As the team works on contracts for their pending free agents, they will also have to think about the future of their quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco put together an exceptional game against the Patriots, but did not appear to make significant strides forward in 2012. He has one more year on his rookie contract but will almost certainly press for a new deal to get done before the 2012 season begins.
The futures of Flacco and Cameron are of course intertwined as they have long appeared to have a bit of a chilly relationship. Flacco was very close with former quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, the currently unemployed former coach of the Oakland Raiders who ESPN’s Chris Mortensen has linked to a potential opening in Baltimore. Cameron has had a very close relationship with Harbaugh however, and the success of the head coach has allowed him favor with the organization to make decisions.
It will be interesting to see how much (if at all) that changes after a fourth trip to the postseason again leaves the team short of reaching a first Super Bowl since the 2000 season.
It isn’t exactly a “Harbaugh vs. Flacco” decision for the organization, but I would expect that phrase will be typed by more than just myself in the coming days.
There are other question marks for a team that will try to build towards the ultimate prize while also not losing ground to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
Lewis’ decision to return does not settle concerns about the future of the organization at Inside Linebacker. McClain has been the steadiest of the group outside of Lewis, but his value might be overvalued on the open market. The team will have to consider the position both in the NFL Draft and in free agency.
The Ravens will owe WR Lee Evans a $1 million contract bonus in March, and his 4th quarter endzone drop Sunday will make it tough for GM Ozzie Newsome and company to justify the money after dealing a 4th round pick for the receiver this summer. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will remain atop the depth chart at the position, but the team will likely pursue additional help at the position.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the 2011 Ravens season was the clear regression of the Special Teams units. Football Outsiders (the most respected group to track such things) ranked the group 30th in the NFL in 2011. Those struggles were on obvious display in Foxborough, where the team was able to get very little going on returns, allowed a 41 yard kick return from Danny Woodhead to set up New England’s go ahead touchdown drive and ultimately lost when K Billy Cundiff missed a 32 yard field goal in the game’s waning seconds.
ST Coordinator Jerry Rosburg has not received much in the way of public criticism, but the lack of results this year were staggering. Harbaugh appeared to show faith in his kicker after the loss, but it would be understandable to feel the need to at least discuss the position in the offseason.
There’s no reason to believe the Ravens won’t be considered among the AFC favorites in 2012, but there’s much to be addressed before that time.
As Linkin Park said, “the hardest part of ending is starting again.”
(I’ll assume that’s the only time you read a column today that it wrapped with a Linkin Park lyric.)
Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…