I’ve had the opportunity to make a number of radio appearances throughout the country during the last few weeks while the Baltimore Ravens marched along in the National Football League playoffs.
In virtually every conversation, I was asked a question about how the outcome of the next game could alter the future of Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in Charm City.
It always felt a little strange to be asked about Cam Cameron. Usually I only hear Cam Cameron’s name when a listener/caller screams at me about him. It’s never in the form of a question.
After the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, it didn’t take 30 minutes for the screaming to start again. It was a bit odd considering there was really no way Cameron could be blamed for the loss in Foxborough.
The reality is that as the team’s offseason officially got underway, Cameron sits at the forefront. His future can only be labeled as “to be determined”, as his contract expires with the end of the season.
Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ coaching staff are headed to Mobile, AL this week for scouting at the annual Senior Bowl. It would seem as though the team wouldn’t want the situation with Cameron to linger far into the offseason, especially if they ultimately decide not to retain Cameron after four playoff trips in four seasons and have to find a new coordinator without a likely replacement on staff.
(That’s not an endorsement for either decision. It’s just a fact. I’m actually indifferent towards the situation, as I believe any coordinator in 2012 would need more offensive talent to work with.)
The next pressing situation remains on offense. The team’s Most Valuable Player in 2012 (RB Ray Rice) becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at a time where NFL teams have been particularly unwilling to invest in long term deals for running backs. Also hitting unrestricted free agency is LG Ben Grubbs, who has never reached a Pro Bowl but has certainly played at a Pro Bowl level. (Monday update: Grubbs will in fact be making his first trip to Hawaii this season as a replacement for Patriots G Logan Mankins.)
There is a likelihood that the Franchise tag will come into play with one of the above players, as it did with DT Haloti Ngata last season before a long-term deal was reached.
DE Cory Redding, LB’s Jarret Johnson & Jameel McClain and S’s Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura highlight other Ravens who become Unrestricted Free Agents. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (who has publicly stated he would like to play another season) is also on the UFA list, as are OL Andre Gurode, TE Kris Wilson, DT Brandon McKinney and LB Edgar Jones.
(CB’s Cary Williams & Lardarius Webb as well as LB Dannell Ellerbe are restricted free agents, all are expected to return.)
Also on the list of Unrestricted Free Agents is C Matt Birk, who denied a CBS report earlier this month that he had already decided to retire at the end of the season. With no “center of the future” clearly on the roster, it may behoove the team to bring the big man from Harvard back for one more season if he’s interested.
While we await Birk’s decision about his future, future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis told reporters in New England he intends to return to Baltimore for a 17th season. S Ed Reed’s future isn’t quite as defined, as he did not speak to reporters after suffering his second AFC title game defeat. Nagging back and neck issues appeared to affect Reed’s play at the end of the season, but he came with big plays in both playoff games.