Keeping Joe Flacco is Ravens' top priority in 2013 (USA Today Sports Images)
Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We wrap up the AFC North with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
2012 record: 10-6
What went wrong: It's hard to find many bones to pick with a team that won Super Bowl XLVII and threw a parade last week, but there are few items that threatened to derail the Ravens' storybook season. For starters, the offense was stagnant for much of the season, particularly on the road. In the Ravens' first five road games, the offense produced an average of 256.8 yards per game. Statistically, the Ravens defense took a step backwards, ranking 17th in total defense, including 20th against the run and 17th against the pass. From an advanced metrics standpoint, the Ravens defense that had ranked first in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) dropped to 19th in 2012 and was 26th against the run.
What went right: Head coach John Harbaugh made the bold decision in mid-December to part ways with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and place Jim Caldwell, who had no play-calling experience, in charge of the unit. It would be a severe understatement to say that decision broke the right way for the Ravens and Harbaugh. Another bold decision was reshuffling the offensive line at the start of the postseason, with Michael Oher moving from left to right tackle, second-round pick Kelechi Osomele moving from right tackle to left guard and Bryant McKinnie moving from the sidelines to left tackle. That retooled line paved the way for a running game that averaged 134.8 yards per game on the ground and allowed just six sacks of Flacco in over 130 called passing plays, including one to a Denver Broncos defense that tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks in the regular season. While the Ravens defense gave more yardage than they're accustomed to, that unit did rank second in the NFL in the red zone.
Coaching/front office changes: None.
Estimated 2013 cap space: $7.56 million
Possible cap casualties: Seeing that the Ravens have over $7 million in cap space right now might give the impression that they have plenty of room to retain some of their key unrestricted free agents. That's not the case, as the Ravens also possess a lengthy list of restricted free agents who will absorb much, if not all, of that $7.5 million.
Baltimore's salary cap will gain $4.35 million in space when Ray Lewis makes his retirement official. Should veteran center Matt Birk follow Lewis out the door, the Ravens will gain another $2.05 million in cap room.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome says the team will not restructure contracts to keep the team together, which could result in the departure of a few veterans. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin led the team with 65 receptions for 921 yards during the regular season and 22 receptions for 380 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs, but is due $6 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2013, the final season of his current contract. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has two years and $14.2 million remaining on his contract, including $6.4 million in 2013. Suggs missed half the season after tearing his Achilles last offseason and had just four sacks in 12 regular and postseason games. With Paul Kruger emerging as a potential double-digit sack producer, the Ravens could seek to divert the large sums of cash coming Suggs' way towards Kruger, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Releasing Suggs outright would save $1.798 million in cap space, though the Ravens could make him a "post-June 1" release and split the remaining signing bonus proration over the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones set a few Super Bowl records with his play-making ability in the return game, and had two enormous touchdowns in the playoffs. That said, Jones played in less than 40 percent of the Raven's offensive snaps during the regular season, catching 30 passes for 406 yards and a touchdown. Jones is due $4 million in 2013, including a $3 million base salary and a $1 million roster bonus that comes due on March 16. Veteran guard Bobbie Williams turns 37 in September and played in less than a third of the Ravens' offensive snaps and is due $1.2 million in base salary, which could result in his release this offseason.
Unrestricted free agents
Billy Bajema, TE
Ricky Brown, LB
Sean Considine, S
Dannell Ellerbe, LB
Joe Flacco, QB
James Ihedigbo, S
Chris Johnson, CB
Ma'ake Kemoeatu, NT
Paul Kruger, LB
Ryan McBean, DT
Bryant McKinnie, OT
Ed Reed, S
Cary Williams, CB
Restricted free agents:
Morgan Cox, LS
Ed Dickson, TE
Ramon Harewood, G/T
Arthur Jones, DL
Dennis Pitta, TE
David Reed, WR
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidate: Changed the header for this part from "candidates" to "candidate", because Joe Flacco is the only player the Ravens absolutely cannot afford to lose. The 2008 first-round pick out of Delaware has developed into the most rare NFL commodity, a franchise quarterback. Flacco has started all 93 regular and postseason games the Ravens have played the last five seasons. In the regular season, Flacco has completed 60.5 percent of his pass attempts for 17,633 yards with 102 touchdowns and 56 touchdowns as the Ravens have gone 54-26. Flacco doesn't have a Pro Bowl - the quarterback position has been a tough nut crack in the AFC the last few seasons - but his 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions while leading the Ravens to a win in Super Bowl XLVII came at the right time as his rookie contract was expiring. With a Super Bowl on his resume, Flacco is looking at $18 million per season with well over $50 million in guaranteed money in a long-term contract.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated reports that talks between the Ravens and Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, are expected to continue this week. However, negotiating a long-term deal before March 4 - the deadline for NFL teams to use the franchise tag - may not be a possibility. If the Ravens use the "non-exclusive" franchise tag on Flacco, he will count an estimated $14.666 million (based on a league-wide 2013 cap number of $121.1 million) against their salary cap while the two sides continue to negotiate a long-term extension. While that should be enough to keep quarterback-needy teams from pursuing Flacco – the Ravens would have the right to match the offer and no team is eager to essentially do the negotiations for a franchise player's current team – the Ravens may opt to use the "exclusive" franchise tag. Doing so would prevent Flacco from talking to other teams, though that exclusivity comes at a cost of the average of the Top 5 cap numbers at the end of the restricted free agent signing period (mid-April), which could be in the $20.5 million range.
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