Posted on 19 February 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 16 February 2014 by Luke Jones
(Updated: Monday 2:30 p.m.)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the start of free agency less than a month away and the Ravens hoping to clear more salary cap space to address a number of needs, the future of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been resolved with the veteran having a reasonable chance to finish his career in Baltimore.
And that’s exactly the way he wanted it.
“That is definitely the message,” Suggs said. “That’s the plan I see unless Ozzie [Newsome] has a trick up his sleeve. That’s definitely it. Sizzle will be a Raven for life.”
According to multiple outlets, the general manager and Suggs’ agent, Joel Segal, reached a long-term contract extension that reduces his $12.4 million cap figure to $7.8 million for the 2014 season and gives the six-time Pro Bowl selection and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year the opportunity to complete his career with the team that drafted him in 2003. Suggs was entering the final season of a six-year, $62.5 million contract signed in 2009 and was owed a $7.8 million base salary this season before receiving a four-year, $28.5 million extension that includes $16 million in guaranteed money.
Suggs will reportedly now receive an $11 million signing bonus with a $1 million base salary in 2014 and a $4 million guaranteed salary for the 2015 season. The extension totals four years and $28.5 million, but the Ravens will have the necessary flexibility to escape the deal after 2015 should Suggs’ production drop significantly as he enters his mid-30s.
“We’ve tried to put together a deal that’s a win-win for the player and for the organization,” Newsome said. “Now, whether he plays two years or three years, we have a mechanism to be able to deal with the salary cap that would make it friendly for us and friendly for Terrell.”
Newsome made it clear at the start of the offseason that the Ravens would look to adjust Suggs’ contract status in hopes of not only providing cap relief but to keep him in Baltimore beyond 2014. Had the sides not reached an agreement, it was possible that the Ravens would part ways with the 31-year-old in a manner similar to how they traded veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin last winter.
Rebounding from an injury-plagued 2012 season, Suggs began last season looking like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate by recording nine sacks and 60 tackles in his first eight games but struggled in the second half of the season, collecting only one sack and 20 tackles in the final eight contests. That late-season decline and his advancing age likely made the possibility of hitting the open market less appealing to the 2003 first-round pick, who has 94 1/2 sacks in his 11-year career.
In looking back at the second half of the season, Suggs admitted there were times in which he was trying to do too much and not playing withing the structure of the defense.
“Don’t try to do so much of everybody else’s job,” Suggs said. “Let the coverage be itself, play the play, trust the play that’s being called and just be Sizzle. I think I was probably, down the stretch, trying to do too much. As one game went by, as two games went by, it was just like, ‘Alright, I need to get a sack. I need to get a sack,’ and I stopped letting the game come to me.”
The Ravens can now shift their focus to left tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Dennis Pitta, who are regarded as their top unrestricted free agents to re-sign before the start of free agency on March 11. Prior to the news of an extension for Suggs, the Ravens had just under $12 million in cap space, but that didn’t exclude addressing any of their exclusive-rights or restricted free agents.
Without offering names, Newsome acknowledged that the Ravens have entered discussions regarding additional contract extensions, but the completion of the Suggs contract provides consolation in not only knowing he’ll be a member of the Ravens defense in the foreseeable future but the flexibility to address significant needs on both sides of the ball.
“What it does is just allow us to have the opportunity to pursue some of our own guys, but also be prepared for when free agency opens on March 11,” Newsome said. “If there are some players that are attractive to us, then we can pursue them.”
Posted on 09 January 2014 by Luke Jones
The uncertain future of linebacker Terrell Suggs and the decision to retain assistant Juan Castillo were topics that understandably garnered the most attention at the Ravens’ season-ending press conference on Wednesday.
But it was something owner Steve Bisciotti said that laid out the top priority of the offseason as Baltimore tries to bounce back from missing the postseason for the first time in the John Harbaugh era. In fact, it’s the only objective that really matters if the Ravens hope to climb to the heights they reached 11 months ago anytime soon.
Bisciotti has always acknowledged his opinions on football-related matters shouldn’t — and usually don’t — hold as much weight as those of general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh, but that hasn’t stopped the 53-year-old owner from publicly calling for more accountability from his employees in the past as former head coach Brian Billick and former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron learned years ago. That’s what made his answer over how concerned he was about the underwhelming play of quarterback Joe Flacco so telling as it spelled out what the Ravens must do this winter.
