Five storylines to monitor at Thursday's 'State of the Ravens' address

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Left to right, ravens president Dick Cass, owner Steve Bisciotti and coach John Harbaugh meet with the media at last year's "State of the Ravens" address on Feb. 24, 2015.

When owner Steve Bisciotti last spoke publicly about the state of his team, the Ravens were about seven weeks removed from the conclusion of a 10-6 season and a berth in the AFC divisional playoffs. Bisciotti graded the 2014 Ravens' performance as an "A," saying that the only thing preventing him from adding a plus to the grade was falling short of the Super Bowl.

The owner's tone will probably be far different Thursday afternoon as he, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh hold the annual "State of the Ravens" address at the Under Armour Performance Center.


On Sunday, the Ravens completed an injury-marred and mistake-filled 5-11 season, one of the worst years in franchise history. The last time the Ravens had a five-win season in 2007, Bisciotti fired coach Brian Billick.

Harbaugh is in no such danger, but Bisciotti and company still have a number of decisions to make in one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. Below are five storylines heading into Thursday's news conference:


How will the organization handle Joe Flacco's contract?

Flacco's contract is looming over another offseason. The veteran quarterback's salary cap hit for 2016 is $28.55 million, and that's going to have to change if the Ravens are going to be able to make any meaningful additions to a roster badly in need of them.

Flacco seemed resigned to his contract getting reworked, saying Monday that "you know this day is going to come." Both the Ravens and Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, acknowledged after the original six-year, $120.6 million deal was reached in March 2013 that they'd be back at the negotiating table following the third season of the deal.

Well, here we are. The last negotiations between the Ravens and Linta got acrimonious. The Ravens need them to go smoother this time around. They badly need the cap space that reworking Flacco's contract would provide, and Flacco, who is rehabbing a surgically repaired left knee, doesn't want to go anywhere. Both sides want the same thing, but that doesn't mean the negotiations will be easy.

Will Bisciotti turn up the heat?

Bisciotti doesn't enjoy being interviewed. He prefers staying in the background, which is why this annual season-ending news conference is traditionally his only group interview of the year. But when he does talk, he rarely minces words.

In this setting, he has challenged Billick and former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. It would be surprising if he put Newsome and Harbaugh on notice, but Bisciotti's patience does have its limits.

The Ravens have finished in third place in the AFC North in three consecutive seasons. The talent gap between them and the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals appears to be widening as recent drafts have not produced enough impact players for the Ravens.


It will be interesting to hear whether Bisciotti thinks this season was an aberration or a sign that things need to change.

Will the Ravens be active in free agency?

The Ravens' free-agent playbook has been to make one or two of their own free agents a priority to re-sign and then allow others to go elsewhere for more lucrative deals than they were willing to offer. And bidding on top free agents from other teams? Forget it.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith and pass rusher Pernell McPhee left under those circumstances last year, and the Ravens missed both of them. With more needs this offseason than in past years, the Ravens might not be able to mostly sit out free agency.

Offensive guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele is the Ravens' top free agent and he'd be a significant loss, given the team's uncertainty at left tackle. Kicker Justin Tucker would also be a coveted free agent, although the Ravens will likely put the franchise tag on him before he hits the open market. Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw appears to be a long shot to return.

The Ravens need both offensive and defensive playmakers, and it would be quite optimistic to think that they'll fill all their holes in the draft. But are they willing to change their free-agent approach? And if they are, how will they create the necessary salary cap space to be players on the open market? Those are questions Bisciotti and company will have to answer.


What's going on with outside linebacker Terrell Suggs?

Ever since rush linebacker Terrell Suggs went down with a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 1, there has been a shroud of mystery surrounding the longest-tenured Raven. He stayed away from the team for a couple of months after the injury and stayed in contact with very few members of the organization.

When he was on the Ravens sidelines for the Dec. 27 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Suggs wore a hat with former teammate Haloti Ngata's number on it, and he was still in a walking boot. Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who had his torn Achilles surgically repaired about 1 1/2 months after Suggs did, is already out of a boot. Smith added even more intrigue to the situation Monday by describing Suggs as "vulnerable" right now.

Both Harbaugh and Newsome have said that they expect the team's all-time sacks leader to return, but Suggs will turn 34 this year and he has had two Achilles tears in less than four years. The Ravens showed once again last offseason with Ngata that they are not afraid to move on from their all-time best players. That probably won't happen immediately with Suggs, but the situation bears watching.

Will there be any changes on Harbaugh's staff?

Harbaugh has been effusive in his praise for his coaching staff this season, but when a team goes 5-11, a few changes are usually made.


To this point, there has been no indication that offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and defensive coordinator Dean Pees are in jeopardy.

Trestman's propensity to quickly abandon the run game is a concern, but his unit was significantly lacking in speed and playmaking ability, and that wasn't his fault. As for Pees, the Ravens defense was statistically one of the best in the NFL in the second half of the season, and the longtime coach is one of the most well-respected and well-liked people in the building.

Harbaugh isn't the main attraction at this event because he speaks to reporters regularly, while Bisciotti and Newsome do infrequently. But the status of his coaching staff is something that he'll address. The Ravens already understand that they could lose linebackers coach Ted Monachino, who is a candidate to join former Ravens assistant Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis as the Colts' new defensive coordinator.