The Ravens' 2022 season is in the books, and the team turned the page to 2023 at Thursday's press conference with Head Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta.
It was a busy day, as the Ravens announced they and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman had parted ways, and it was the first time the organization talked about Lamar Jackson's contract extension since contract talks were tabled at the beginning of the season.
With all that in mind, here are my thoughts, all in 50 words or less:
Much of what's said at these press conferences leaves you trying to read the tea leaves. However, the Ravens left absolutely no doubt about their intent with Jackson. They want him in Baltimore long-term and believe he wants the same. That's where negotiations must start to have a chance.
Intent doesn't mean a long-term deal will get done, unfortunately. As DeCosta said, it's going to require time, effort, great communication and "give and take." DeCosta shed light on the difficulty of these business conversations without an agent. Real talk can lead to hurt feelings, which must be pushed aside.
Roquan Smith, who also didn't use an agent, said "it wasn't an easy process" negotiating his megadeal with DeCosta. "He was honest." Smith said those tough talks must be rooted in "respect for the guy you're talking with." The relationship DeCosta has built with Jackson certainly seems in that place.
Fans hoping for a major offensive shift with Roman's departure will probably be disappointed. The Ravens' identity and roster construction both point to a physical, run-based scheme. With that said, the goal is obviously to improve the passing game, but don't expect the pendulum to swing too far.
Baltimore does not want to lose the imposing ground attack that has been its hallmark. They still believe a strong run game and defense can take a team far. Just look at the Cincinnati playoff loss. Even without Jackson, the Ravens should have won. Roman's imprint will remain.
The Ravens were clear about their intention to improve the wide receiver corps this offseason, but don't expect a spending spree. With Jackson's contract looming, they aren't going to ink a top free agent and DeCosta threw cold water on the idea of a mega-trade like we've seen from others.
So how do the Ravens improve at wide receiver? It's not an easy task. I would look at the Tier 2 free agent wide receivers and keep an eye out for a high draft pick. The Ravens didn't draft a wideout last year. That will change this time around.
DeCosta said the Ravens are "extremely excited" about David Ojabo even though the rookie second-round pick hardly saw any action. That may shed some light on whether they feel the need to bring back last year's leader in sacks, Justin Houston. Houston could wait till mid-summer to sign again too.
The Ravens have high hopes for their 2022 draft class. DeCosta brought up the star-studded 2018 class that featured an MVP, three Pro Bowlers, and nine starters. It's too soon to put Baltimore's 2022 group at that level, but it tells you about the future he thinks it holds.
Baltimore's defense was clicking by season's end, and there's good reason to believe it will be even stronger in 2023. While veteran pieces could land elsewhere, more talent will be added and Harbaugh said more can be built into it with Mike Macdonald going into Year 2 and strong continuity.