There was no over-the-top comment about needing more of a return on the $120.6 million contract he forked over to the 28-year-old quarterback last winter, even though the Ravens will certainly expect a much better Flacco in 2014. Yes, Flacco must improve, but so must Newsome, Harbaugh, Castillo, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell (if he does indeed return), Ray Rice, the offensive line, and everyone else with a stake in the Baltimore offense next season and beyond.
“When you look at these guys who have been coaching in the league and have had success in the past and you look at our players that have had success in the past, if we could have fixed it, we would have,” Bisciotti said. “I certainly expected more in the second half of the season. As interrelated as the running game is to the play-action pass and the execution of the offensive line, trying to divide up the blame is something I’m really not much more qualified than you guys are to do. But, when you have a short window of failure that comes out of the blue, the key is not to make wholesale changes.
“I know that Ray Rice was limited this year, and Bernard Pierce was limited. And, if they had been better, then maybe the offensive line would have performed better. Obviously, if the offensive line were blowing open holes, then maybe [Rice and Pierce] could have achieved more with their physical limitations. And, if that had worked a little better, then I think Joe would have performed a little better. All the things, the numbers that are so striking to me to find yourself in the bottom five in offense in almost every category is again something that — had we not had a [good] history in the last five years – then I would probably demand wholesale changes. But I think you have to be careful to not to look in a vacuum and decide you have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and [you] let people get healthy, let these guys work together for another year, add some people to the team in the draft and free agency.
“I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to look at the offense with the same fine-tooth comb that we looked at the defense last year. I think you’re going to see a lot of changes in personnel and how we approach that. I’m pretty proud of the defense for being able to retool on the fly, and I’ve got the same amount of confidence with these guys in building the offense.”
The final few sentences of his drawn-out answer said everything you need to know. Yes, the Ravens must address Suggs’ $12.4 million cap number, find a free safety, and tinker with various parts of their defense and special teams, but building a better supporting cast around Flacco is paramount. Last offseason saw Newsome focus solely on revamping a below-average defense while allowing the offense to suffer as a result, a perplexing strategy considering the Ravens had just won a Super Bowl with their offense doing the heavy lifting.
Fixing the offense won’t be easy as the dynamic pass-catcher the Ravens covet doesn’t just grow on trees and the organization doesn’t exactly have a stellar history of developing — or even finding — many quality wide receivers in their 18-year history. Adding bulk on the interior line is a necessity, but potentially finding three quality starters — if the Ravens are unable to re-sign Eugene Monroe to remain with incumbents Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele — will be a daunting task. Flacco’s $14.8 million cap figure in 2014 will indeed be an obstacle — just like the large numbers currently held by Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Lardarius Webb, Rice, and Yanda — as Newsome tries to use limited resources to infuse the offensive side of the ball with more talent.
But the Ravens must build a better supporting cast around their quarterback, whether you think Flacco is a potential Rolls-Royce or only a Mustang in the hierarchy of current NFL quarterbacks. He’s proven he has the ability to take the franchise all the way to the top, but he can’t do it alone as last season so painfully showed. A record-setting contract understandably brought high expectations, but it didn’t suddenly change his ability or who he is as a quarterback.
Making some difficult decisions such as parting ways with Suggs and sacrificing some ability defensively may be necessary to create sufficient cap space in order to add more dynamic offensive pieces. The Ravens have no choice but to take giant leaps forward offensively in the increasingly offensive-minded NFL.
Flacco did not have a good year in 2013, and he must own his share of the blame just like anyone else involved. But the Ravens didn’t set him up to have a strong season following an offseason trade of Anquan Boldin and the retirement of veteran center Matt Birk without adequate replacements behind them. That coupled with unforeseen injuries to the likes of Dennis Pitta, Rice, and Osemele left too much to overcome.
From the Suggs financial decision to improving the offensive line and running game, nearly all offseason moves will be tied to the theme of doing what’s best for Flacco so the Ravens can get the most out of their steep investment.
It’s fair to expect much more from the quarterback, but only if the front office, coaching staff, and supporting cast hold up their end of the bargain as well.
Even after handing Flacco the richest deal in franchise history last year, Bisciotti could recognize that simple truth on Wednesday.
Posted on 08 January 2014 by Luke Jones
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Expected to focus most of his offseason attention on revamping the league’s 29th-ranked offense, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will still be faced with a couple important decisions on the defensive side of the ball.
One of them involves one of the greatest players in franchise history in Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, who enters the final season of a six-year contract and is scheduled to count for $12.4 million against the Ravens’ 2014 salary cap. If Suggs is to return, it appears he won’t be playing under the original terms of his deal.
