cleveland Browns: Mike Pettine has a heart for underdog players, of which Hoyer fits the bill. He hopscotched Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell last season and brought a spark to Cleveland's offense, but the Browns are a home run to draft a rookie challenger. Hoyer has treated this offseason as if the job is his -- and he's in the mix -- but his track record is thin and the landscape will shift considerably if Johnny Manziel comes to town.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills: It's weird to imagine the Bills without Stevie, but Buffalo has dropped hints about trading up in the first round. After general manager Doug Whaley opined on 6-foot-5, 231-pound pass-catcher Mike Evans as the "size receiver" and "dimension that we don't have," the Bills appear intent on giving EJ Manuel some new toys. If Evans lands in upstate New York, NFL Media's Albert Breer believes Johnson "could be moved."

Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars: General manager David Caldwell has been true to his word, but I've never really bought into the pitch regarding Henne as the team's Week 1 starter. After Caldwell told reporters last week that Manziel is the "one guy you could plug in there sooner rather than later," we remain convinced that Johnny Football is still a candidate to go No. 3 overall to a team thirsty for a hero under center.

Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants: After general manager Jerry Reese acknowledged at the combine that the "jury is still out" on Randle, New York's former offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, took a veiled shot at the third-year wideout, suggesting the Giants need "somebody that's going to be productive for them as an outside receiver." Topping it off, fellow pass-catcher Victor Cruz told NFL Network that a big-play receiver "is something we need in this offense to be successful." If Reese grants Cruz his wish, Randle's 76 targets from last season could be cut in half.

Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns: After three seasons soiled by too many drops, Little might be an afterthought if the Browns draft Evans or Sammy Watkins. Even if they don't, the addition of Andrew Hawkins in the slot and veteran Nate Burleson make Little -- who "was almost certainly going to be cut" by the former regime -- a player on the bubble heading into camp.

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