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Ravens still have more work to do as NFL owners' meetings begin

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- A year ago, the Ravens' contingent arrived at the NFL owners' meetings riding a wave of emotion.

About a month and a half earlier, the Ravens finalized a stunning playoff run by beating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII and to capture the organization’s second Lombardi Trophy. In the days that followed, they enjoyed the highs of a grand parade and the lows of watching part of the nucleus of the team get torn apart through retirements, trades and free-agent defections.

Things are far less dramatic around the team at this year’s meetings, which officially get underway this morning at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes resort, though the Ravens did make some noise yesterday by trading a 2015 fifth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for veteran center-guard Jeremy Zuttah.  

The trade continues what has been an active couple of weeks for the Ravens, who agreed to long-term deals with rush linebacker Terrell Suggs and tight end Dennis Pitta before the new league year started. Then, after free agency kicked off at 4 p.m. March 11, the Ravens worked quickly to re-sign four of their own: left tackle Eugene Monroe, wide receiver-kick returner Jacoby Jones, middle linebacker Daryl Smith and safety-special teams ace Jeromy Miles.

They then attacked three of their primary holes externally, signing free-agent wide receiver Steve Smith and St. Louis Rams safety Darian Stewart, and then trading for Zuttah, who projects to be the team’s starting center.

Despite all the recent activity, team officials know that they still have some work to do, and this week will provide yet another opportunity to get some things done.

Here are some things to look for this week:

Player acquisitions: The owners' meetings provide team decision-makers with an opportunity to meet face-to-face with other organizations to discuss potential deals. But beyond that, agents also descend on the three-day gathering, looking to find homes for their remaining free agents. There are still plenty of talented players available, including guys like running back LeGarrette Blount, tight end Owen Daniels and guard Travelle Wharton, who all could be potential fits for the Ravens. After a frenzied first week, general manager Ozzie Newsome and company have mostly monitored the market, waiting for prices to drop. They’re not done. They still have enough salary cap room to make a couple moves and plug a few more holes on the roster. The Ravens need another starting-caliber offensive lineman – either a right tackle or left guard depending on where Kelechi Osemele will play -- and they could use more depth at running back, tight end, inside linebacker, cornerback, safety and along the defensive line. Most of those needs will obviously be addressed in May’s draft.

Steve Bisciotti: The Ravens owner doesn’t speak to the media much, but when he does, he usually has plenty of interesting things to say. Traditionally, he has spoken to select reporters during the owners' meetings. If he does that again this year, he’ll undoubtedly be asked about the three recent arrests of Ravens players, Ray Rice’s status with the organization, the hiring of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and what he feels the team needs to do to get back to the playoffs.     

Comp picks awarded: As early as today, the NFL could announce how many compensatory picks that each team will get in this year’s draft. Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more, or better, free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The Ravens are expected to be awarded the maximum number of four comp picks after their free-agent exodus last year saw Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams and Ed Reed among others heading elsewhere. Since 1995, no team has been awarded more compensatory picks than the Ravens, and the expected four extra selections should come in handy this year after the team traded three total picks to acquire Eugene Monroe and A.Q. Shipley. Extra fourth- and fifth-round picks also will figure prominently this year in what is being called one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.  

Rule changes: There seems to be more talk about potential rule changes this year than in past meetings. When the league’s competition committee makes its presentation to owners, the prospective changes include moving the extra point back, moving kickoffs up and making some adjustments with the instant replay system. For any of the rule proposals to pass for the 2014 season, they’ll need to be approved by 24 of 32 teams. One possible change that may not be addressed this week is the expansion of the playoff field. It isn’t clear yet whether owners will vote on that matter.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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