The Ravens didn't want their season to end this soon, but it has. Every offseason brings a litany of questions. New General Manager Eric DeCosta has his plate full
Here are some important questions facing DeCosta and the Ravens.
How much will quarterback Lamar Jackson improve from Year 1 to Year 2?
Jackson led the Ravens to the playoffs as a rookie and immediately emerged as the team's top playmaker. At age 22, he has a unique skill set and tremendous potential. However, his struggles during Sunday's playoff game exemplified how important it will be for him to improve his throwing accuracy and to cut down on his fumbling. In many ways, Jackson's continued development will be the key to the Ravens' offensive success.
Will the Ravens re-sign linebacker C.J. Mosley?
Mosley checks all the boxes you want in a core player – consistency, durability, accountability, team leader. A four-time Pro Bowler, Mosley led the team in tackles again, and he's just 26 years old. His game-saving interception in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns to clinch the AFC North was the feel-good moment of the season. This isn't a question of whether the Ravens want Mosley or not. It's a question of whether Mosley will leave because another team outbids Baltimore. Mosley has said he wants to stay, which works in the Ravens' favor. His departure would leave a void in the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense that would be hard to replace.
How many defensive veterans will be back?
Terrell Suggs made it clear he wasn't retiring following Sunday's playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He'll be playing somewhere else if not for the Ravens, but it seems the best fit for Suggs is to stay where he has played his entire 16-year career. Weddle wants to be back after another Pro Bowl season and says he'll retire if the Ravens want to go younger and cheaper. After 11 seasons without missing a single start, Brandon Carr could also retire. Carr proved this season he could still be a solid corner for a playoff team. Is that how he wants to go out, or will he continue his career? Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith is also an interesting case. He's still a very good player, but he's now 30 years old and carries a salary cap hit of $15.8 million, per Spotrac. The Ravens may only want to keep him at reduced cost.
What happens with Joe Flacco?
You will hear rumors about Flacco going to a few places this offseason, like Denver, Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Washington, to name a few. That bodes well for the Ravens' ability to trade Flacco instead of just releasing him. A team that wants Flacco will risk losing out to another suitor if they don't offer something in return, and Flacco's salary is digestible for teams with cap space.
"Joe's going to have a market," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "A lot of teams are going to want Joe, because they understand that. I'll be in Joe's corner, wherever he's at, unless we play him."
After an 11-year run that included a Super Bowl MVP award and many clutch performances, Flacco's tenure as the team's franchise quarterback is over. But exactly how Flacco and the Ravens part ways is still to be determined, as is whether the Ravens could possibly play against him next season.
How much will Jackson's playing style impact how the team is built?
The Ravens will need to fit pieces around Jackson that compliment his unique skill set. Big, physical offensive linemen who can protect Jackson as both a runner and a thrower will be a requirement moving forward. Having wide receivers who can accept fewer targets than they might get elsewhere, and who are willing to block and catch passes over the middle, will become a bigger priority. With Jackson running the football frequently, having a dependable backup quarterback is also important, which could factor into the Ravens' desire to keep Robert Griffin III. Baltimore did an impressive job changing its offense dramatically midseason once Jackson took over as the starter. But the Ravens now have a full offseason to plot their offseason philosophy, and to pursue players that fit.