Getting Sam Koch and Jimmy Smith signed were big first moves, but the Ravens will have plenty more to do next offseason.
The Ravens' 90-man roster is set. All the rookies are signed, and the free-agent market has been sufficiently picked through. Practice plans and other training camp logistics are mostly in the hands of the coaching staff.
The motivation of the move wasn't to open up salary cap space this year, but to lock up a well-respected player whose contract was due to expire after the 2015-16 season. Koch is the second pending 2016 free agent to come to an agreement on a long-term deal this offseason, after cornerback Jimmy Smith agreed to a five-year, $48 million contract in late April.
While securing Smith and Koch beyond the upcoming season are important first steps, the Ravens' front office still will have significant work to do next offseason. The most prominent storyline likely will be the team's efforts to restructure the contract of quarterback Joe Flacco, whose current deal carries a $28.55 million salary cap hit next year.
They'll also have a host of other free agents, the most prominent of which are detailed below:
Marshal Yanda, OG: The 30-year-old is a four-time Pro Bowl selection and arguably the second-best offensive lineman in team history, behind Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden. He also has shown little sign of decline, turning in one of his best years last season. He's one of those players the Ravens want to keep for the entirety of his career. But for that to happen, they will have to pony up a lot of money. Yanda has earned the right to be paid like the NFL's top guard, an honor currently held by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Logan Mankins (six years and $51 million, including $30 million guaranteed). Both sides would love to reach a deal, but there have been no indications that one is imminent.
Kelechi Osemele, OG: The fact that both starting guards are eligible for free agency adds another dimension to the contract talks for the Ravens. It's doubtful the Ravens can keep both Yanda and Osemele, especially if Osemele has another strong season and seeks Pro Bowl-guard-type money. The Ravens also have drafted potential replacements the past two years in John Urschel and Robert Myers. Osemele is four years younger than Yanda but also dealt with a significant back injury in 2014. Osemele could be the odd man out. He also could be a beneficiary if the Ravens are unable to reach a deal with Yanda. Losing their top two offensive linemen in one offseason would be tough.
Justin Tucker, K: The Ravens signed Tucker as an undrafted free agent and have watched him become one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. He has been a huge weapon and a tremendous bargain, but he won't come cheap for much longer. Whether it's with the Ravens or somebody else, Tucker seems on his way to becoming the NFL's highest-paid kicker, with a deal that includes more than $9 million guaranteed. The Ravens don't want to lose him and, at the very least, likely would place the franchise tag on the kicker next offseason before allowing him to become a true unrestricted free agent.
Courtney Upshaw, OLB: The 25-year-old has been a valuable role player for the Ravens. He has only three sacks over three seasons, and his conditioning has been an ongoing concern, but he sets the edge in the running game, beats up on opposing tight ends and sets a physical tone. It's unclear what sort of market Upshaw will have and what kind of contract he'll demand, but he could become the latest in a long line of Ravens defensive players to get a big payday elsewhere.
Will Hill, S: The Ravens gave Hill an opportunity last season after the safety was released by the New York Giants following another suspension. Once he was eligible to play, Hill was solid and, by all accounts, conducted himself well off the field. He figures to start this season opposite free-agent acquisition Kendrick Lewis. A couple of the Ravens' young safeties have struggled, so the team has an uncertain outlook at the position. The jury is still out on Hill, and given his off-field history, he'd be a risky candidate for a lucrative, long-term commitment. His play and conduct this year could go a long way.