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Flacco agrees to three-year extension through 2021

Posted on 02 March 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Knowing a $28.55 million salary cap figure for the 2016 season could cripple their offseason, the Ravens and veteran quarterback Joe Flacco have agreed to a three-year contract extension through 2021.

The deal reportedly includes $66.4 million in new money and an NFL record $40 million signing bonus. That amount coupled with the $58.6 million he was already owed over the next three seasons will give the 31-year-old a total of $125 million over the next six years.

Flacco will now carry a $22.55 million cap figure for 2016, giving the Ravens an additional $6 million with which to maneuver this offseason.

“We did not do a deal to gain cap room,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “We did a deal so Joe Flacco could be on this football team for the next six years. That was probably the most important thing that [we] were working toward.

“The cap will take care of itself. But, is it going to be helpful? Yes.”

The Ravens entered Wednesday projected to be less than $3 million under the salary cap without even addressing their restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players, making it clear that they needed to adjust Flacco’s cap figure after the worst season of the John Harbaugh era. They will now have more flexibility to try to re-sign offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele and make other improvements to a team that finished 5-11 in 2015.

Despite plenty of posturing from both sides about whether Flacco’s original six-year, $120.6 million contract needed to be addressed, talks began between the Ravens and agent Joe Linta at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last week. Unlike the tense negotiations after Super Bowl XLVII three years ago, discussions were more cooperative this time around as optimism grew about an extension.

“My biggest priority is winning and going out there and being the best football player I can be over the rest of my career,” Flacco said. “I want a little help, and I want to go out there and I just win another Super Bowl. I remember how good that feels, and I can think back to just how jealous I was of other guys this year and the year before that who were playing in that game.”

The Ravens paid Flacco $62 million from 2013-2015 with just $36.15 million of that counting against the cap over that time. The extension clearly helps, but that charge doesn’t just disappear as the goal all along was to try to flatten out his annual cap numbers. The days of Flacco carrying an affordable cap figure between $14 million and $15 million like he did in 2014 and 2015 are long over, however.

Flacco, who continues to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee, will be 36 when his new contract is scheduled to expire. The organization is optimistic that Flacco will be ready for the start of training camp.

“I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I feel like it’s going really well,” Flacco said. “I’m coming in here every day and doing what they tell me to do, and I think that’s really all I can do at this point. I don’t have any real outlook on what the future’s going to bring, but I know that I’m attacking it 100 percent every day and doing the best I can.”

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Seven Ravens takeaways from NFL scouting combine

Posted on 28 February 2016 by Luke Jones

As the 2016 NFL scouting combine winds down in Indianapolis, we came away with plenty of headlines related to the Ravens as the countdown to the start of free agency and the new league year continues.

Below are seven takeaways from the week:

1. The Joe Flacco contract talks between the Ravens and agent Joe Linta have appeared to be more harmonious than expected. Given the acrimonious negotiations from three years ago, you had to wonder how willing Linta and Flacco would be to cooperate since they once again have all the leverage like they did in 2013 and didn’t have to touch the original six-year, $120.6 million deal. But more signs were pointing to an agreement eventually being reached as the weekend concluded in Indianapolis, which reflects the comments Flacco made earlier this winter in which he acknowledged wanting to win and his $28.55 million salary-cap figure making that difficult. Nothing is official, but the Ravens appear closer to gaining much-needed space to maneuver with free agency rapidly approaching.

2. On the other hand, Justin Tucker receiving the franchise tag early meant a deal wasn’t close. Tucker’s agent, Robert Roche, announcing on Friday that the kicker had been tagged wasn’t surprising after general manager Ozzie Newsome indicated on Wednesday that the Ravens would use it if a long-term agreement wasn’t reached. The organization hasn’t announced the move — probably because it doesn’t want the $4.572 million franchise amount to kick in against the cap any earlier than Tuesday’s deadline — but the early nature of the decision reflects how far apart the sides remained. The Ravens have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with Tucker before he must play out 2016 for the tag amount, but it would be in Newsome’s best interest to strike a deal sooner rather than later to clear cap room.

