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Late For Work 2/7: Ravens' 2013 Offseason Road Map


Ravens' 2013 Offseason Guide

With Super Bowl XLVII now behind them, the Ravens will quickly shift their focus to their quest for Super Bowl XLVIII.

So before the Ravens will hold their annual State of the Ravens press conference today at 11 a.m., Sports Illustrated's Don Banks laid out a roadmap for what will be a pivotal offseason for the team.

The biggest piece of the puzzle is quarterback Joe Flacco's contract. It centers around whether the Ravens must franchise him, which would tie up roughly $20 million in the one-year deal, or sign him long-term and free up salary cap space.

"The most likely scenario is for Flacco to receive the exclusive franchise tag, but then use the leverage that it brings to earn a long-term deal that provides the Ravens 2013 cap relief," Banks wrote.

Could Flacco perhaps ask for less money to help the team?

OK, now with that money situation (not) figured out, let's move to signing the Ravens' other free agents.

There are four players that will command serious cash in cornerback Cary Williams, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and safety Ed Reed.

Here's Banks' take on the situation:

Reed: "Reed, who made $7.2 million in 2012, may be someone the Ravens can't really afford going forward. It'll hurt to lose the 11-year veteran, but Reed's body doesn't figure to hold up much longer given his punishing style of play, and Baltimore won't pay a 34-year-old big money and sacrifice young, in-their-prime players in the process."

Kruger: "Kruger had a breakout postseason, and performed well enough when Terrell Suggs was injured and out of the lineup this season, but Baltimore did draft outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw last year as a potential replacement."

Ellerbe: "With Lewis gone, Ellerbe probably becomes the priority player to keep among [Williams, Kruger and Ellerbe]. He plays inside and is one of the Ravens' more underrated talents."

Banks doesn't give his direct take on Williams, but ESPN listed the cornerback on their Top 10 “buyer beware” free agents.

"Williams gave up 39 first downs in the regular season and six more in the postseason, meaning his combined 45 first downs surrendered were the second highest of all cornerbacks," wrote ESPN Insider Khaled Elsayed. "He wasn't a shutdown corner but rather someone teams moved the chains on. He may be looking for top cornerback money, but teams shouldn't be fooled into thinking he is one."

Back to Banks...

Banks believes the Ravens will try to restructure the contracts of veterans Terrell Suggs (a 2013 cap number of $13-million plus), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($11-million plus), and receiver Anquan Boldin ($7.5-million plus).

"Boldin once was thought to be a potential cap casualty this offseason, but his magnificent playoff run (four touchdown catches in four games) likely changed all that," Banks wrote. "The Ravens simply can't afford to lose his play-making presence, and he'll likely see a contract extension offer to turn a big chunk of his 2013 salary into a signing bonus, in exchange for cap relief."

Banks unfortunately said one player the Ravens may have to "sacrifice in the coming cap squeeze" is fullback Vonta Leach.

"He's one of the best in the game at what he does, but given that he only sees about 25 snaps per game, with the fullback position becoming more endangered in the NFL every year, his $4.33 million cap number next season may be too rich for the reality of the Ravens' situation," Banks wrote.

Haloti Ngata To Get MRI

Ngata will undergo an MRI on his injured left knee to determine the severity of his injury, according to his agent Mike McCartney.

Ngata was hurt during the third quarter of the Ravens' 34-31 win in Super Bowl XLVII and did not return to the game. The 6-foot-4, 340-pound Ngata was hurt on Frank Gore's 6-yard touchdown run when 49ers guard Alex Boone fell onto his leg.

Ngata told reporters after the game that doctors were unsure if ligaments had been torn.

The Ravens are optimistic that Ngata won’t need surgery, and they are hoping it's simply a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) instead of a tear, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Cam Cameron Will Get A Ring

You can't say former Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron didn't have a major impact on the Ravens' season.

Even though Head Coach John Harbaugh fired him in December, Harbaugh said Cameron will still get a Super Bowl ring. Cameron reportedly texted Harbaugh throughout the playoffs to tell him he was pulling for the Ravens.

"In my mind, he is definitely going to get a ring," Harbaugh told Sports Illustrated Sunday night. "He deserves a ring."

Cameron has taken his dismissal extremely well, going as far as to say it was a "brilliant move."

Ray Lewis Watches His Son Sign

Retirement has officially begun for Ray Lewis, and it's going just as planned.

Lewis was beside his son, Ray Lewis III, as he signed his letter of intent to play at the University of Miami on National Signing Day yesterday. (hat tip to The Baltimore Sun)

Steelers Fan Struggling

Steelers fans are struggling with the Ravens' Super Bowl victory. How happy does that make you?

They were really in a tough bind leading up to the big game with who to root for. On one hand, the Ravens are their bitter rival. On the other, they didn't want to see San Francisco tie their NFL lead with six Super Bowl victories.

Anthony Defeo of SB Nation blog "Behind The Steel Curtain" put history aside to root for the 49ers.

"I wanted the 49ers to whip Baltimore something fierce," he wrote. "I wanted to see Ray Lewis go out a loser. I wanted to see Joe Flacco throw a few picks and fumble in each quarter. I wanted John Harbaugh's brother to have eternal bragging rights."

Well that didn't happen.

"Steeler Nation can forget about listening to a year of "Hey, we're the top dogs in the AFC North,'" he wrote. "Now, we have to hear about the Ravens being the top dogs in the entire NFL.

"I realized I hate the Ravens so much, I could have lived with San Francisco having the same amount of Super Bowl victories as the Steelers. Now that's a rivalry."

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