Changes on the Horizon for the Ravens

| January 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

photoThe Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time in six years and now there are a lot of personnel questions surrounding them this offseason. The Ravens have a lot of needs to address in order to improve the team and the salary cap could lead to cutting some notable players who have been with the franchise for a long time. There will certainly be some changes this offseason and there need to be if the Ravens are going to get back to the playoffs. I just hope fans remember that football is a business and decisions should be made based on that and nothing else.

Here are some moves I believe the Ravens should and/or will make this offseason:

Bring in a play-making wide receiver:

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (because I have been saying this is a need for the last couple of years), the Ravens absolutely need to bring in a play-making wide receiver. I am not talking about a possession guy like an Anquan Boldin, but more like a Cordarrelle Patterson, who can take a two yard pass and turn it into a long touchdown. The Ravens invested $120 million dollars in Joe Flacco and yet they took away his most reliable receiver and did not put any explosive pieces around him. I like Marlon Brown but he was the “Number 2” receiver out of necessity. Torrey Smith is explosive but has not shown he can get open when being double covered. And, while a sure-handed pass catcher, Dennis Pitta cannot provide the explosiveness this offense needs. For as bad as the offensive line was, and it was bad, there were several instances  where Flacco had time to throw yet none of the receivers were able to separate. This forced Flacco to throw into coverage, check down or take a sack to not turn the ball over.

The Ravens have passed on a receiver too many times in the first round in lieu of drafting a guy in the later rounds who has “potential.”  I cannot argue with Ozzie Newsome’s track record but the one position he has missed on more often than not is receiver. This draft is littered with explosive pass catchers and I believe that it is a must for the Ravens to take one in the first round. I know they hate trading draft picks but a player like Sammy Watkins is a franchise-changing talent and sometimes you need to give up picks to get those types of players. I don’t think the Ravens will trade up, but they should. If not, players like Mike Evans, Maquise Lee and Eric Ebron (a wide receiver in a tight end’s body), will likely be available and would be great picks for the Ravens.

The Ravens should not try to overthink this, they need receiver help and they need a young talented receiver. There will be a good one available and they need to act on it.

Improve the offensive line:

The Ravens offensive line was putrid this season, however, I do not believe it is as big a concern as some are making it out to be. Let’s put things into perspective: the Ravens lost Kelechi Osemele to injury, Marshal Yanda was coming off a surgery in the offseason, and they did not have Eugene Monroe for a full season. Osemele and Yanda coming back healthy gives you one of the best guard tandems in the league and Monroe is an above average left tackle. Therefore, only center and right tackle need to be addressed.

There will be some good lineman available in free agency or via trade and more good ones in the draft. The best way to improve their offensive line will be Yanda and Osemele coming back 100% healthy. Not too many teams can improve a position that much internally. That being said, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Ravens going after center Alex Mack from Cleveland.

There will be major players cut or not resigned:

More than any of the other major sports, the NFL enjoys parity and the salary cap restrictions put in place make it so that there is a lot of turnover every season. This season the Ravens will have to make a major decision with regards to Terrell Suggs  as releasing him would save the Ravens $12.4 million dollars against the cap. They will likely ask Suggs to restructure but if he doesn’t want to he will likely not be a Raven. Vonta Leach, Jameel McClain and Sam Koch also have cap numbers that their performance on the field doesn’t justify and cutting them would give more cap flexibility.

In addition to salary cap questions from players under contract, the Ravens have a long list of unrestricted free agents they need to decide whether or not to bring back.  Defensively, Art Jones and Daryl Smith were the most productive players for the Ravens and are both free agents. How much do the Ravens value them? I believe Jones will get a big time offer that the Ravens probably won’t be able to match, although I think he is a star in the making and it would be tough to replace him. Smith was quietly one of the best middle linebackers in football and, given the lack of depth at this position, it is imperative for them to bring him back.

Offensively, Dennis Pitta and Eugene Monroe headline the list of unrestricted free agents and the Ravens need both of them back. They need to add offensive weapons and linemen, and they can’t afford to lose the best ones they have. Whether it’s through the franchise tag or a new deal, it is likely that both will be a Raven next season.

Given the track record of the Ravens, they will not overspend and sign a player for more money than they believe they are worth. Instead, they will sign a cap casualty because it does not interfere with compensatory picks. It will be interesting to see who they value the most and what they are willing to spend on them.

Changes are on the horizon and the Ravens will have a lot of questions to answer. Missing the playoffs is not acceptable for the players or the front office so it is likely they will do whatever it takes to improve the team to get back to the postseason.

There may be a lot fans who have to go out and get a new jersey this fall, but such is life in the NFL.

Wins and losses are all that matter and hopefully whatever moves the Ravens make lead to more wins.

 

About the Author:

I have spent my entire 30 years living in Maryland and I love everything about this city. Despite the bad reputation the city has, Baltimore will always be a special place to me and I love living here. There is nothing better then Sunday afternoons at M&T Bank Stadium and summer nights at Camden Yards when the Yard is packed. You can find me all over the city so don't hesitate to share your opinion of me good or bad. Who knows, if you see me out maybe I will buy you a Natty Boh. Lets go Ravens and Lets go O's!!! Follow me on Twitter at @MRomanell.
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