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The Baltimore Ravens have long been a team with a great defense that carried the load, but their run to Super Bowl XLVII has seen their offense start to become more dynamic too. The odd thing is this is a team healthier than they have been all year, plus playing their best football, but still their immediate future is filled with question marks. Their Super Bowl opponent is the San Francisco 49ers and their window of opportunity is just opening (article on the 49ers immediate future is RIGHT HERE) but I am not sure how this Ravens team will look going forward.
We know Ray Lewis is their leader, their heartbeat, their beast that they follow weekly, but Super Bowl XLVII will be his final game regardless of the outcome. Just replacing Lewis is a massive undertaking that will change the look of this team going forward, but their is much more going on with this roster too. The Ravens are unlikely to have a lot of money available to spend, but they will save anywhere from $4-$5 million once Lewis retires (depending on when the Ravens complete the retirement they could defer some of the money owed to 2014, or they may decide to eat it all in 2013…either way Lewis retiring does save the Ravens a chunk of change this off-season).
Joe Flacco has caught fire in the playoffs, but he is an impending free-agent who is sure to have suitors if he reaches free-agency. I say “if” because there is a chance that the Ravens could re-up with him on a long-term deal, and there is also a chance the Ravens could apply their franchise tag to Flacco as I would have to think that retaining him is a must for this franchise.
The tight ends in Baltimore are getting better and better, but both Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are free-agents. The interesting thing here is that both are restricted free-agents so the Ravens will have an opportunity to retain one or both of them
On defense the Ravens have several decisions to make about their secondary as starters Ed Reed and Cary Williams, plus a depth guy in James Ihedigbo are free-agents. Replacing Lewis will be tough, same can be said for replacing Reed but I would think that finances will dictate a split for Reed and the Ravens. Williams has become a starter and I will be interested to see how the Ravens proceed with him.
On defense a guy like Ma’ake Kemoeatu has been a remarkable story this season, and he has proven he can still contribute on the NFL level so we will see what he does in free-agency. Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger both developed very well this season as Ellerbe became great vs the run and Kruger became Baltimore’s best pass rusher (article on the Ravens linebacker group is RIGHT HERE). Both are free-agents and if the Ravens are too strapped financially to re-up with either of them then there will be several teams interested.
The Ravens are in the bottom third of the NFL for average age of their team, and their offense, and also their defense so they may be looking to add some youth this off-season but with limited funds and important in-house players to re-sign we are likely to see that occur through the draft only.