3. Baltimore sounds perfectly convinced that Lardarius Webb will be the answer at safety this season. Despite the 30-year-old having a $9.5 million cap figure for the 2016 season, the Ravens were once again adamant that they view Webb as a starting safety. Asked whether he was comfortable with Webb having a cap number that would put him among the most expensive safeties in the league, Newsome went as far as to say it’s a “very good number” when you consider what this offseason’s top safeties are expected to fetch on the open market. Still, it’s a risky assumption to think Webb will play at a level deserving of that kind of price tag. What the Ravens’ stance might mean for the roster standing of other safeties such as Kendrick Lewis, Will Hill, and Matt Elam will be interesting to watch.

4. Concerns remain about wide receiver Breshad Perriman. It’s been seven months since the 2015 first-round pick partially tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first day of training camp, but Newsome indicated he has yet to be fully cleared, which is an all-too-familiar update. The general manager noted Perriman’s smile and good spirits around the team’s Owings Mills training facility in recent weeks, but Newsome only saying he anticipates “at some point this spring that he’ll be out there ready to play” leaves plenty of room for doubt. The Ravens should be looking for another speed receiver to add to the mix, but the passing game needs Perriman on the practice field as much as possible since we’re talking about a player who isn’t yet a proven commodity at the NFL level.

5. The tight end position suddenly doesn’t look so deep anymore. Even with Dennis Pitta likely to be cut if he doesn’t retire, the Ravens appeared to be in great shape at the position. But with the suspended Nick Boyle’s “double down on dumb” — in John Harbaugh’s words — and Crockett Gillmore undergoing surgery on each shoulder that could sideline him into training camp, the Ravens may need to add another tight end to the mix after all. There is plenty of talent at this position, but Gillmore’s health concerns and Boyle’s ban for the first 10 games of the regular season will leave Maxx Williams as Baltimore’s only sure option during spring workouts. The team could re-sign a fringe guy like Konrad Reuland, but drafting a tight end in the later rounds now appears more likely than it did a few weeks ago.

6. Depth at running back won’t be a problem. The group could grow if 2012 first-round pick Trent Richardson is added to the mix, but Harbaugh reiterated on Thursday that Justin Forsett “certainly fits the bill” of a starter and is “absolutely” expected to be part of the team in 2016. Of course, you never know for sure with the Ravens’ cap situation, but that should answer questions about his roster standing as he carries a $3.7 million cap figure for the coming season. The Baltimore coach didn’t go as far as anointing Forsett his starter for 2016, but you just didn’t see quite enough from Buck Allen as a rookie to assume he’s ready to become a No. 1 back. It will be fun watching a group that already includes Forsett, Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Terrance West compete for playing time this summer.

7. It’s all about the defense in this draft. The Ravens have needs on both sides of the ball after a 5-11 season, but the combine reiterated just how deep this draft is with defensive talent compared to the other side of the ball. Many mock drafts continue to link Baltimore to Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley — especially if Kelechi Osemele isn’t re-signed — but there are so many directions Newsome can go in finding a high-impact defensive player. Whether staying put at No. 6 or moving up or down in the first round, there are intriguing pass rushers (Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, and Shaq Lawson), talented cornerbacks (Jalen Ramsey, Vernon Hargreaves, and Mackensie Alexander), and even a dynamic linebacker (Myles Jack) who could be sitting there for a defense in need of a game-changing talent.

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Ravens place franchise tag on Tucker, per his agent

Posted on 26 February 2016 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — The Ravens have followed through with general manager Ozzie Newsome’s vow to use the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker if a long-term agreement couldn’t be reached by month’s end.

Tucker’s agent, Robert Roche, announced via Twitter that Baltimore has placed the franchise tag on the 26-year-old ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for NFL teams to use the designation. Newsome said Wednesday in Indianapolis that the Ravens would use the tag with the intention of signing the 2013 Pro Bowl selection to a long-term deal.

The fact that the Ravens have used the tag with a few days to spare indicates that an agreement on a long-term deal wasn’t close.

The franchise tag for kickers and punters is projected to be around $4.5 million, which would not do their salary cap any favors as the Ravens began the week projected to have the second-lowest amount of cap space in the NFL. Teams must be in compliance with the salary cap when free agency begins on March 9, but the cap has yet to be set for the 2016 season.

