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Ravens Confident Last Season Can Be One-Year Blip


The Ravens have made it clear they expect to be back in the hunt in 2016.

After last year's 5-11 finish, they are confident the disappointing season will be a one-year blip for a franchise with a track record of success. Baltimore has made the playoffs in six of the last eight years, and the team leadership has its sights set on making it back to postseason play.

"That's our challenge. We've seen other teams do it," Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We believe we can do it. We've done it in the past."

The Ravens haven't missed the playoffs in back-to-back years since the 2004-2005 seasons, and DeCosta pointed out that the last time they had a losing record in 2007, they bounced back the next season to make the AFC championship.

"That's our mission," DeCosta said. "Between coaching and scouting, we're united in our efforts to do that. We have ammunition to do it. We have a lot of smart guys – evaluators, coaches, people working on the same page to get this team relevant again. We want to play postseason football."

The moves that the Ravens have made the last week in free agency illustrate that the organization believes it can win right now. Signing tight end Ben Watson and safety Eric Weddle, who were both unrestricted free agents, gives the Ravens proven players who can step right into the starting lineup.

Those moves do stray a bit from the team's traditional offseason formula. Rather than sitting out free agency and only targeting cap casualties to protect against losing future compensatory picks, the Ravens waded into the open market to get impact players.

Signing Weddle and Watson may prevent the Ravens from getting compensatory picks next year, but team brass put more weight on upgrading the roster right now.

In addition to the moves in free agency – and the Ravens may continue to recruit players to Baltimore – General Manager Ozzie Newsome also has his highest draft pick in the last 16 years. Newsome has found players like Jonathan Ogden, Terrell Suggs, Jamal Lewis and Peter Boulware when picking in the top 10, and the Ravens expect to get another immediate contributor with this year's No. 6 pick.

"We need someone to come in right away and be an impact player," DeCosta said. "We think we have some ammunition to make this team good again."

The other key piece of the equation is getting healthy again.

By the end of last year, Baltimore was absolutely decimated with injuries. With Joe Flacco, Steve Smith Sr., Terrell Suggs, Breshad Perriman, Justin Forsett, Eugene Monroe and Crockett Gillmore all returning from season-ending injuries, the roster will be bolstered by simply having those players back on the field.

"I have a lot of faith that we'll get it straightened out," Owner Steve Bisciotti said at the season-review press conference in January. "I hope we don't have as many injuries, and I hope we have a whole lot more turnovers. Yes, I think those kind of differences would get us back to where we want to be."

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