If you aren't convinced that re-signing free agent nose tackle Brandon Williams was one of the Ravens' offseason priorities, you probably missed assistant general manager Eric DeCosta's comments from last week's Senior Bowl.
DeCosta told the team website that the team has to "try to retain" Williams. He went on to call Williams an "'A' player for us, … one of our best defensive players."
Every offseason, Ravens officials speak highly about several of their prospective free agents and express an interest in re-signing them while also acknowledging the team's salary cap restraints. However, they aren't usually as effusive as DeCosta was about Williams.
It's difficult to keep a very good player off of the free agent market at this stage of the game, but you certainly get the sense that the Ravens will put their best foot forward over the next couple of weeks in negotiations with Williams. And it's worth mentioning that while the Ravens annually lose some key contributors, they very rarely lose a player they are determined to keep.
Reassessing needs: I vowed to update the Ravens' top five needs in this space throughout the offseason. Here's the latest attempt:
- Cornerback: The Ravens have Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young and many questions behind them. In the pass-happy NFL, you need at least four corners you trust.
- Pass rusher: The team is optimistic about Matthew Judon’s future and hasn’t given up on Za’Darius Smith, but Terrell Suggs is in the twilight of his career and Elvis Dumervil is a potential – if not likely – salary cap casualty.
- Wide receiver: This is another position the Ravens probably need to address with both a veteran free agent and a relatively early draft pick.
- Right tackle: The closer it gets to the start of free agency, the more obvious it becomes that it will be difficult to re-sign starting right tackle Rick Wagner. It’s probably much too ambitious to expect either De’Ondre Wesley or Stephane Nembot to be a Week 1 starter.
- Center: You can make a case for inside linebacker here after the surprise retirement of Zachary Orr. However, the Ravens have prioritized solidifying their offensive line and that process will likely include seeing whether they can upgrade over Jeremy Zuttah.
Other needs: inside linebacker, running back, safety
Bo Canada: Per Mike Beamish of The Vancouver Sun, the Ravens will be signing outside linebacker Bo Lokombo, who spent the past three seasons with the B.C. Lions in the Canadian Football League, to a reserve/futures contract.
The Ravens have yet to announce/confirm the deal, but they did work out Lokombo this month. Lokombo played his college ball at Oregon, where he was defensive teammates with future high draft picks Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso. In three seasons with the B.C. Lions, the 26-year-old totaled 33 defensive stops, 44 special teams tackles and one sack.
Tucker finds a reason to celebrate: Ravens kicker Justin Tucker clearly enjoyed himself at the Pro Bowl, kicking a 75-yard field goal in practice, ridiculously putting a 50-yard kick through a basketball hoop that was hung on the goalpost, mimicking Odell Beckham Jr. with one-handed catches in pre-game warm-ups and then making all four of his kicks (two field goals and two extra points) in helping the AFC team to a victory. He took home $61,000 as a result.
However, my favorite Tucker moment from the Pro Bowl was his tweeting of a video of himself making a field goal in practice and then quickly giving his holder, Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, a fist pound.
Let me explain: Tucker put out the video under the message of "Celebrate with your teammates!" I don't know that Tucker meant anything by it, but it sure seemed ironic. Remember, it was Colquitt's brother, Britton, now the punter of the Cleveland Browns, who was highly critical of the Ravens kicker last August. Britton Colquitt took issue with Tucker's tendency to celebrate his kicks with solo dances, rather than immediately congratulating the holder and snapper.
Super Bowl memories: The arrival of the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons in Houston and the start of Super Bowl week took me back to four years ago when the Ravens and San Francisco 49ers descended on New Orleans for the continuation of Super Bowl XLVII preparation.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was at his absolute best during the lead-up to the Super Bowl. The Ravens' players were relaxed, loose and light as they dealt with the countless media demands and other Super Bowl obligations. Harbaugh joked with reporters on a daily basis and encouraged his players to enjoy everything the week entailed and to embrace the opportunity. He trusted that they would remain focused and disciplined.
Jim Harbaugh's 49ers, meanwhile, appeared almost annoyed and bored with all the Super Bowl pomp and circumstance. For lack of a better word, they looked tight.
Jim Harbaugh was short and at times irritable (many would say that's how he usually is). However, it was a striking contrast to his older brother who wore a suit and a smile to his various news conferences.
Each team has its own personality and way it goes about doing things. However, the Ravens clearly looked like the more relaxed and loose team all week.
We predict the winners of every game in The Sun, and when I arrived in New Orleans, I was leaning toward picking the 49ers, just like I picked the Denver Broncos over the Ravens in the divisional round and the New England Patriots to beat them in the AFC championship game. But I changed my mind after observing the two teams and its players during Super Bowl week.
Maybe it had absolutely nothing to do with the end result, a 34-31 Ravens' victory. However, the 49ers sure looked tight for much of the first 2 ½ quarters when the Ravens built a significant lead.