A framework for a potential long-term deal with Tucker was created when New England signed longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski to a four-year, $17.2 million deal last summer, which made him the highest paid at his position in NFL history. Baltimore have until July 15 to sign Tucker to a long-term extension to avoid him playing out the coming season under the franchise amount.

Tucker is the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history since being signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas in 2012. However, he struggled on field goal attempts from 50 yards and beyond in 2015, going 4-for-10 while missing only one attempt inside 50.

Newsome has signed the last four players on which he’s used the tag — running back Ray Rice, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, linebacker Terrell Suggs, and cornerback Chris McAlister — to long-term contracts.

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Ravens working on adding former draft bust to roster

Posted on 25 February 2016 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — As the Ravens evaluate the incoming rookies at the scouting combine in Indianapolis this week, they are looking into adding one of the biggest busts in recent NFL draft history.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed Thursday that the organization has had discussions with running back Trent Richardson and could add the third overall pick of the 2012 draft to the 90-man roster. The 25-year-old has not played in the NFL since being cut by the Oakland Raiders at the end of the 2015 preseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has shown an affinity for fellow Alabama products over the years.

Is Richardson next?

“We’re talking to him right now. He seems like a good guy,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve talked to him on the phone a few times. Ozzie’s got all the ties at Alabama, so we’ll see where it goes. It’s in the works. It’s possible.”

Even with a relatively successful 950-yard season as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns, Richardson has struggled mightily in the NFL, averaging 3.3 yards per carry over 46 career games. His issues with weight while playing for both Cleveland and Indianapolis were no secret as coaches also questioned his overall commitment and maturity.

This rapid fall from grace in the NFL came after Richardson rushed for more than 3,000 yards over a terrific collegiate career with the Crimson Tide.

With Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Terrance West, and Lorenzo Taliaferro already on the roster, Richardson would be facing an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster and get his NFL career back on track with the Ravens. However, Baltimore would presumably be risking little more than a spot on the 90-man offseason roster and an invitation for spring and summer workouts while giving a once-promising player a chance to redeem himself.

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Ravens have made “really aggressive” offer to Osemele

Posted on 25 February 2016 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — While general manager Ozzie Newsome has downplayed the need to restructure Joe Flacco’s contract to clear precious salary cap space for the start of free agency, the Ravens are pushing to keep free-agent offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele.

According to NFL Network, the Ravens have offered to make the fifth-year lineman their second-highest paid offensive player behind their franchise quarterback. Head coach John Harbaugh wouldn’t delve into the specifics of the offer, but he made it clear what the Ravens are trying to do with Osemele, who started the final four games of the 2015 season at left tackle.

“I’m sure he’s shopping the deal. I can tell you — Ozzie said it already — it’s a really aggressive deal,” Harbaugh said. “I think it shows a lot of respect to K.O. It shows him that we really want him here, and I hope he takes it.”

Of course, incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe remains under contract as he would enter the third season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract signed two offseasons ago. However, Monroe has started only 16 games over the last two seasons, and Newsome provided a lukewarm endorsement for him when speaking to reporters at the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday.

Monroe is scheduled to carry an $8.7 million cap figure for 2016, but cutting him without a post-June 1 designation would save only $2.1 million in space and leave $6.6 million in dead money. The Ravens would save $4.3 million in space on the 2016 cap with a post-June 1 designation, but that room would not be available until long after most free-agent activity would be concluded.

Harbaugh left open the possibility of Osemele returning to left guard, but the Ravens wouldn’t be entertaining the possibility of paying big money to the 2012 second-round pick to return to his old position after they already invested more money in an extension for five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda last fall.

“I think we’ll figure it out, but I like him at left tackle,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something we talked about from the day he got drafted here that he could play left tackle. We still have Eugene, who’s still in our program. We’ll put the best five guys out there and build the best offensive line we can, no matter who’s here or who’s not here.

“As a coach, I really want K.O. here and I hope he feels the same way.”

Should the Ravens re-sign Osemele, that would presumably squash the possibility of Newsome taking a left tackle such as Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley in this April’s draft.

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NFL combine figures to jump-start Flacco contract talks

Posted on 22 February 2016 by Luke Jones

The start of the new league year is quickly approaching and the Ravens have yet to adjust Joe Flacco’s $28.55 million salary cap figure for the 2016 season.

