Key dates for the Ravens during this crucial offseason

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks about quarterback Joe Flacco and what he needs to do to get better next season. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

The "State of the Ravens" address is over. The annual meeting of the minds at owner Steve Bisciotti's Jupiter, Fla. home took place over the weekend.

As Ravens coach John Harbaugh works to finalize his coaching staff, the front office has turned its attention to a critical offseason.


Here are the key dates over the next few months:

Jan. 24-28: Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala. – This week officially starts the long buildup to the draft. Ravens executives, coaches and scouts will be in Mobile to evaluate select members of the 2017 draft class and conduct player interviews. Several players, including nose tackle Brandon Williams, got on the Ravens' radar with dominant performances during Senior Bowl week.


Jan. 29: Pro Bowl in Orlando – With the game back to the AFC vs. NFC format, the Ravens will be represented by fullback Kyle Juszczyk, middle linebacker C.J. Mosley (assuming he doesn't withdraw with a calf strain) and kicker Justin Tucker. Former Raven Ray Lewis will coach the AFC's defense.

Feb. 15-March 1: Window to designate franchise or transition players – The Ravens have used the franchise tag to keep top unrestricted free agents off the open market, including last year with Tucker. However, there's no obvious candidate for the tag this year because the price to designate either of their top two unrestricted free agents, Williams and right tackle Rick Wagner, would be prohibitive.

Among the myriad problems the Ravens must address in the offseason, beefing up the pass rush — especially on the edge — figures to be one of the top priorities. The defense finished the season with 31 sacks, which was tied for 24th in the NFL. The 2016 average was 34.9 sacks.

Feb. 28-March 6: NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis – Most of the top 2017 draft prospects will go through on-field testing and meet with teams and the media at the biggest pre-draft showcase. In addition to executives, coaches and scouts from every team, agents also descend on Indianapolis to get a head start on contract negotiations.

March 7-9: Three-day free agent negotiating window – Teams are allowed to begin contract negotiations with the representatives for prospective unrestricted free agents after 4 p.m. on March 7. However, the two sides cannot finalize contracts until the new league year begins.

March 9: The start of free agency, new league year – The free agent market officially opens at 4 p.m. The Ravens' top unrestricted free agents are Williams, Wagner, Juszczyk and wide receiver Kamar Aiken. Prior to 4 p.m. on March 9, the Ravens also will have to submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents and salary tenders to exclusive rights free agents.

It appeared that John Harbaugh's coaching staff would return mostly intact, but that's no longer the case.

March 26-29: League meetings in Phoenix – Business at the annual meetings traditionally includes the awarding of compensatory draft selections (the Ravens should get one) and the announcement of rule changes. At past league meetings, Bisciotti or team president Dick Cass have also agreed to sit down with local reporters to discuss matters affecting the team.

April 17: Offseason workout programs begin - Players return to the team facilities for the start of offseason workouts. Harbaugh said in his season-ending news conference he expects several of his veterans to spend more time around the team facility, as league rules permit.

April 21: Deadline to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets – The Ravens will probably be forced to put a second-round tender on weak-side linebacker Zachary Orr, their leading tackler in 2016. The rest of their restricted free agent class includes running back Terrance West (Northwestern High, Towson), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (River Hill), offensive linemen Ryan Jensen and James Hurst and defensive backs Marqueston Huff and Jumal Rolle.

Mid-to-late April: Schedule release –Every year, the NFL announces dates and game times in a prime-time television special. The Ravens know they'll be hosting the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins. Their eight road matchups are versus the Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars (in London), Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans.

April 27-29: NFL draft in Philadelphia - The Ravens currently have seven picks – one in each round – of the three-day draft, but they should pick up a compensatory selection for the free-agent loss of Kelechi Osemele. The Ravens will pick 16th overall on Day 1. The second day of the draft will include rounds 2 and 3. The third day will include rounds 4 through 7.

May 5-8 or May 12-15: Rookie minicamp –Draft picks, undrafted free agents and tryout players will take the field at the Under Armour Performance Center for the three-day minicamp.

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