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Late for Work: Pundits Believe Ravens' Super Bowl Window Remains Wide Open

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Pundits Believe Ravens' Super Bowl Window Remains Wide Open

There's been a lot of discussion since the end of the season about the status of teams' Super Bowl windows. Despite the Ravens having more than 20 pending free agents, pundits believe their Super Bowl window remains wide open.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler tiered all 32 teams based on their current trajectory, and the Ravens were among the four teams in the "major contenders" tier.

"Baltimore is plug and play," Fowler wrote. "The Ravens have just about everything they need to make another run. A major decision looms on defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, one of the most coveted free agents after a 13-sack season. Baltimore typically lets free agents test the market, but he would be gone fast absent the franchise tag or a long-term deal. Some personnel people inside the league believe the Ravens will target a running back with pedigree in free agency. Baltimore has a few tough salary cap decisions but should be able to keep most of its veteran base intact."’s Bucky Brooks said that "with a well-rounded squad in place, the Ravens will remain legitimate threats to upend the Chiefs' title reign." He placed Baltimore at No. 3 in his rankings of teams with the biggest Super Bowl windows.

"The Ravens' disappointing home loss in the AFC Championship Game should not keep Lamar Jackson's squad from making another run at the title next season," Brooks wrote. "The two-time MVP will be even more comfortable in the Ravens' offense after another offseason of work mastering Todd Monken's system. … The further development of Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman and Isaiah Likely should keep the offense humming as it transitions to a pass-centric approach with Jackson featured prominently as a thrower.

"Defensively, the loss of Mike Macdonald and several key assistants could alter Baltimore's approach, but superior talent on that side of the ball will make it easier for new coordinator Zach Orr to adapt and adjust to his new role. As a unit specializing in creating disruption and producing turnovers, the Ravens' personnel matters more than its plays, which will key the defense's continued dominance."

Meanwhile, the "Good Morning Football" crew ranked the five teams most likely to win the Super Bowl next season. The Ravens were No. 2 on Jason McCourty's list and No. 4 on Peter Schrager's.

Two Big Questions Ravens Need to Answer This Offseason

Like every team, the Ravens have questions they need to answer this offseason.

The Baltimore Sun's C.J. Doon identified several big questions facing Baltimore. Here's a look at two:

Will there be any salary cap cuts?

"In addition to left tackle Ronnie Stanley, right tackle Morgan Moses and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Ravens have one obvious cut candidate: Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser. After signing a $22 million extension with Baltimore ahead of the 2021 season, Bowser was considered a key piece of an ascending defense. He posted seven sacks that year and was widely praised for his versatility to both defend the run and make plays in pass coverage.

"But he appeared in just nine games in 2022 before undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, the start of an awkward saga with the team. He didn't participate in the Ravens' offseason program or training camp last year as he dealt with a knee injury, but Coach John Harbaugh said in August that he expected Bowser to return for the start of the season. Two weeks later, Bowser was placed on the non-football injury list. He didn't play a snap all year. With the Ravens set to receive $5.5 million in cap space for releasing Bowser, it seems all but certain he will not be part of the team's future."

Will there be any contract extensions?

"Cornerback Brandon Stephens might be the next in line. A 2021 third-round draft pick, Stephens moved from safety to corner this season and thrived, recording 74 tackles, 11 passes defended and two interceptions while playing nearly every defensive snap in 16 games. The 27-year-old is entering the final year of his rookie deal. While signing Stephens to an extension would not create immediate cap space, it would help solidify a cornerback room that has struggled to find a reliable partner for Marlon Humphrey.

"If the Ravens are looking to clear cap space, perhaps an extension for fullback Patrick Ricard makes sense. The four-time All-Pro turns 30 in May and played just 39% of the snaps in a more spread-out offense this past season under new coordinator Todd Monken, but he's been a standout blocker for the league's best rushing attack. The Ravens could also choose to cut Ricard, who carries a $4 million base salary in the final year of his deal, but that seems unlikely given his role. The Ravens also have until March 2 to decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option for outside linebacker Odafe Oweh and wide receiver Rashod Bateman, their 2021 first-round picks. Given how much of a financial commitment that would be — $12 million for Oweh, $13 million for Bateman — for a pair of players who have yet to deliver consistent production, it seems likely the Ravens will decline."

NFL Executives Vote Jackson MVP

In addition to winning the official league MVP award, Jackson was named MVP by pro football writers, his peers, and various outlets' analysts. And now a Sports Illustrated survey of league executives has crowned Jackson.

Since the voting took place after the Super Bowl, the executives were permitted to use postseason performance in context when determining their winners.

Jackson received 17 votes to beat out San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (6), Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5.5), and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (.5).

"The biggest uptick here is what you'd expect — Mahomes getting a little MVP traction through a year in which he really had none," Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer wrote. "In the end, though, with a banged-up and aging Travis Kelce, and a receiver group in flux, he always gave the Chiefs exactly what they needed. Which in a way has made him like Tom Brady (or even Michael Jordan) once was, where he's important enough to win MVP any year, and the voters just choose which years to give it to him. And that, of course, Jackson withstood all of that and still won anyway is pretty solid validation of how impressive his season was."

Other Ravens who received votes for awards but did not win were inside linebacker Roquan Smith (Defensive Player of the Year), John Harbaugh (Coach of the Year), and General Manager Eric DeCosta (Executive of the Year).

Kyle Van Noy Has High Praise for Kyle Hamilton

Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy has played with some great young players during his 10-year career, but said none were better than safety Kyle Hamilton.

When Hamilton was asked what made the Ravens defense so special this past season, he immediately credited Macdonald and his staff. Van Noy concurred but said talented and versatile players such as Hamilton also deserve a lot of credit.

"He's 22 already doing this," Van Noy said during his and Hamilton's conversation with The Athletic’s Robert Mays at Super Bowl radio row. "I'll tell everybody he's the most impressive second-year player I've played with in my career.

"What separates him is … you're able to do crazy things because he can play in the slot, play deep, play half, play quarters, take out a receiver, take out a tight end, and blitz. Having players like him, Roquan, and [Patrick Queen] able to do multiple different things is the reason why the playbook can get wider, and wider, and wider. You have very smart players on the field, very athletic, very talented."

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