That process figures to heat up this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis where team officials and player agents discuss plenty of business ahead of the official start of free agency on March 9. Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, expects to meet with the Ravens this weekend, according to Pro Football Talk.

To this point, both sides have played poker, with Linta saying he wasn’t aware that negotiations were necessary and general manager Ozzie Newsome discussing the possibility of putting together the roster without adjusting his franchise quarterback’s cap number. However, Flacco himself has acknowledged it being unrealistic to play under such a prohibitive figure for 2016 with the Ravens coming off a 5-11 campaign and needing to make improvements to both sides of the ball.

In truth, it was acknowledged at the time it was signed in 2013 that the six-year, $120.6 million contract would need to be revisited after three seasons.

How easily a deal comes together remains to be seen as Flacco and Linta hold all negotiating leverage and the Ravens can’t force them to make any changes to the current deal. Baltimore clearly wouldn’t want to cut its quarterback, whose release would bring just $2.7 million in cap savings and $25.85 million in dead money anyway.

A simple restructuring that involves converting Flacco’s most of $18 million base salary for 2016 into a bonus would only provide cap relief for this season and would increase his scheduled cap figures for 2017 and 2018 that already stand at $31.15 million and $24.75 million, respectively. That means a contract extension is in order, and Linta is unlikely to welcome one in which Flacco is playing for peanuts — relatively speaking, of course — in his mid-30s.

Of course, Newsome and the Ravens can appeal to Flacco by reminding him that it will be difficult to put together a championship-caliber roster if he isn’t willing to be reasonable. The days of the 2008 first-round pick playing at a cap figure below $15 million — like he did in each of the last three seasons — are over, but the goal of leveling out his cap numbers closer to the $20.1 million average annual value of the original contract would appear to be a realistic goal.

It won’t be easy as just $36.15 million of the $62 million paid to Flacco over the first three years of the deal have been accounted for on the salary cap. That difference still needs to hit the cap while the Ravens continue to pay Flacco an annual salary and whatever bonuses an extension could bring.

Envisioning what kind of offseason the Ravens can have is very difficult until they address the Super Bowl XLVII MVP’s contract.

Deadlines typically spur movement, and the clock is ticking for Baltimore to get its salary cap in order.

Business is about to pick up in Indianapolis with the start of free agency just over two weeks away.

 

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Ravens now on clock to use franchise tag on Tucker

Posted on 16 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Tuesday brought the beginning of a two-week window in which NFL teams may use the franchise tag, and the Ravens are likely to go that route with Justin Tucker if the sides can’t strike a long-term deal.

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month, the 2013 Pro Bowl kicker would figure to be in high demand, but the Ravens can use the franchise tag on him if an agreement can’t be reached by 4 p.m. on March 1. The franchise tender for kickers and punters last year was set at $4.126 million and is projected to climb to $4.5 million for the 2016 season.

“We will go to work on trying to get a contract done,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. “We do know what the franchise number is for a kicker, if it gets to that. But we will go to work on that, and we want Justin to be a part of our team.”

Using the franchise tag on a kicker or punter has been a common occurrence among teams due to the reasonable cost compared to other high-profile positions. A kicker or punter has received the franchise tag from a team in seven straight offseasons with New England’s Stephen Gostkowski receiving it last season.

In fact, the Patriots and Gostkowski provided a framework for the Ravens and Tucker after the sides agreed to a four-year, $17.2 million deal last summer, the richest contract ever awarded to a kicker. Should they use the tag, the Ravens would have until mid-July to sign Tucker to a long-term extension to avoid him playing out the 2016 season under the franchise amount.

Despite his struggles from 50 yards and beyond in 2015 (4-for-10), the 26-year-old Tucker is the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history since being signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas in 2012.

“My agent and [the Ravens] have been talking on and off for the better part of a year, year and a half,” Tucker said in early January. “At this juncture, I’m kind of letting it all just unfold how it’s going to unfold, and I’m optimistic that something will get done.”

If he does receive the franchise tag, Tucker should remain confident in his future with Baltimore as Newsome has eventually signed the last four players on which he used the tag — Ray Rice, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Chris McAlister — to long-term contracts. Suggs and McAlister were each tagged in consecutive seasons before receiving lucrative deals.