Should the 12th-year linebacker not be back, it would mark the second straight year in which the Ravens would let a notable player depart for cap purposes after wide receiver Anquan Boldin refused to take a pay cut and was traded to the San Franchise 49ers for a sixth-round pick last March.
“That’s a decision that we’ll talk about when we get down to Jupiter [at owner Steve Bisciotti's estate],” Newsome said at the Ravens’ season-ending press conference on Wednesday. “Terrell is a really good football player. He not only shows up in the pass game, but he shows up in the run game. That being said, we let a good football player go last year, so we’re not afraid. I’m not a virgin when it comes to letting guys walk out the door. What we’ll do is we’ll look at every aspect of it and see what’s best for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Ravens and then make that decision once we get to it.”
The Ravens are expected to approach Suggs and his agent Joel Segal about a short-term contract extension that would roll some of his scheduled $7.8 million base salary into a signing bonus that would lower his cap number for the 2014 season and likely afford him the opportunity to play a couple more years and retire as a Raven. How open Suggs would be to a reasonable short-term extension remains to be seen after he was named to his sixth Pro Bowl this past season.
On pace for a career season after collecting nine sacks in the first eight games of 2013, Suggs fell off dramatically in the second half, recording just one sack in the final eight contests. The 2003 first-round pick will be 32 in October, which will give the Ravens plenty to think about in terms of not wanting to pay for past accomplishments over future production and compromise their salary cap beyond the 2014 season.
If the Ravens are unable to work out an extension with Suggs, they could cut the veteran linebacker to save $7.8 million in cap space for 2014.
Baltimore entered the offseason with just 37 players under contract and roughly $14 million in cap space, so the possibility of making a few veteran cuts to save space is likely. Newsome reiterated Wednesday what’s become an organizational philosophy of not reworking deals that have more than one year remaining on them.
“I think we’ll continue with our theme of not restructuring contracts,” Newsome said. “But, there’s a difference between restructuring and offering guys extensions. We have guys that are in the last year of their contract [or] going into the last year of their contract, and we’ve had a history of being able to get good deals done with guys heading into that last year. I don’t think we will embark on doing any more restructuring, but we will probably look at doing some extensions.”
Newsome also expressed his desire for “a more athletic safety” to complement 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam, who is expected to shift to the strong safety position in his second year. Veteran James Ihedigbo will be an unrestricted free agent and played well in his first year as a starter, but the Ravens are looking for a free safety who can force more turnovers, according to Newsome.
Known more for his physicality than his pass coverage as a standout safety with the University of Florida, Elam’s smaller frame is problematic when trying to match up against bigger tight ends and wide receivers. Coach John Harbaugh credited Elam’s “solid” play as a rookie last week, but he acknowledged that the 5-foot-10 safety is at his best playing closer to the line of scrimmage.
Elam recorded just one interception and three pass breakups to go with his 76 tackles while primarily playing the free safety position.
“Matt Elam should be a really, really good safety in this league,” Harbaugh said on Wednesday. “He’s fast, he’s physical, and he’s going to understand the expectations a little more. He’s going to anticipate checks a little better. He’s going to understand what it means to stay deep when you’re supposed to stay deep — not to stop your feet when you’ve got a vertical receiver running up on you and you’re a deep-third or deep-half player. Those are things that sometimes you learn from experience the hard way. He didn’t make too many mistakes for a guy who played that many repetitions as a safety, so it’s a good start for him.”
Posted on 07 January 2014 by Luke Jones
In honor of the first Tuesday Top 7 of 2014, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction selected their top seven local sports figures to watch in 2014.
Some of the names are predictable while others may just be establishing themselves on the local sports scene, but each is worth following closely in 2014 for different reasons.
Luke Jones’ Top 7 Local Sports Figures to Watch in 2014 …
7. Towson running back and NFL Draft prospect Terrance West
Skinny: Not only will the FCS record-breaking back be drafted, but it will be fun to watch his progress and to see how his skills translate to the next level.
6. Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs
Skinny: Questions will linger about the Terps’ ability to compete in the Big Ten, but a breakout 2014 campaign would likely have the offensive playmaker thinking carefully about the NFL.
5. Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman
Skinny: Assuming the Orioles’ offseason continues at its current pace, the 23-year-old right-hander’s development will be critical in determining whether the club remains in contention.
4. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs
Skinny: The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year may have already played his final game in Baltimore if he’s not willing to adjust his $12.4 million salary cap number for the 2014 season.
