Now that the Ravens' are finished playing football with a 20-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, it's time to turn the page towards their 2010 campaign. But, before things kick off the first week of September, there are many questions that must be answered in the offseason. BaltimoreRavens.com takes a look at 10 issues to monitor in the coming months.
1. Who will retire?
Ravens fans certainly remember back to last summer when receiver Derrick Mason surprisingly announced his retirement, and then unretired just as training camp started. Now, safety Ed Reed was the one dropping the bombshell, alluding to a "50/50" chance that he will hang up his cleats in the post-Colts locker room.
In addition, defensive tackle Trevor Pryce's name has been associated with the "R" word, but he claimed that he plans to finish out his contract until 2010.
It's very likely that Pryce sticks to his guns, but with Reed's ongoing nerve impingement in his neck and Mason's status as an unrestricted free agent, Ravens fans might miss two key veterans next year.
2. Will the Ravens keep running back Willis McGahee?
Back in 2006, the Ravens signed McGahee to a seven-year, $40.12 million contract. While he's been prolific for the Ravens in the past, the emergence of Ray Rice as an elite playmaker has raised questions as to whether McGahee is worth the $3.6 million he's reportedly poised to make in 2010. McGahee, 28, still has it, especially after rushing for 167 yards in Week 17 against Oakland and scoring a total of 14 touchdowns on the season, but that's a pretty big cap hit for a change-of-pace runner.
3. How general manager Ozzie Newsome address the wide receiver position in the offseason?
This one is a little tricky. All of the Ravens' main receivers are free agents heading into 2010. That means Mason, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams and Kelley Washington will all be able to test the waters. At this point, each wideout would be unrestricted, which means they can freely sign with any team. But, if a new collective bargaining agreement cannot be reached before March, Williams and Clayton would be restricted, which means the Ravens can match any offer and would get compensation if they joined another club.
Whatever the case, the Ravens would do well to add a playmaker to the group and give quarterback Joe Flacco a new downfield weapon.
4. What's the next step for Flacco?
Flacco showed improvement earlier in the year when the Ravens were airing the football out, but as 2009 waned, he seemed to regress. That, coupled with a hip injury and the Ravens' focus on the ground game, led to drastically diminished numbers down the stretch. Flacco is one of the hardest workers on the team, so there is no doubt that he will drive to improve his game. Whether the Ravens give him more control of the offense remains to be seen.
5. Will Lardarius Webb be healthy and ready to start at cornerback next year?
It was a sad sight to see the rookie Webb leave the field with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 15, but a successful surgery in January has him on the fast track to return for 2010. When the injury happened against the Chicago Bears, Webb was emerging as a physical tackler and complete playmaker. The Ravens will need him to tandem with Domonique Foxworth as the starting corners next year, with Fabian Washington (also recovering from surgery) potentially not coming back as a free agent.
6. Who is the Ravens' kicker next season?
Billy Cundiff acquitted himself well in relief of the ousted Steve Hauschka, but there is no guarantee that he'll be back. In fact, watching Matt Stover nail two field goals on Saturday to end the Ravens' season surely brought back memories of what he did while in Baltimore. Cundiff has the demeanor and leg to be the Ravens' kicker of the future, but there will surely be a training camp battle for the spot.
7. How will the new free agency rules affect Ravens ability to make a splash?
For a quick update (we'll cover this more later in the week), the Ravens might be handcuffed by their success. Unless a new CBA is agreed upon by March, as previously stated, teams that made the divisional playoff round can only sign a free agent when one of theirs signs with another club. For the teams that lose, including the Ravens, they can sign another player based on a specific financial designation.
8. How will Terrell Suggs train during the offseason after starting the year slow?
Suggs got the lucrative contract extension he desired after spending 2008 as the franchise designee. But 4.5 sacks won't cut it for a six-year, $63 million contract. Suggs entered training camp out of shape and was injured for much of it. And, a knee injury kept him out of three contests during the year. Suggs showed how disruptive he can be with his sack/strip/recovery of Tom Brady in the wild-card round of the playoffs, but he needs to step up for the Ravens to cash in on their investment.
An interesting thought. When Gaither was held out because of neck and foot injuries this year, Oher seamlessly made the transition from right to left tackle. That's not an easy task, but he drew upon his All-American career at Ole Miss as a left tackle to neutralize an opposing pass rush. Gaither is obviously huge at 6-foot-9, 345 pounds, and has the athleticism and long arms of a prototype left tackle, but Oher made a strong case to settle there. This is something to monitor throughout offseason minicamps.
10. Will Cam Cameron be back as offensive coordinator?
Certainly, this is a question that will be answered in the next month. With several head coaching positions still available as the playoffs roll on, there is still a good possibility for movement among the ranks. Cameron's name surfaced as being in contention for the Buffalo Bills job already. Head coach John Harbaugh expressed his hope that Cameron would be the Ravens' OC for years to come, but Cameron's name could surface if other vacancies become available around the league