Joe Flacco (USA Today Sports Images)
Joe Flacco (USA Today Sports Images)
2013 record: 8-8
Projected current salary-cap space (according to OverTheCap.com): $11.9 million
Key free agents: FB Vonta Leach.
Draft situation: Have 17th overall pick, own all of their original picks except for their fourth- and fifth-round picks (traded for Monroe) and seventh-round pick (traded for A.Q. Shipley).
Revisiting 2013: The Super Bowl champions were prepared for a bit of a hangover given their precarious salary-cap situation and personnel losses before last season, so it was not surprising that they limped out to a 4-6 record — especially with a few crucial injuries to Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones. The midseason trade acquisition of Monroe, a deft move by general manager Ozzie Newsome, showed that the team would be active in being competitive last season (as well as looking to the future), and the Ravens finished with a last-gasp effort, winning five of six games from Week 10 to 15 before fading late in the playoff hunt. Joe Flacco wasn't at his best at all times after signing a massive contract extension, but he hardly was the only — or the biggest — problem.
Reasons for optimism: Flacco is signed long term, John Harbaugh remains one of the league's best head coaches and the team re-upped with Terrell Suggs in a friendly enough deal to keep its impact defender in town for a while. Newsome is as good as any player evaluator at replenishing talent, and often doing so in unexpected places and through any means. The defense has some needs in the secondary but otherwise appears to be very well constructed. Having a more complete and healthy receiving group for Flacco will be huge, and the team should have more picks once the compensatory selections are announced.
Glaring hole to fill: The offensive line must be fixed at multiple spots. Center Geno Gradkowski was overmatched in his first year starting. Monroe is a free agent, and one whom they probably need to re-sign considering the draft picks they surrendered to land him. Oher might be a goner, leaving a hole at right tackle. Left guard Kelechi Osemele is coming off a back injury. There are many issues to fix here, and Flacco must have the proper time to operate. In addition, this must be a much better run-blocking group, especially inside.
Toughest decision: Could the Ravens part ways with Ray Rice? The concerning video of him dragging his unconscious fianceé through an Atlantic City hotel looks bad, as Newsome said, but Harbaugh has given Rice an early show of support. Still, that possible discipline case combined with some flagging production on the field might be enough to change the Ravens' minds about his place on the team, even if it's not clear if there's a bell-cow back on the roster right now.
Best-case offseason scenario: Right now, the Ravens have only four draft picks, but they could receive as many as four compensatory picks (and possibly ones in the third and fourth rounds) for the free agency losses last year of Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Dannelle Ellerbe and Cary Williams. That should help make up for the picks traded for Monroe, but there's a lot of work still to do. They must fix the O-line first, and the best way to help do that would be to land a center and bring back Monroe. Then, they will have to add playmakers — including a tight end if Pitta walks in free agency — and get some safety help.
Previous Blueprints: 32. Houston Texans; 31. Washington Redskins; 30. Jacksonville Jaguars; 29. Cleveland Browns; 28. Oakland Raiders; 27. Atlanta Falcons; 26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 25. Minnesota Vikings; 24. Buffalo Bills; 23. Detroit Lions; 22. Tennessee Titans; 21. New York Giants; 20. St. Louis Rams; 19. Chicago Bears
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- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Dennis Pitta
- Jacoby Jones
- Eugene Monroe
- Joe Flacco