3. Orioles third baseman Manny Machado
Skinny: Coming off knee surgery and entering just his second full season in the majors, the 21-year-old will be counted on to not only be healthy but to take his already-impressive game to the next level.
2. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco
Skinny: The spotlight on the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player will be brighter than ever after a disappointing 2013 season and considering his cap number balloons to $14.8 million in 2014.
1. Orioles manager Buck Showalter
Skinny: After two poor offseasons in a row, does the Baltimore skipper reach his breaking point with an organization lacking the commitment to build on its recent success?
Posted on 06 January 2014 by Luke Jones
The Ravens don’t enter the winter in quite as dire straights with their salary cap as they did a year ago, but that won’t protect them from facing difficult decisions in trying to rebound from their first non-playoff season since 2007.
Entering the offseason with 37 players under contract and roughly $14 million in cap space — they’ve since signed nine players to reserve-future deals — the Ravens must take a long look at a number of potential veteran cuts that would bring needed room to not only re-sign some of their own free agents but allow them to explore outside possibilities to improve a roster that finished 8-8 in 2013.
The biggest and most intriguing name on the list will be Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is entering the final year of a six-year, $62.5 million contract and has spent 11 years with the organization that selected him in the first round of the 2003 draft. Deciding his status will be at the top of general manager Ozzie Newsome’s list of internal priorities before turning his efforts toward augmenting the roster for 2014.
A name that won’t be on the list of possible cap casualties is running back Ray Rice, who is coming off the worst season of his career and has often been mentioned by fans as someone the Ravens shouldn’t bring back. Though Rice’s 2014 cap figure of $8.75 million is way too high for a running back who averaged only 3.1 yards per carry and gained just 660 yards, his release prior to June 1 would cost $14.25 million in dead money toward the 2014 cap. In other words, cutting Rice would actually be more expensive to the Ravens’ 2014 cap than keeping him for another season.
The three-time Pro Bowl running back isn’t going anywhere in 2014.
It’s important to remember the rule of 51 as the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count against the salary cap. The savings from any released player is offset in part by an additional player jumping into the top 51 from the bottom of the list. For example, if a released player carrying a $3 million cap number is replaced in the top 51 by another player carrying a $405,000 cap number, the end result is a $2.595 million savings on the salary cap.
Here’s how I’d rank the list of possible candidates to be cut for cap purposes (with the pre-June 1 cap savings noted in parentheses), in order from most likely to least likely:
1. FB Vonta Leach ($1.75 million)
Skinny: The fate of the three-time Pro Bowl fullback is the easiest to predict as this move is about football as much as it is finances. The Ravens abandoned the two-back system early in the season as their running game struggled and wouldn’t figure to be willing to pay Leach his $1.75 million base salary in 2014 after he rarely played more than a handful of offensive snaps per game in the final 2 1/2 months of 2013. Even if the Ravens elect to emphasize the fullback more often in their offensive approach for 2014, Kyle Juszczyk or another cheaper option will be preferred to Leach, who sees the writing on the wall in terms of his future in Baltimore.
2. LB Jameel McClain ($3.2 million)
Skinny: The Ravens cut McClain’s 2013 base salary in half while he worked his way back from a spinal cord contusion, so you wonder how willing he would be to accept another pay cut to remain in Baltimore. The free-agent status of veteran Daryl Smith makes this decision more compelling as the Ravens could use the money saved on McClain toward a new contract for Smith, who played well at Mike linebacker in Dean Pees’ system. With younger and cheaper options such as 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown and Josh Bynes on the roster, it only makes sense for the Ravens to look into lowering McClain’s salary if not deciding to cut him altogether as he enters the final season of a three-year contract.
3. P Sam Koch ($1.6 million)
Skinny: Serving as Baltimore’s punter since 2006, Koch is one of the longest-tenured players on the team, but his $2.8 million cap figure for 2014 is the 10th-highest among players currently under contract for 2014. He did rebound down the stretch after a subpar start to the season, but the Ravens have to think they can go younger and cheaper than the league’s 22nd-ranked net punter in 2013. Of course, cutting Koch wouldn’t make it impossible to bring him back at a reduced rate if he was agreeable to doing so, but finding an effective punter in the latter stages of the draft or in rookie free agency shouldn’t be too impossible of a task.
