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Ravens offseason to-do list: Help Lamar Jackson, trade Joe Flacco, decide on C.J. Mosley and more

The NFL offseason is a marathon, not a sprint, but Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta did not exactly kick his feet up on his desk at team headquarters during his first day on the job.

On Friday, the Ravens’ first move after Ozzie Newsome stepped aside was promoting Greg Roman to offensive coordinator. Marty Mornhinweg declined to remain on coach John Harbaugh’s staff, and wide receivers coach Bobby Engram was moved to tight ends coach, the position Roman previously oversaw.

There is still much to do. Over the next three-plus months, the Ravens will finalize their staff, evaluate prospects at the NFL scouting combine, enter free-agency negotiations, mull trade offers, begin offseason workout programs and select their rookie class.

Some priorities, though, are a little more important than others. Here’s what’s on the Ravens’ offseason to-do list.

Build around Lamar Jackson

The Ravens have committed to Jackson as their offensive centerpiece. Now they need him to continue his development as a passer, just as they’ll need progress from fellow rookies Orlando Brown Jr., Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst.

But the front office’s end of the bargain is just as important: Amplify Jackson’s strengths and mask his weaknesses with the team’s ongoing roster construction.

In free agency, the Ravens could re-sign wide receiver John Brown, who struggled after a strong first seven weeks. They could bring back Maxx Williams or Nick Boyle, two tight ends valued for their blocking. Running backs Ty Montgomery and Buck Allen are also unrestricted free agents, though neither proved essential in the Jackson-led offense.

But with the No. 22 overall pick in the draft and no second-round selection, the Ravens don’t have access to the same level of talent they did last year. Gus Edwards and Willie Snead IV proved to be reliable, sure-handed performers at running back and wide receiver, respectively, but neither is a game-breaker. And those are easier found in the draft than in free agency.

Up front, Matt Skura should improve after his first full season at center, while James Hurst’s expected battle with Alex Lewis could produce a steady performer at left guard. But the Ravens cannot risk Jackson’s health or a strong running game with poor offensive line play.

Trade Joe Flacco

After the Ravens’ season-ending loss Sunday, Harbaugh reaffirmed that Jackson is the team’s starting quarterback and all but bade farewell to Flacco.

He also said Flacco would “have a market. A lot of teams are going to want Joe.” Just how much is the question. Flacco, 33, has a $26.5 million salary cap hit for 2019. If the Ravens cut or trade him before June 1, they would incur $16 million in dead money against the cap. With a post-June 1 move, the Ravens would split the $16 million charge over two years, resulting in $18.5 million in savings.

It will be up to quarterback-needy teams to decide whether the remaining three years and $63 million on his contract, none of it guaranteed, are worth it. The market for proven signal-callers has only intensified since Flacco signed a then-record six-year, $120.6 million contract; 15 quarterbacks are making over $20 million annually, according to payroll website Spotrac.

With a relatively weak quarterback class entering this year’s draft — some early mock drafts have as many quarterbacks being taken in the first round as were taken in the top 10 last year (four) — the Ravens could find eager trade partners. Last year, Tyrod Taylor and Alex Smith were each traded for a third-round pick. Jimmy Garoppolo fetched a second-rounder the year before that. In 2016, Sam Bradford was traded for a first-rounder and future fourth-round pick.

Flacco finished No. 40 overall this season in passer rating among quarterbacks, behind Garoppolo (No. 34) and Smith (No. 38) but ahead of Teddy Bridgewater (No. 50) and Taylor (No. 54), both of whom saw far fewer snaps.

Decide on the futures of C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs

With the Ravens unable to sign Mosley, their star inside linebacker, to a contract extension before the end of the season, they have two paths forward. Both will be costly.

Option one: Sign Mosley to a pricy long-term deal. The NFL’s six highest-paid linebackers are nominally outside linebackers — edge rushers like Khalil Mack. The top-paid inside linebackers are considerably cheaper: Luke Kuechly ($12.4 million annually) and Bobby Wagner ($10.8 million). Those two also rank Nos. 2 and 1, respectively, among linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus, because they rank among the top six linebackers in coverage.