Offensive lineman Wally Williams was the only player not to sign a long-term deal with Baltimore after playing under the franchise tag during the 1998 season and departing for the New Orleans Saints the following year.

Some fans have asked why the Ravens wouldn’t consider using the franchise tag on free-agent offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, but that would cost more than $13 million for the 2016 season, an unreasonable price for a team already dealing with significant salary-cap problems.

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Five young players the Ravens need more from in 2016

Posted on 11 February 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are coming off their worst season of the John Harbaugh era, and most offseason discussion has centered around the draft and how active general manager Ozzie Newsome can be in free agency.

There’s no disputing the need for more high-impact talent, but improvement from within will go a long way in determining how quickly the Ravens can return to contention after a 5-11 campaign. With limited salary cap space and only so many holes that can be filled through the draft, Baltimore needs young players already on the roster to make a difference this coming fall with some experience and another offseason under their belts.

Below is a look at five young players the Ravens need more from in order to bounce back from their disappointing 2015 campaign:

1. WR Breshad Perriman

Who else could it be in the top spot? The Ravens put all their eggs in one basket trying to replace Torrey Smith with their 2015 first-round pick before he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first full day of training camp and left the offense without any speed. General manager Ozzie Newsome said he had a smile on his face watching the 6-foot-2 Perriman practice before the injury, and the Baltimore offense will desperately need his speed for a passing attack that struggled to push the ball down the field in 2015. The Ravens will wisely look for additional help at the position this offseason, but Perriman will be the biggest key in making the passing game more explosive and less reliant on a 37-year-old Steve Smith and emerging possession receiver Kamar Aiken.

2. LB Za’Darius Smith

The 2015 fourth-round pick’s 3 1/2 sacks over the final three games of 2015 are something to build on from what was mostly a quiet rookie season. In fairness, the Ravens expected a smaller role for the 275-pound linebacker, but the season-ending Achilles injury to Terrell Suggs in the opener made Smith the primary backup to Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw. Denver showed again in Super Bowl 50 how important it is to have disruptive pass rushers, but how much longer can the Ravens expect Suggs and Dumervil to perform at a high level? Even if Newsome is lucky enough to come away with an impact edge rusher like Joey Bosa or Noah Spence in this spring’s draft, Smith needs to take a big step forward if the Ravens want to boost a pass rush that was too inconsistent in 2015.

3. DT Carl Davis

Many have discussed the second-half improvement of the pass defense, but the Ravens gave up more than 100 yards rushing in each of their final five games after surrendering that amount just twice in their first 11 contests. Brandon Williams played at a Pro Bowl-level and Timmy Jernigan improved after a slow start, but the Ravens needed more contributions from Davis after he began the season looking like one of the steals of the draft. The Iowa product played well early and started three games, but he appeared to wear down and was a non-factor in the second half of the season, seeing just 17 defensive snaps over the final six games. Baltimore doesn’t need Davis to be Haloti Ngata, but his emergence as a run-stopping force next to Williams would allow the Ravens to keep Jernigan fresh for pass-rushing situations.

4. S Terrence Brooks

It’s never good for a player to show up on a list like this two years in a row, but the 2014 third-round pick is just one of many safeties the Ravens have added over the last few years to try to bring stability to the spot once occupied by future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Brooks made an impressive recovery from the serious knee surgery suffered in the final month of his rookie year, but he saw just 67 defensive snaps in 2015. Kendrick Lewis remains under contract and Lardarius Webb is an option if the Ravens adjust his $9.5 million cap figure for 2016, but Brooks has the athleticism to be more of a playmaker at the position than anyone else on the current roster. Unfortunately, coaches haven’t trusted him from a mental standpoint, so it appears this could be the make-or-break year for the Florida State product.

5. RB Buck Allen

Allen’s inclusion is more about circumstance than his rookie season in which he accumulated 867 total yards of offense, most coming after the season-ending injury to veteran Justin Forsett in Week 11. The Ravens have plenty of depth at running back, but Forsett will be 31, Lorenzo Taliaferro hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season, and local product Terrance West has been with three teams in two years. Allen caught an impressive 45 passes, but his 3.8 yards per carry average leaves you wondering whether he can be a feature back in the NFL. The Ravens need more of a home-run hitter in the backfield, and the 2015 fourth-rounder figures to have the best chance to be that guy. Ray Rice averaged 4.2 yards per carry as a rookie before making the Pro Bowl a year later. Can Allen make a jump anywhere close to that?