4. LB Terrell Suggs ($7.8 million)
Skinny: The only reason that Suggs isn’t higher on the list is the likelihood of the Ravens exploring a short-term extension to lower his projected $12.4 million cap figure for 2014. Suggs’ poor second half in 2013 raises concerns about giving more money to a player who will be 32 in October, and the Ravens need to think carefully about making commitments to players for past accomplishments instead of future production. It’s difficult to say whether Suggs’ disappointing second half — only one sack in the final eight games — was the result of an injury or simply wearing down, but the Ravens might be wise to part with him a year early instead of possibly a season too late. It would be hard to walk away from a franchise player and a pass rusher with 94 1/2 career sacks if you think he has plenty left, but $7.8 million in extra space can help accomplish much in an offseason. Whether they ultimately work out an extension, cut him, or somehow manage to get Suggs to agree to a straight pay cut, the Ravens aren’t expected to allow his huge cap number to go untouched.
5. DE Chris Canty ($1.83 million)
Skinny: Considering Canty is their best 5-technique defensive end and fellow defensive lineman Arthur Jones could depart via free agency, the Ravens are likely to keep the 31-year-old veteran after a solid but unspectacular first year in Baltimore. He only counts for $3.16 million on the 2014 cap and the Ravens will already be depending on younger players such as Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Tyson to fill bigger defensive roles, so Canty represents a solid option to plug into the starting lineup for at least one more season. Canty is owed a $500,000 roster bonus on the fourth day of the new league year that begins in March, so a decision on his fate would have to come before then if the Ravens are contemplating cutting him.
6. DT Haloti Ngata ($1 million)
Skinny: The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s name has come up often over the last two winters, but the $1 million in savings from a potential release is dwarfed by the $15 million in dead space the Ravens would need to absorb on the 2014 cap if he were to be cut prior to June 1. It’s virtually impossible to argue that his production no longer matches the $16 million cap figure he’ll carry for 2014, but Ngata is still an above-average player that would be difficult for the Ravens to adequately replace after taking such a big cap hit. The only reason the Ravens would really consider cutting Ngata would be to save the $8.5 million in base salary he’s owed next season, but that would be a decision of saving cash over clearing cap space and not one that would help the team on the field in the coming season. It wouldn’t be impossible, but the Ravens appear very unlikely to cut Ngata this offseason.
Posted on 05 January 2014 by Glenn Clark
As you may have heard, 2014 marks the 16th year for WNST.net, a remarkable accomplishment for a sports media company that our competitors have written off time and time again during the span.
To celebrate our “Sweet 16″, we will be discussing a group of topics each week that we hope to make definitive lists for when it comes to local sports-”water cooler” type topics if you will. Every Sunday night I will introduce that week’s topic here at WNST.net. We’ll discuss the topic here, on-air via AM1570 WNST and via social media on Facebook and Twitter. Then each Tuesday morning-one WNST personality will unveil our list both here at WNST.net and on “The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction” at 8am with Drew Forrester and Luke Jones.
As you discuss the topic on Twitter and Facebook, use the hashtag #WNSTSweet16 to make your voice heard and your thoughts included in the debate.
The lists will be related to either something currently going on in sports or will be based on the date.
First up? In honor of the “debut” of our Sweet 16 discussions and the “debut” of the year 2014, we’re going with the “Sweet 16 Debuts in Local Sports History”.
“Debut” could mean a number of things. It could mean a first game (or day), a first season, a first at-bat, a first fight, a first week or anything else that you can spin into a “debut”. It could be a debut for a rookie or a debut for a new player or a debut for a stadium or an arena or a coach or a new team altogether. It’s wide open.
We’re calling it “local” sports debut because we want to include not only the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens, but also Maryland, Navy, Towson, UMBC, Loyola, Morgan State, Coppin State, Johns Hopkins, the Blast and other current and former area sports teams as well as high schools and individual local athletes.
I’m handling the first list. You’ll see my post Tuesday morning at WNST.net and I’ll join Drew and Luke Tuesday morning at 8am to discuss it. We’ll tackle the list again at 4pm on “The Reality Check Driven by Jerry’s Chevrolet”.
I’ve thought about those locals who have won “Rookie of the Year” awards like Ron Hansen, Curt Blefary, Al Bumbry, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Gregg Olson, Vernon Maxwell, Peter Boulware, Terrell Suggs, Ray Felix, Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld. (You probably forgot about or were completely unaware of a few of those names. I know I was!)
I’ve certainly thought about the first game in Ravens history, the first game for John Harbaugh, the first game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and even more.
But what haven’t I thought about?
What is our list incomplete without?
