Ravens offseason preview

The Baltimore Ravens' primary objective for the offseason has already been taken care of, working out a long-term contract with quarterback Joe Flacco that keeps the Super Bowl MVP winning quarterback in Baltimore for the foreseeable future and also provides much-needed salary cap relief for the team in the short-term.

So what now?

With the Flacco deal done, the Ravens' focus has shifted towards attempting to retain their remaining group of pending free agents, in particular inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who's thought to be the team's top priority now that the Flacco deal is done.

But Ellerbe's future is far from the only Ravens-related storyline that bears watching during the next two months.

What does the future hold for Baltimore's other pending free agents? What does the future hold for wide receiver Anquan Boldin? Are the Ravens going to make any moves in free agency aside from just trying to retain their own players? And what areas are the Ravens going to target in the draft?

Here's a guide of what you should know, what you should expect and what you should look out for during the next couple months as Baltimore puts together its roster for the 2013 season.


Seven, as in $7 million, the amount of money under the salary cap Baltimore's expected to be left with after tendering its restricted free agents in the coming days, a group of players that includes defensive lineman Arthur Jones and tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. That number could change however if the team decides to part ways with Boldin and his $7.531 million cap figure. As of Saturday, the Ravens are $12.26 million under the salary cap. Flacco, despite now being under contract for $120.6 million over the next six years, counts just $6.8 million against the salary cap this season.



March 12

The 2013 League Year begins at 4 p.m. ET, opening free agency and the trading period. All 2012 player contracts expire at 4 p.m. and teams must be under the 2013 salary cap at that time. Teams also have until 4 p.m. to exercise 2013 contract options on all players with club options and until the same time to submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents they wish to keep or have the right of first refusal for.


March 17-20

The NFL's annual league meetings in Phoenix, Az.

April 25-27

The NFL draft. Round one will be on the 25th, rounds two and three will be on the 26th and rounds four through seven will be on the 27th.


MLB Dannell Ellerbe

Retaining Ellerbe is thought to be Baltimore's biggest priority at this point, but it won't be easy. Ellerbe's coming off a career year, he's just 27 years old and he may be able to get more on the open market than what the Ravens are willing to play. Baltimore is, however, according to the Baltimore Sun, prepared to make Ellerbe a "significant offer" before Tuesday's deadline.


OLB Paul Kruger

Kruger's most likely done in Baltimore. He's viewed by many as the top pass rusher in this year's free agent class and could wind up with a long-term contract worth as much as $10-12 million annually, something the Ravens simply can't afford. The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts have been mentioned as potential suitors for Kruger.

S Ed Reed

Reed's future in Baltimore is still murky at this point. He's said that he wants to be back with the Ravens, and coach John Harbaugh has said he wants Reed back in Baltimore, but Reed told the NFL Network last week that he hasn't had any conversations with the team regarding his future since the end of the season. It's likely the Ravens will let Reed test the market to gauge his value and then act accordingly.

OT Bryant McKinnie

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged at the team's "State of the Ravens" press conference in early February that McKinnie's strong play during the playoffs will likely intrigue teams in need of a left tackle and didn't sound particularly optimistic regarding the likelihood that McKinnie ends up back with the Ravens.

CB Cary Williams

Like Kruger, Williams is likely gone as a free agent. Baltimore is deep at cornerback and, partly as a result of that depth, the Ravens aren't expected to give Williams the long-term deal worth $6-8 million per year that he's expected to command on the open market.


Retaining Ellerbe

Ray Lewis is gone and Jameel McClain's status for next year is still yet to be determined as he works back from a season-ending spinal cord injury, meaning that if Ellerbe departs as a free agent that special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo and Josh Bynes, a former undrafted free agent who began last season on the practice squad, could be the Ravens' top two returning middle linebackers from last year. But even beyond that, Ellerbe's a young, promising player who was arguably Baltimore's best defensive player last season.

Improving at nose tackle

Former second-round pick Terrence Cody was a supreme disappointment last season and veteran Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who started 13 games last year, is just serviceable at this point of his career and is unlikely to be retained as a free agent. Defensive tackle was the first position Newsome mentioned when asked what he views as the Ravens' most glaring needs heading into the offseason. In his words: "We think we have to get better at defensive tackle." Veteran Aubrayo Franklin could be an option as a free agent. Jesse Williams (Alabama) and John Jenkins (Georgia) could be of interest during the first two rounds of the draft.

Addressing the left tackle position

The Ravens don't have the space under the salary cap at this point to make a move for free agent left tackles like Jake Long, Jermon Bushrod or Sam Baker, so if it doesn't retain McKinnie - especially considering the lack of left tackle prospects expected to be available for Baltimore through the draft - the team could be left with Michael Oher as its starting left tackle for the 2013 season, as less than ideal as that may be. Oher started all 16 games at left tackle during this past regular season and allowed 10 sacks, which, according to Pro Football Focus, was tied for the most of any tackle in the AFC.

Finding a long-term answer at free safety

If Reed's gone, the need to add a free safety becomes even bigger. But even if Reed's back, Baltimore is likely to explore adding a safety early in the draft. The Ravens had formal meetings with several of the top safeties in this year's draft class at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, including Florida's Matt Elam, who may be of interest to Baltimore as early as the first round. But even if it's not Elam, this year's draft class is full of talented safety prospects, with at least 12 or 13 expected to be selected during the first three rounds of the draft.

Adding another pass rusher if Kruger signs elsewhere

Terrell Suggs will be 31 in October and is coming off two serious injuries. Meanwhile, Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan, for as solid as they both are against the run, are both limited in terms of what they offer as pass rushers at this point.

Yes, Suggs progressively returned to form as he got healthier last season, and it's only fair to expect him to further return to form after a full offseason to recover, and maybe the Ravens can get some pass rush production out of a young player like Adrian Hamilton, but, either way, Baltimore would benefit from adding another pass rusher to the mix. Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), Alex Okafor (Texas), Brandon Jenkins (Florida State), Tank Carradine (Florida State) and John Simon (Ohio State) are some pass rushers that could interest the Ravens during the first few rounds of the draft. Baltimore had formal meetings with Jenkins and Carradine at the combine and met informally with Simon at the Senior Bowl in January.




WR Anquan Boldin

Boldin led the Ravens in catches (65) and yards (921) last season, and he added 22 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs, but he's 32 and is due a $6 million base salary. He reportedly declined to take a pay cut.

FB Vonta Leach

Leach was selected to his third straight Pro Bowl last season, and his second straight with Baltimore, but his role diminished last year as the Ravens incorporated more two-tight end and three-wide receiver formations. Including the playoffs, Leach was on the field for just 40-percent of Baltimore's offensive snaps last year. He's due $3 million next season and will count $4.33 million against the salary cap.