Sunday brings yet another must-win game for the Baltimore Ravens. This time, however, unless the Ravens beat the Bengals and get some help, Baltimore will be going home for the Playoffs for the first time in the Harbaugh/Flacco Era.
Playoffs or not, as with most off-seasons in the NFL, this upcoming one will surely bring change to the Baltimore Ravens. While it may not be as extreme as the post-2012 changes, there are still some significant personnel decisions that Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh, and their staffs will have to decide on moving forward. Here are some quick hits on who may or may not be playing their last games in Baltimore this weekend.
This offensive line has been, in my opinion, the worst position group on the Ravens in 2013. The lack of performance in both running and passing the ball can be traced back to this underwhelming unit. It’s highly likely (and sorely needed) that improving the O-line will be a main focus of the offseason.
Eugene Monroe, Left Tackle – The Ravens made their first ever mid-season trade when they sent 4th and 5th round draft picks to Jacksonville to acquire Monroe. Monroe has had an up and down remainder of the season for Baltimore and will be a free agent. Monroe isn’t the second coming of Jonathan Ogden, but I’d be surprised if he was not a Raven next year after Ozzie gave up two draft picks to bring him aboard.
Kelechi Osemele, Left Guard – Osemele, going into his third season, will need to show he’s back at full strength going into ’14 after season-ending back surgery. K.O. was a major part of the Super Bowl run and would be a huge boost, if he is able to return to form.
Gino Gradkowski, Center – Gradkowski, a 4th round pick in 2012, has been a disappointment in his first year as a starter. Look for the Ravens to, in the very least, bring in stiff competition for Gradkowski. It wouldn’t shock me to see Baltimore make a move for a veteran snapper and continue to develop Gradkowski as a swing Center / Guard moving forward.
Marshall Yanda, Right Guard – Yanda has not had a very good season, but is likely still recovering from shoulder surgery during last offseason. Yanda is a Pro Bowl performer, as tough as they come, and a leader on the offense. My money is on Yanda getting healthy with some much-needed rest and returning to form in ’14.
Michael Oher, Right Tackle – Oher has had a star-crossed career in Baltimore. A truly wonderful life story that spawned both a book and Oscar-winning movie, has not really translated to a storybook NFL career – the talent is there, but so are the penalties. Oher is a free agent and may price himself out of returning to the Ravens.
Arthur Jones, Defensive Lineman – Jones has come into his own this season and has likely priced himself out of Baltimore. It would be great to have him back in 2014, but Jones is my pick to be the most coveted of this Ravens free agent class.
Jacoby Jones, WR – Jacoby Jones has made impact plays in his time in Baltimore, both as a receiver and returner. While he will likely be a priority to re-sign for the front office, this Jones may also price himself out of the Baltimore budget.
Daryl Smith, LB – Smith has been one of the best free agent signing of the 2013 offseason and has likely set himself up for a nice payday. Losing Smith would be a huge loss for the middle of the defense, but the Ravens will have to decide if paying Smith big money is worth the cap hit with both Jameel McLain and Arthur Brown on the roster.
Dennis Pitta, TE – It will be interesting to see what kind of contract Dennis Pitta receives after successfully returning from a severe hip injury. He can be a major offensive weapon and is one of Joe Flacco’s main Red Zone targets. Baltimore will have to factor those positives in with how well they feel he has recovered from his injury.
In Ozzie We Trust