Like I said earlier, I want this to be as definitive a list as possible. I don’t want to exclude anything that deserves mention. Is there an area high school athlete who blew up very quickly upon arrival? Is there a jockey who hopped on a horse for the first time at Pimlico and quickly became a household name? Who had an incredible first season for the Baltimore Thunder or Baltimore Bayhawks or Baltimore Stallions that others either forgot about or never really knew about?
I’m looking forward to taking this trip down memory lane with you. We’ll be having these conversations and making these lists every week to celebrate a “Sweet 16″.
Let me know what I need to be thinking about, Baltimore. 2014 is going to be a lot of fun.
Posted on 30 December 2013 by Drew Forrester
Anyone who has followed my on-air ramblings or blogging efforts over the years will attest to the fact that I’m not the knee-jerk “fire the coach” guy when something goes wrong in a season.
The Ravens went 8-8 in 2013 for a variety of reasons, many of which are connected more to player performance than anything a coach or coaches did or didn’t do.
In fact, I can think of five players right off the top of my head that deserve to be fired based on their production in 2013, but their contract status and league salary cap rules make that fundamentally unwise.
As we begin the inevitable discourse on what went wrong with the defending champions, let’s remember from the start they lost twelve key performers from the team that beat the 49′ers in last February’s Super Bowl. Twelve. That’s a lot of quality to lose in one fell swoop, even if several of them were getting long in the tooth and dreaming of greener pastures.
It’s a quarterback’s league and the guy behind center in Baltimore threw 22 interceptions in sixteen games. That’s not going to cut it. I wrote my Joe Flacco piece last week. You can read it here. I’m certainly not saying he was the reason why the team failed to make the playoffs in 2013. But, I also know he was much closer to being the reason why they missed it than he was the reason why they almost made it. His stock took a hit in ’13.
The team’s offensive line was dismal most of the season. The running game was a dud. One of the team’s top receiving threats broke his hip in the first padded practice of training camp.
The Ravens’ defense wasn’t terrible — and in some cases, they were really good — but they gave up a lot of yardage in big chunks and were less than reliable in the 4th quarter throughout the sixteen week regular season.
Make no mistake about it, though. This 2013 season will go down as the one when the Ravens offense completely fizzled.
Now, settle in for my idea of how to fix it.
The Ravens need to make a change at Offensive Coordinator. Yes, a firing of a coach.
It’s not completely “that simple”, of course, because Joe Flacco needs to play better, Marshal Yanda needs to play better, Ray Rice needs to play better, Torrey Smith needs to play better and so on and so on.
What we just saw, though, for sixteen weeks, was about as boring, pedestrian and unimaginative as it could possibly get from a team in the best football league in the world.
The coaches and minds behind the scenes in the NFL are supposed to be the best-of-the-best. The cream of the crop. What the Ravens exhibited on offense in 2013 was far from “cream of the crop” stuff. It was dreadful.
And, because you can’t fire all the players and start over next August, the guy who runs the offense has to go. Along with a lot of others who have had their fingerprints on the offensive blueprint in Baltimore over the last couple of years.
The Bengals used that Andy-Dalton-fake-to-the-running-back-quarterback-keeper play to absolute perfection three times during Sunday’s 34-17 win over Baltimore. The Ravens didn’t use a play like that once the entire season.
Before you tell me Flacco is Flacco and no one can come in and teach him anything, let me remind you what just transpired in Pittsburgh this season. Todd Haley showed up in 2012 as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, took a year to figure out what changes he thought they needed, then spent nearly four months this past off-season convincing Ben Roethlisberger he needed to shave a second or two off his snap-to-throw time in order to get the ball out more quickly and avoid taking the kind of punishment he’s known to take while running around with the ball in his hand.
Roethlisberger gave in, took to the new philosophy, and had one of his best seasons ever in 2013.
The Ravens need that sort of interjection in their offense.
They need someone to come in and say, “This needs an overhaul and I’m just the mechanic to do it.”
The quarterback might get offended at hearing that. The running back might not like hearing it, either. Hell, the head coach might not even be all that thrilled to hear it.
That said, it’s the truth.
The Ravens need a completely new offensive structure. They need better players, for starters, particularly on the offensive line. There’s no question about that. None at all. They can either add better players and improve or do what the Orioles do every off-season and add scrubs and/or no one and lose.
But, once they add those players, they need a new voice running the offense.
Jim Caldwell had sixteen games to convince everyone he’s the man for the job, long-term. Unless I’m really off-base here, I don’t think he did anything to prove he should be the team’s offensive coordinator next season.
