Plenty at stake for Ravens as league meetings are set to begin

The owners meetings begin Monday in Phoenix and the Ravens and owner Steve Bisciotti have a lot at stake during the three days.

Ravens' officials started arriving at the posh Arizona Biltmore resort today for the league's annual three-day meetings.

The purpose of the meetings is to discuss – and in some cases, vote on – pressing league and business matters. After one of the most tumultuous seasons in NFL history, there will be plenty to discuss, both from a league and a team standpoint.


Will there be any resolution to the league investigations involving the New England Patriots (deflation of footballs) or the Atlanta Falcons (pumping in crowd noise)? Will there be a breakthrough in the Minnesota Vikings' efforts to repair their relationship with star running back Adrian Peterson? What, if any, rule changes will NFL owners approve for the 2015 season?

The Ravens have plenty at stake this week as well. Here are five things to look for as it pertains to them:


Ravens top decision makers discuss offseason

It was about a month ago when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh spoke at the annual "State of the Ravens" address. Much has changed since.

Two more Ravens (Victor Hampton and Bernard Pierce) were arrested and ultimately released. The Ravens traded defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, one of their long-time franchise cornerstones. They also lost several key players in free agency, a list that includes Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels and Pernell McPhee, and did little on the open market to address some of their primary needs.

Harbaugh will undoubtedly be asked about those developments during the AFC head coaches' breakfast on Tuesday. Bisciotti and Cass have also spoken to select reporters at past league meetings. Because of some of the Ravens' off-the-field issues and their annual roster turnover, there will be plenty of interest in what team officials have to say.

Compensatory picks are rewarded

At some point during these meetings, perhaps as early as Monday, the NFL is expected to award compensatory draft picks for 2015. And the Ravens, as usual, are expected to cash in.

Per league rules, a team losing more, or better, free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. After losing five true unrestricted free agents last offseason (Ed Dickson, Corey Graham, James Ihedigo, Arthur Jones and Michael Oher) and signing only one (Darian Stewart), the Ravens are in position to receive either three or the maximum four extra picks.

What's not clear is what rounds the picks will be in. Either way, the Ravens, who already have seven picks in next month's draft before the compensatory selections are announced, should be well-equipped to fill some of their needs through the draft.


Free agency is ongoing

The flurry of activity in the first week to 10 days of free agency has screeched to a halt. Almost all of the top unrestricted free agents have found homes and those that remain on the open market are mostly role players or depth acquisitions.

The Ravens have added just one outside unrestricted free agent (safety Kendrick Lewis), while re-signing several of their own (Justin Forsett, Chris Canty, Lawrence Guy, Morgan Cox, Anthony Levine and Christo Bilukidi). They still need help at wide receiver, tight end and cornerback, though those markets have thinned considerably in free agency.

The top wide receivers available are Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings, Hakeem Nicks and Denarius Moore.  The top remaining free agent tight ends are Jermaine Gresham, Rob Housler and Zach Miller, though Gresham reportedly had back surgery recently. At cornerback, the top options are Alan Ball, Terence Newman, Charles Tillman and Tarell Brown.

Knowing the organization's fondness for accruing compensatory picks, it seems unlikely that Newsome and Co. will cost themselves draft selections next year by signing second- or third-tier free agents. However, players like Jennings, who has been released, wouldn't factor in the compensatory process, and there will be plenty of agents at the Arizona Biltmore looking to pitch their clients to Ravens' officials.

Teams talk trades


On the eve of last year's meetings, the Ravens swung a trade, picking up center Jeremy Zuttah from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for draft picks.

There haven't been too many deals consummated at these meetings, but an opportunity to meet face-to-face with executives from other teams can lay the groundwork for future trades.

The Ravens have a surplus of draft picks and Newsome has never been afraid to wheel and deal, so a trade this week can't be ruled out.

Rule changes will be voted on

The NFL competition committee will present proposals on a number of potential rule changes this week and league owners will vote on them. For a proposal to be adopted, it needs 75 percent of the vote.

Many of the proposed modifications involve instant replay. However, there is one recommendation, courtesy of the competition committee, that the Ravens and their fans will be particularly interested in. The proposal would "make it illegal for an offensive player with an eligible number to report as ineligible, and line up outside the core of the formation."


In their AFC divisional round playoff victory over the Ravens, the Patriots had running back Shane Vereen, who was lined up as a wide receiver, declare himself ineligible while tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, lined up in an offensive tackle spot, was eligible. The Ravens struggled to pick up on who was eligible and who wasn't as the Patriots drove down the field for a third-quarter touchdown. It wasn't the reason why the Ravens lost but it certainly contributed to the Patriots' comeback.

Such tactics would result in a penalty if the proposal is approved by NFL owners this week, though that will be little consolation to the Ravens.