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Denver’s path reminds Ravens of NFL’s slim margin for error

Posted on 07 February 2016 by Luke Jones

As Denver prepared for Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, it was difficult not to think back to the Ravens’ season-opening 19-13 loss to the Broncos last September and remember the high expectations entering 2015.

An interception returned for a touchdown by Denver cornerback Aqib Talib was the difference as the Ravens owned the lead late in the third quarter before a Joe Flacco pass intended for Steve Smith was returned 51 yards in the other direction. Perhaps the season plays out differently if John Harbaugh’s team holds on to steal a difficult road win to kick off 2015 on a high note.

Some have pointed to that narrow Week 1 defeat as reason why Baltimore isn’t far from again being a contender despite its worst season since 2007. And, yes, there was some symmetry in the Super Bowl champions having 12 of their 16 regular-season games decided by a single possession while the Ravens saw 14 of their 16 contests decided by eight or fewer points this season.

But that’s life in the NFL as only six teams — Carolina, New England, Arizona, and Cincinnati on the plus side and San Francisco and Cleveland on the negative side — owned a scoring margin of more than eight points points per game in either direction in 2015. Most games are decided in the fourth quarter and are close.

Excruciatingly close.

And that margin of victory — or defeat — is typically decided by the game-changing players on either side of the ball. For all the discussion about Peyton Manning’s decline, the Broncos still have a plethora of playmakers on both sides of the ball, ranging from outside linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and cornerbacks Chris Harris and Talib to receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Those are the types of players that separate the winning teams from the losing ones in an otherwise fairly even talent pool from team to team. Denver’s plus-59 point differential during the regular season ranked just sixth in the AFC and 10th in the NFL, but Gary Kubiak’s team figured out ways to win close games while the Ravens consistently fell short in crunch time in 2015.

For years, Baltimore had a number of dynamic players, but most have either departed or have aged too much since Super Bowl XLVII three years ago. The well-documented list of injuries in 2015 merely amplified what was already a flawed roster.

Great players were on display for Denver in Santa Clara on Sunday night.

It will be up to general manager Ozzie Newsome this offseason to find at least a couple game-changers to close that narrow but all-important gap between winning and losing teams.

Otherwise, the Ravens will probably find themselves watching playoff games from their couches again next January.

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Ranking the Ravens’ special teams needs for 2016

Posted on 23 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Special teams are cut and dry for the Ravens this offseason.

They don’t need to mess with a good thing when they were the consensus choice as the best special-teams unit in the NFL in 2015. Keeping the group together will be the challenge.

With free agency set to begin in less than two months — March 9 at 4 p.m. — and the draft set for April 28-30, the Ravens are currently evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the finale of a three-part series — we’ve already looked at the offense and defense — I offer my thoughts on the special teams and rank the greatest needs.

1. Re-sign Justin Tucker

The 2013 Pro Bowl kicker isn’t going anywhere despite going only 4-for-10 from 50 or more yards this past season. Tucker missed only one field goal inside 50 all year and that came when the turf at Levi’s Stadium swallowed his plant foot on a 45-yard attempt in Week 6.

It will simply be a matter of whether the Ravens can sign the 26-year-old to a long-term contract or they’ll be forced to use the franchise tag, which was $4.126 million for kickers in 2015.

New England’s Stephen Gostkowski received just over $10 million guaranteed last year, so you’d have to think Tucker is looking for something in that neighborhood. We’ll see if general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens are willing to give it to him.

2. Long snapper

To be clear, longtime snapper Morgan Cox remains the Ravens’ top choice, but they were able to re-sign the veteran to a small one-year deal this past offseason as he was recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Of course, long snappers don’t make lucrative money, but Cox’s $665,000 salary cap figure for 2015 tied for 22nd among NFL snappers, according to Spotrac.com. If Cox is looking for a substantial raise after making his first Pro Bowl, you wonder if the Ravens would consider going with a younger and cheaper option due to their tight cap situation.

But you’d hate to test the chemistry of a superb trio that also includes Pro Bowl punter Sam Koch.

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