The quarterback might not like that, but, like Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Joe Flacco will need to come to grips with the fact that he still has room to improve his game despite owning a Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy.
Privately this past season, some Ravens officials were concerned with Flacco’s attitude, particularly as it related to his public comments about the wildcat offense and the insertion of Tyrod Taylor for a handful of plays against the Jets in November.
While he’s not a malcontent by any means, Flacco can also be set in his ways to the point that he becomes unwilling to consider other options that could benefit the team.
With a new offensive coordinator in town – especially one who shows up and says, “I’m here to make Flacco better” – the stage would be set for a showdown of sorts between the quarterback who signed a $120 million contract last spring and the new voice who says, “Yeah, and then you went 8-8 after that…let’s get back to work and make you really good again.”
Rob Chudzinski was a name the Ravens talked about back in 2008 when they started evaluating head coach candidates and they thought of him mainly because of his offensive acumen. He’s expected to be fired as the Browns’ head coach after just one season as their head honcho. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens renew their interest in him if, in fact, a change is made with Jim Caldwell.
If Jim Schwartz gets fired in Detroit, Lions’ offensive coordinator Scott Linehan might be looking for a new gig. He’s had the luxury of coaching one of the game’s most dynamic weapons in Calvin Johnson, but Linehan is a respected offensive mind throughout the NFL.
I’m not campaigning for either of those men and I haven’t seen someone at Owings Mills creating a “reserved parking spot” sign for either of them. But, let’s just say I didn’t pick those two names out of a hat, either.
There are lots of other names to consider, of course, and the Ravens are known as one of the best “hiring organizations” in the NFL.
And, for all I know, they’re going to keep Jim Caldwell on board.
After what I saw for sixteen weeks this season, I don’t know how they can possibly do that, but I also know coaches around the league are hesitant to make huge changes in their coaching staff unless something really goes terribly wrong.
Well…2013 came and went for the Ravens and, offensively, it went “terribly wrong”.
Time for a change.
Let’s get back to work.
Posted on 29 December 2013 by Luke Jones
Head coach John Harbaugh said it all in the aftermath of a 34-17 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday that resulted in the Ravens missing the postseason for the first time since 2007.
Despite reaching the pinnacle of the NFL last February in winning their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, the Ravens simply weren’t good enough a year later.
“We’re not ever going to be content with not making the playoffs,” Harbaugh said. “That’s just not something that’s going to be OK with any of us.”
Harbaugh is right, and it’s the Ravens’ vast success over the last five years that’s cultivated such an appropriate mindset. It’s easy and fair to be disappointed, but the Ravens gave this city a terrific run that included five straight playoff appearances, three AFC Championship appearances, and a Super Bowl title. History has proven over and over that you can’t be great every year and no run of success will last forever.
General manager Ozzie Newsome, Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco, and others have built a great deal of equity for fans to remain confident that the Ravens will be back in 2014 and beyond, but this winter brings a critical offseason with many issues to address. A proven track record is invaluable, but the NFL is a results-driven endeavor and Baltimore didn’t meet its own high standards laid out in recent years.
Season-long issues once again reared their head Sunday as a poor offense doomed the Ravens in Cincinnati. An overwhelmed offensive line was unable to handle the Bengals’ pressure, the running game was a non-factor, wide receivers were unable to gain separation, and a hobbled Flacco made poor decisions and couldn’t connect on deep balls throughout the day.
Defensively, the Ravens were able to force four turnovers but also allowed nearly 400 yards of offense and 27 points — the Bengals’ final touchdown came on an interception returned for a touchdown. The Baltimore defense was an above-average unit this season but gave up big plays and long drives at critical junctures, failing to be the game-changing unit Newsome envisioned when he allocated most of his available cap space to upgrading that side of the ball this past offseason.
So, what do the Ravens need to change, improve, and address this winter?
The heavy lifting will be done by Newsome, who didn’t have a good offseason this past winter in trading away veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin and failing to improve the offense around Flacco. The injury to tight end Dennis Pitta couldn’t be predicted, but the failure to address the receiver position in the wake of Boldin’s departure was a mistake. Philosophically, the Ravens turned away from what won them a Super Bowl last February in sacrificing offense for defense and the former suffered dramatically because of it.
