The Ravens returned to the postseason in 2015 after a one-year absence, and after a dominant win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and three remarkable quarters against the New England Patriots, fans can be forgiven if they spent some time in January pricing airline tickets to Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX.
But after losing a pair of two-touchdown leads to the Patriots, the Ravens' offseason began late Jan. 10. Since then, the team has gone through its usual offseason overhaul. Some changes might have been more emotionally painful than others in recent years, but analysts have consistently picked the Ravens to be one of the NFL's best teams heading into 2015.
With just a couple of weeks remaining until training camp begins, let's review the top 10 news stories associated with the team this offseason:
News: Just seven days after saying that he would remain with the Ravens, Kubiak agreed to become head coach of the Denver Broncos, where he previously was a backup quarterback, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Analysis: Kubiak turned down offers to interview for head-coaching vacancies with the New York Jets and Chicago Bears, but couldn't resist the opportunity to rejoin his old friend, John Elway, in Denver. Under Kubiak's direction, the Ravens set single-season franchise records in points (409) and yards (5,838), and quarterback Joe Flacco set career highs in touchdown passes (27) and passing yards (3,986). The coach's departure after only one season left a gaping hole on the offensive staff, but the Ravens moved quickly to find Kubiak's replacement.
News: Just days after Kubiak agreed to a four-year deal with the Broncos, the Ravens settled on Marc Trestman as his replacement. Trestman had just been fired as head coach of the Chicago Bears after going 13-19 in two seasons.
Analysis: Trestman developed a reputation as "the quarterback whisperer" for his ability to develop passers, the former Canadian Football League coach plans to run a West Coast system that is similar to the one Kubiak so successfully ran in Baltimore. While the running game and short-passing game will again be staples, Trestman probably will incorporate more downfield passes -- which should play into Flacco's strength.
News: The Ravens terminated Jones' contract after he struggled to catch the football on offense and wasn't as consistently explosive as a kick and punter returner.
Analysis: With little room to maneuver under the salary cap, Jones became the first of several high-profile departures this offseason. The Super Bowl XLVII hero averaged 9.2 yards per punt return in the 2014 regular season and ranked second in the NFL with a 30.6-yard kickoff return average. He scored one touchdown, a 108-yard kickoff return in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. His dropoff as a wide receiver -- just nine receptions and 131 yards -- made him an expensive specialist. Jones signed with the San Diego Chargers in March. A number of players will compete to replace Jones in Baltimore.
News: Just days before the start of NFL free agency, former Maryland receiver Torrey Smith acknowledged in a blog post that he would not return to the Ravens for a fifth season. He signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers two days later.
Analysis: Smith, beloved by most fans but also a frequent target of criticism, finished his four-year Ravens career with 213 receptions, 3,591 yards and 30 touchdowns. The No. 58 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Smith quickly developed into one of the league's most impressive deep threats, but never became the kind of well-rounded receiver the Ravens might have been tempted to break the bank for. His departure -- together with the release of wide receiver-kick returner (and Super Bowl XLVII hero) Jacoby Jones -- left the team with serious questions about who would emerge as a downfield target for the big-armed Flacco.
News: Moments before the start of NFL free agency, the Ravens traded five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions in exchange for fourth- and fifth-round draft picks. They team had been working for weeks to reduce Ngata's salary-cap number for 2015, but failed to agree on a contract extension with one of the most decorated players in franchise history.
Analysis: Ngata, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, anchored the Ravens defense for nearly a decade. He might have become expendable, though, after he was suspended for the final four games of the 2014 regular season for testing positive for a banned stimulant, which he said was Adderall. In Ngata's absence, rookie Timmy Jernigan excelled.
News: With the No. 26 overall pick in the NFL draft, the Ravens selected Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman, considered one of the fastest players in the NFL draft.
Analysis: The Ravens had not drafted a wide receiver in the first round since Mark Clayton was selected No. 22 overall in 2005, but they couldn't resist picking Torrey Smith's likely replacement in Perriman. The receiver ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.22 seconds at his campus pro day workout, but left college with a reputation for dropping passes, and has done little during offseason practices with the Ravens to change the perception that his hands are suspect.
News: In perhaps their biggest move of the offseason, the Ravens locked up cornerback Jimmy Smith, who missed eight regular-season games and the playoffs this past season.
Analysis: After poor secondary play cost the Ravens numerous games -- including, perhaps, a chance to play in the AFC Championship Game -- re-signing Smith, the team's best defensive back, became the easiest way to ensure at least one player in the secondary could be relied upon. Smith's ability to stay healthy, however, shouldn't be taken as a given. If he does play in most games during the 2015 season, he is talented enough to make the entire defense better. He'll also get some help from an apparently healthy Lardarius Webb and former New England Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, who the Ravens signed in May.
News: Pitta, who missed most of the past two seasons following surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip each of the past two years, said he hopes to play with the Ravens in 2015. The team has said it will leave the decision up to the 30-year-old tight end and his doctors.
Analysis: Pitta participated in the Ravens' offseason conditioning program, but was not medically cleared to practice during mandatory minicamp this month. "He has to decide if he wants to play because obviously there will be some risk involved," coach John Harbaugh said during minicamp. "He hasn't been cleared by the doctors." The Ravens have second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore ready to start, and also selected two tight ends in the NFL draft: Minnesota's Maxx Williams in the second round and Delaware's Nick Boyle in the fifth.
News: The Ravens made their biggest acquisition of the offseason (apologies to safety Kendrick Lewis) by signing former New England Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, who led the league with seven interceptions in 2011.
Analysis: Arrington's playing time diminished in his final season with the Patriots, and he likely will play behind Webb and Smith for the Ravens. But it's also likely he will see significant snaps as the third cornerback and should be an upgrade for a secondary that struggled so mightily last season.
News: The Ravens held on to their longtime punter with a contract extension that keeps him with the team through the 2020 season.
Analysis: Koch, a sixth-round draft pick of the Ravens in 2006, has long been one of the NFL's best punters and is coming off a career-best season in which he averaged 47.4 yards per punt and a league-best 43.3 net yards. He has also been virtually flawless as a holder on the Ravens' extra-point and field-goal units. It might not have been a splashy move, but Koch earned his extension and can continue to quietly go about his overlooked job in Baltimore for, likely, the remainder of his NFL career.