This season, Mosley made his fourth Pro Bowl and earned second-team All-Pro honors for the fourth time in his five seasons in Baltimore. While he has his critics — he finished just No. 30 in PFF’s coverage scores for linebackers, a reliable source of fan frustration — Mosley played every defensive snap in 12 games this season. Strong against the run and important to the team’s presnap communication, he helped the Ravens secure their first AFC North title since 2012 with his last-minute interception against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.

Patrick Onwuasor, a restricted free agent, is shorter and lighter. He has less experience and a less impressive pedigree. But he came on late and would be a far cheaper replacement to pair with Kenny Young behind a stout Ravens interior defensive line.

The Ravens have fewer in-house options should Suggs, a free-agent outside linebacker, not return for his 17th season in Baltimore. With fellow outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith likely to leave for a big-money offer outside Baltimore, the Ravens could have only Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser to pair with rising star Matthew Judon.

Suggs, 36, disappeared at times this season, finishing with seven sacks, his fewest since an injury-shortened 2012. But unlike Williams and Bowser, two former top-80 draft picks, he was counted on to carry a heavy workload. The Ravens will need production at the position, whether from a familiar face or a new one.

Sign John Harbaugh to long-term deal

Even before the Ravens secured their first playoff appearance in four years, the team announced that Harbaugh would return in 2019, the final year on his contract. But with Newsome stepping down, Harbaugh became the subject of trade rumors.

Roman’s promotion should end that speculation. All that’s left is for the Ravens and Harbaugh to agree to a long-term deal, or else face questions about how committed one party is to the other.

Players said during the Ravens’ late-season run that Harbaugh adeptly walked the line between being a players’ coach and holding the team accountable. His “Good!” postgame speech after a Week 11 win became a mantra in the face of adversity. Then there’s the track record: Over his 11 seasons, the Ravens have won at least 10 games six times.

Hope Marshal Yanda returns

Yanda, 34, had a season for the ageless. According to PFF, he played 535 run-blocking snaps, 44 more than the NFL's runner-up, and 1,222 total snaps, also the most overall at guard. He ranked No. 3 among players at the position, was named a Pro Bowl starter and earned second-team All-Pro honors.

But Yanda’s sterling play was all the more impressive because of the year that preceded it. In 2017, he played in just two games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. He didn’t make his first training camp appearance until August, and offseason shoulder surgery kept him from playing in the team’s five preseason games.

Yanda has one year remaining on his contract, and he was among the most vocal supporters of the Ravens’ run-first approach under Jackson. But this past season was his 12th, and he resented that “my integrity and my character” were questioned after video emerged of a wad of spit falling from Yanda's mouth as he stood over Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in mid-November. He told The Baltimore Sun before that game that he would consider his future in football after the season.

“These things, there are so many moving parts during the season, and controlling what you can control” is most important, Yanda said. “Big-picture stuff, you’ll worry about that after the season.”

Stay (or get) healthy

The Ravens played 22 games this past season (five preseason, 16 regular season, one postseason) and largely avoided serious injuries to key players. While defensive tackle Willie Henry ended the year on injured reserve and running back Kenneth Dixon and cornerback Maurice Canady missed substantial time, their biggest in-season loss might have been James Hurst. And even his six-game absence cleared the way for Brown’s development at right tackle.

Several rookies missed out on substantial development time, however. Wide receiver Jaleel Scott, a fourth-round pick, suffered a hamstring injury. Safety Deshon Elliott, a sixth-round pick, fractured his forearm. Tackle Greg Senat, also a sixth-round selection, developed turf toe. All spent the season on IR. Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a fifth-year veteran and former second-round pick, also missed the entire year with an arm injury.

Elsewhere, Harbaugh said in November that cornerback Jaylen Hill might need hip surgery after suffering a setback in his return to practice. Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (leg) and linebacker Bam Bradley (knee) remain on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

jshaffer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonas_shaffer

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