NFL Wild Card weekend certainly delivered some great games. Epic comebacks, big plays, crazy weather. In a lot of respects, this weekend was exactly what NFL fans were hoping it would be.
I don’t know about you guys, but watching the NFL playoffs without the Ravens participating leaves me with an empty feeling inside. We’ve been spoiled the last five years as Baltimore fans. It’s been a great run, but I guess it had to end sometime.
It’s a new year and, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what the 2014 NFL offseason entails for the Baltimore Ravens moving forward.
February 17: First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players
February 19-25: NFL Combine in Indianapolis
March 8-11: Teams can begin negotiations with pending Unrestricted Free Agents
March 11: Teams must be under the 2014 salary cap by 4pm EST.
May 8-10: NFL Draft
Of the above players, my personal priorities to re-sign would be Pitta, Smith, and Monroe. Next on the list would be A. Jones, Graham, and J. Jones. The other players are either replaceable in my opinion or do not warrant a new contract.
Remaking the offensive line will be a priority for the Ravens this offseason and after trading two picks to Jacksonville for Monroe, I would be shocked to see Ozzie Newsome let him leave. Pitta was able to show enough at the end of the year to deserve a new deal and Daryl Smith was a godsend in the middle after the retirement of Ray Lewis.
As much as I’d like to see Arthur Jones and Jacoby Jones re-up in Baltimore, I have a feeling each guy has likely priced himself out of town. Corey Graham has been huge for the Ravens as the third corner and his departure would be a bigger loss than some may realize. Out of these three, Graham is the player I hope returns the most.
I’m not an NFL cap expert, so I’m not going to start spouting off my opinion about how the Ravens can save some money. However, it looks like the only two “name” players in danger of getting cut are Jameel McClain and Sam Koch. According to the Baltimore Sun, cutting McClain could save $3.2 million and cutting Koch could save $1.6 million against the cap.
Koch had a down year and could either be cut and re-signed to a new deal or replaced by a less expensive veteran or draft pick. With Arthur Brown going into his second season, McClain could be expendable, especially if the Ravens resign Daryl Smith.
Terrell Suggs is the only other player with a big cap number who can be looked at as a potential roster casualty. The more likely scenario, however, is for Suggs to get a an extension that will create cap space for the team.
Whether via free agency or the draft, I see the Ravens focusing on these position groups:
Offensive Line: This is the #1 need for the Ravens. We could see as many as three new starters on the offensive line in 2014.
Wide Receiver: A number one wide receiver would be great, but better depth is an absolute necessity. Aside from Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown, there isn’t much to work with here. Don’t forget about Aaron Mellette, who showed promise in Training Camp before being put on IR.
Tight End: Whether or not Dennis Pitta returns will determine just how important getting another player at this position becomes, but creating depth will be a priority regardless.
Safety: It became fairly clear that, 2013 first rounder, Matt Elam is better suited to play strong safety rather than free safety, so finding a rangy, playmaking Safety should be high on the list of needs
With Jim Caldwell interviewing for multiple head coaching vacancies, the Ravens have a strong likelihood of needing a new offensive coordinator. I don’t see anyone currently on staff that I would champion for the job. Should Caldwell leave, I’m crossing my fingers that John Harbaugh will go with an innovative young coach who can bring a new brand of offensive football to Baltimore.
It’s time for the Ravens to start a new playoff streak and this offseason will be a crucial component to the next big run.