The Ravens are in the unfamiliar position of starting the offseason in early January after missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.
The one benefit to starting the offseason now is that the coaches and scouts have* *a chance to get a jump on their offseason priorities.
Here are some of the key dates on the calendar for the Ravens over the next few months:
Jan. 25: Senior Bowl, Mobile, Ala.The offseason pre-draft scouting process kicks into high gear with the top all-star showcase of college football's seniors. The actual game is a [add] small part of the event, as the week of practice will give Ravens scouts and coaches a chance to get a close look at the pro prospects in action.
Jan. 26: Pro Bowl, Honolulu, HawaiiKicker Justin Tucker, right guard Marshal Yanda, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will get a nice trip to Hawaii to play in the NFL all-star game. The Pro Bowl has gone through a format change this season, as it's no longer AFC vs. NFC. The players will be separated based on the captains (Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice) picking for two teams, so there's a chance fans could see Yanda lining up across from Ngata.
Feb. 2: Super Bowl XLVIII, East Rutherford, NJThe Ravens won't be playing in the game this year, but some of the players may make the trip up north for the week's publicity and media coverage.
Feb. 17: Teams can begin using franchise tagThis is the first date that teams can use the franchise tag on unrestricted free agents. The Ravens have a number of key free agents, including tight end Dennis Pitta and left tackle Eugene Monroe, so they could decide to use the tag on one of them if they can't reach a long-term deal.
Feb. 19-25, National NFL Scouting Combine, IndianapolisNearly all of the Ravens' coaches, scouts and front office personnel will descend upon Indianapolis for* *a week of scouting all the top players in the country. More than 300 NFL prospects will spend the week in Indianapolis trying to get noticed by pro scouts by putting up impressive numbers in the various drills and on-field workouts. At this year's combine, the Ravens will also flip a coin with the Dallas Cowboys to determine whether they get the 16th or 17th draft pick.
March 3: Deadline to use franchise tagTeams must designate the franchise tag by this date, or they will lose their opportunity to use it for the 2014 season.
March 8: Teams can start negotiating with free agentsNFL rules now allow teams to enter into negotiations with free agents three days before they can actually sign new contracts. Before this point, teams are not allowed to have any preliminary negotiations with prospective players or their agents.
March 11: New league year, free agency beginsThe free agency signing spree will begin at 4 p.m. The first few days of free agency are typically dominated by the big money deals that the Ravens shy away from giving free agents. Once the initial wave of free agency passes, General Manager Ozzie Newsome has a great track record of finding quality free agents at a discount. Before the start of the new league year, the Ravens also have to give qualifying offers to their restricted free agents to prevent them from then becoming unrestricted.
March 23-26: NFL Owner's Meetings, Orlando, Fla.Team owners, head coaches and front office personnel will travel to Orlando for the annual league meetings. At these meetings, owners vote on potential rules changes and discuss other issues around the league. The NFL also announces at the league meetings the number of compensatory picks each team has.
April 21: Voluntary offseason workouts may beginThe Ravens can begin their voluntary offseason conditioning program, which is typically attended by young players in their first contracts. Some veterans also attend, as the Ravens have a history of getting strong attendance during the offseason program.
May 2: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheetsThis is the final date for teams to sign restricted free agents away from their current club. If the Ravens' place tenders on their restricted free agents, then the players can wait until this date to sign it and see if they get offers from another team.
May 8-10: NFL Draft, New York CityThe NFL Draft has been pushed back by two weeks this year. If they stay put in the first round, the Ravens will have their highest pick since 2006 when they drafted defensive tackle Haloti Ngata No. 12 overall.
Late July: Training Camp OpensThe 2014 season will unofficially begin when training camp opens at the Under Armour Performance Center. Exact dates for training camp have yet to be determined, but last year the Ravens opened camp July 25. The Ravens will enter into training camp this year looking to rebuild the offensive line and get the running game on track.