The Ravens are in a good spot after winning their first Lombardi Trophy since 2001.
But now they’re back to work preparing for the 2013 season, and here’s a look at the 10 biggest questions facing the Ravens this offseason.
1. Can Ravens work out a long-term deal with
Signing the reigning Super Bowl MVP to a new contract is the clear-cut top priority for the Ravens this offseason. He is the cornerstone of the franchise, and is vital to lock up for the foreseeable future. The only question is whether the Ravens have to use the one-year franchise tag on him or are able to reach a new contract before the March 4 deadline. Getting Flacco squared away is the first step this offseason, and then everything else falls in line. If the Ravens do end up having to franchise Flacco, that will create a bigger hit against the salary cap this year, which could make it tougher to re-sign some of their other unrestricted free agents.
2. How do the Ravens replace
The Ravens are set to undergo a major organizational shift with the retirement of the legendary linebacker. For the first time in team history, the Ravens will head into a season without No. 52 as the face of the franchise. His retirement leaves a void in the locker room, which will likely be filled by committee, rather than one person. The defensive leadership responsibility with be passed to players like
3. Does Ed Reed return?
Not only do the Ravens have to offset the loss of Lewis, but they could also potentially lose another future Hall of Famer in Reed. The veteran safety is an unrestricted free agent and says that he could see himself playing another few seasons, despite dealing with numerous injuries in recent years. The Ravens have been emphatic in their desire to keep Reed in Baltimore, but it’s unknown what kind of contract he will command. Reed currently does not have an agent, and he plans to sit down with General Manager Ozzie Newsome in a couple of weeks to discuss his future. Reed is highly respected in the locker room, and the Ravens have expressed interest in keeping him in the organization once his playing days are over. That arrangement could be an attraction for Reed to stay with the Ravens, the only team he’s played for during his 11 NFL seasons.
4. Who else retires?
Lewis was the only player on the roster who announced that this year would be his final NFL season. But the Ravens have a handful of other veterans who could decide to cap off their career with a Super Bowl win, and Newsome mentioned at the State of the Ravens address that the team has multiple veterans mulling retirement. The most notable name is center
5. Can the Ravens keep Ellerbe, Kruger or Williams?
In addition to Reed, the Ravens have three other unrestricted free agents who were all critical pieces of the defense. Inside linebacker
6. How does Terrell Suggs recover?
The veteran outside linebacker admittedly wasn’t the same player this year as he was in 2011 when he won Defensive Player of the Year. He made a miraculous recovery after tearing his Achilles tendon in the offseason and only missed the first six weeks. Once he returned, Suggs then tore his biceps, which limited him in the second half of the season. Suggs finished the regular season with a career-low two sacks and then added two more in the playoffs. He was never at full strength this season, and the 10-year veteran will now use the offseason to fully heal and try to return to form by the start of next year.
7. What happens with
The veteran receiver was key to the Ravens run through the playoffs, hauling in 22 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns in four games. He was Flacco’s go-to target, and was a big part of the quarterback’s success. But Boldin is due to make more than $6 million next year, and will be a $7.5 million hit against the salary cap. The Ravens could choose to release Boldin in an attempt to free up cap space, and then turn to younger receivers on the roster like
8. How do Ravens navigate tight salary cap?
The Ravens don’t have much room to work with in terms of the salary cap, which will make it difficult to re-sign their own players or to attract other free agents. Newsome and Owner Steve Bisciotti have already said that they won’t restructure contracts to lower the cap hit this year and go all-out for a repeat, so that means the Ravens will have to shed salary some other way. In addition to Boldin, another player mentioned as a possible salary-cap causality is fullback
9. What happens with the offensive line?
The offensive line was a work in progress for the Ravens nearly the entire season. Then veteran
10. How does winning a Super Bowl change the Ravens?
A driving motivation for the Ravens in recent years was the fact that they had come so close to a Super Bowl, but never actually hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. That’s no longer the case. Now that the Raven have won their first Super Bowl in 12 years, they will need to find a new motivation. The odds are stacked against teams repeating as champions, and the last seven Super Bowl winners haven’t even won a playoff game the following season. The Ravens will have a target on their backs throughout the entire season, and they will have to go through the offseason with the same drive they had last year after coming up short in the AFC championship.