Despite all of the drama, uncertainty and set-backs the Baltimore Ravens endured during the 2014 season, they managed to finish on a high note. No, they didn’t make it to the Super Bowl and they are not Champions of the AFC; but the team did make the playoffs and acquitted themselves very well against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots while establishing a new, and hopefully enduring, Ravens identity.
“The Ravens have major holes to fill and they don’t have much time to fill them.”
The new Ravens identity is centered around an old and familiar theme: strong defense. However, it also blends a prolific, and sometimes, explosive Offense, grounded in the Ravens new Gary Kubiak “West Coast” scheme to the mix.
Quarterback Joe Flacco and his Offensive Line adapted well to the new scheme and as a result, Flacco enjoyed the best statistical season of his seven years NFL career. However, despite recent successes, the picture going forward might appear a little more “rosey” than it really is.
More from Ravens News
- Will Baltimore Ravens be rewarded for risky Lamar Jackson decision?
- The Baltimore Ravens Big Gamble
- Ravens Super Bowl odds present fascinating insight on Lamar Jackson’s future
- Should Baltimore Ravens be interested in this recently released WR
- Do the Baltimore Ravens have serious interest in this free agent wide out?
Perception, for the Ravens, doesn’t quite match reality. In fact, making the playoffs and doing well against the Steelers and Patriots, might have created a false sense of security. The Ravens have major holes to fill and they don’t have much time to fill them.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh will have their work cut out for them this off-season. Contrary to Ryan Mink’s article on BaltimoreRavens.com entitled “Ravens’ 2015 Strength Will Be In Trenches”, I believe the Ravens have some important decisions to make regarding the O-Line.
Left Tackle Eugene Monroe, Left Guard Kelechi Osemele and Guard/Tackle Marshall Yanda have all had various combinations of ankle, knee and back injuries in their recent past, so O-Line depth will be more important than ever. The Ravens Front Office will have to address this issue (especially at Center, Left Guard and Right Tackle) in the draft this year or through free agency.
“O-Line depth will be more important than ever. “
In addition, Marshall Yanda is 30 years old, has an $8.45 Million cap number and will be a Free Agent at the end of 2015. Newsome and Harbaugh will have to decide if they will keep Yanda under his existing contract and absorb the cap hit, try to extend him or cut him, creating $5.5 Million in cap savings.
Wide Receiver is another potential trouble spot. Torrey Smith was targeted 93 times in 2014 but only caught 49 balls (52.7 percent of targets) for 767 yards and 11 touchdowns. Although Smith improved his percentage of receptions to targets in 2014 (he caught 52.7 percent of the balls thrown to him versus a career percentage of 47.7). In contrast, Steve Smith Sr, the Ravens “number 2” receiver caught 59.4 percent of the balls thrown his way which was down from his career percentage of 81.5. Clearly, Torrey Smith has not generated the kind of production the Ravens’ need from their “number one” receiver. Newsome and Harbaugh must decide if Smith is worth re-signing but don’t be surprised if Torrey Smith is wearing a different uniform next year.
Another decision that must be made at Wide Receiver is the fate of Jacoby Jones. Jones is not a free agent this year but his $3.375 Million cap number is way too high for a receiver that was targeted 18 times in 2014 and caught nine balls for 131 yards. Although Jones is among the league leaders in kickoff return yards, the Ravens must determine if they can get similar production at a lower price. If the Ravens decide Jones is too expensive, he’ll be fielding kicks elsewhere next season.
The Ravens need a number one receiver and a reliable slot receiver. They must decide whether to go after a Free Agent Receiver like Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb or Kenny Britt, attempt to draft a college prospect like DeVante Parker of Louisville, Dorial Green-Beckham of Oklahome or Jaelen Strong of Arizona State or try to develop one of the young Receivers currently on their roster like Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken or Jeremy Butler. Newsome, Harbaugh and the Ravens front office can no longer “kick the can down the road” on this issue; they must decide.
“They must decide whether to go after a Free Agent Receiver like Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb or Kenny Britt”
After three years in the league, Running Back Bernard Pierce has clearly been a disappointment. His total rushing yards have gone down every year throughout his career but his carries have not dipped significantly. Pierce is signed through 2015 but the Ravens might be ready to part ways with him and avoid the cap hit of almost $800,000. Cutting Pierce will save the team over $600,000 in cap space and free his roster spot for a Back with more “up side.”
Tight End Dennis Pitta might be healthy enough to return, or he might retire. The Ravens might attempt to resign Owen Daniels; however, he might follow Gary Kubiak to Denver, sign with another team or retire. If Pitta, whose salary is guaranteed through 2015, returns, the team might decide to put him on a “pitch count” or limit his role to keep him healthy. If Owen Daniels returns, he can only be counted on for one year so the Ravens will still be faced with decisions at the Tight End position. Crockett Gilmore and Phillip Supernaw are currently on the roster (Supernaw is an ERFA) but are they sufficient to carry the load if Pitta and Daniels don’t return or are limited in 2015? Should the Ravens draft a Tight End or try to pick up one in free agency? These are important questions that face the Ravens going into 2015.
Finally, there is the whole matter of a back-up Quarterback. Chances are, any back-up to Joe Flacco will carry a clipboard and run the scout team; but in the event the back-up is forced to play, Ozzie and company needs to decide if they will sign one of the marginal Quarterbacks available in free agency, draft one of the rather average QBs available or stand pat with Bryn Renner and Keith Wenning. Tyrod Taylor (Flacco’s current back-up) is a free agent. The Ravens might attempt to re-sign him, considering the paltry free agent and draft market for Quarterbacks this year, but chances are good that Taylor will tote his clipboard elsewhere.
With their current roster, the Baltimore Ravens will be hard pressed to post an 8-8 record in 2015. They will be facing the NFC and AFC West instead of the hapless NFC and AFC South. With The Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams on their schedule, the Ravens must upgrade all three units (Offense, Defense and Special Teams) to remain competitive. Taking the “thrift store” approach to player personnel decisions this year could very well result in a return to 2013 and another January without Ravens football.