Newsome will also be dealing with a tight salary cap that includes a projected $70.9 million in space devoted to just six players: defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($16 million), Flacco ($14.8 million), linebacker Terrell Suggs ($12.4 million), cornerback Lardarius Webb ($10.5 million), running back Ray Rice ($8.75 million), and right guard Marshal Yanda ($8.45 million). Barring any restructuring of the other contracts, only the release of Suggs would provide substantial cap relief as he’s scheduled to receive a $7.8 million base salary in the final year of his current deal.
That could spell the end of Suggs’ 11-year run in Baltimore unless Newsome and the Ravens try to work out a short-term extension that gives the veteran some upfront money and a lower cap figure for 2014. Suggs finished the year with 10 sacks but collected only one in his final eight games and made very little impact down the stretch.
The Ravens must address an offensive line that includes two free-agent tackles (Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher) and second-year center Gino Gradkowski, who struggled immensely in his first year as a starter. It’s unlikely that Oher will return, but Baltimore would surely like to retain Monroe after giving up two 2014 draft picks to acquire him from Jacksonville earlier in the season. They could then look to the draft to address the right tackle position or consider moving Kelechi Osemele back to the position where he played during most of his rookie year and look at guard prospects.
Improving the offensive line would go a long way in fixing a running game that was the worst in franchise history, though questions will remain about Rice’s future as a feature back.
Tight end Dennis Pitta will be an unrestricted free agent and gauging his value in the open market will be difficult after he missed most of the season with a serious hip injury, making the franchise tag a possibility to keep him in Baltimore for another season. Jacoby Jones will also hit the open market, and the Ravens must decide whether the value of his big-play ability as a returner is worth a new contract despite his shortcomings as a wideout.
The Ravens need more offensive play-makers as Torrey Smith wasn’t as productive in the second half of the season and Rice battled through injuries and ineffectiveness in the worst campaign of his career. Flacco’s underwhelming 2013 performance suggests he isn’t the rare quarterback who can dramatically elevate the play of lesser talent around him.
On the other side of the ball, defensive tackle Arthur Jones, linebacker Daryl Smith, strong safety James Ihedigbo, and cornerback Corey Graham are all scheduled to become free agents. Each is a capable player that makes a defense better, but younger and cheaper alternatives will be preferred in most cases with much work to do on the other side of the ball and little available cap space.
The Ravens will need to take a look at a pass rush that was ineffective down the stretch as well as the safety position where defensive coordinator Dean Pees was essentially forced to play two strong safeties — Ihedigbo and rookie Matt Elam — in the starting secondary. However, Newsome and the Ravens can’t make the same mistake they did this past year in focusing too much on the defense while allowing the offense to suffer.
As for coaching, Harbaugh has his flaws when it comes to time management and in-game decisions that must be assessed internally, but his track record speaks for itself after missing the playoffs for the first time in his six-year run with the Ravens. The addition of run-game coordinator Juan Castillo did not work with the Ravens finishing last in the NFL in yards per carry, so it will be interesting to see if the former Eagles offensive line coach quietly parts ways with the organization this winter.
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell deserves plenty of credit for his role in jump-starting the Ravens offense when he took over for Cam Cameron last December, but his calls this season too often lacked imagination in trying to overcome personnel deficiencies and the red-zone offense was another major deficiency. It’s worth noting that Caldwell had never been an offensive coordinator prior to his late-season promotion in 2012, so you wonder if the Ravens will — and should — at least take a look at the possibility of adding another strong offensive mind to the equation if not making a change at coordinator altogether.
It won’t be an easy offseason as Harbaugh, Flacco, and a number of others face the reality of not being good enough to play in January for the first time. It’s uncharted territory for the head coach and quarterback, and it will be interesting to see how the pair responds in overcoming that failure.
Sunday marked the official end of the Ravens’ reign as Super Bowl champions as well as a five-year run of success that may never be seen again in Baltimore. They battled all season, but the Ravens just weren’t good enough to overcome their many weaknesses and ran out of gas in their final two games against better opponents.
Nothing lasts forever, but a strong nucleus is in place to rebound in 2014 and beyond.
And Ravens fans can take satisfaction in that simple truth while coping with the unfamiliar disappointment of a quiet January and an uncertain offseason to follow.
Posted on 29 December 2013 by Glenn Clark
After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net. (Tim Horsey filled in for Ryan this past week.)
The Ravens fell to the Cincinnati Bengals , meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.
So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Tim and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”
Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.
Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”
Glenn Clark’s Slaps…
5. AQ Shipley
4. Haloti Ngata
3. Marshal Yanda
2. Joe Flacco
1. Terrell Suggs (Two Slaps)
(Continued on Page 2…)