NFL Baltimore Ravens

5 Baltimore Ravens Storylines To Follow Leading Up To Free Agency

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Baltimore Ravens' Biggest Offseason Stories

Baltimore Ravens
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Signing and releasing the right players is one of the most important aspects of the NFL, and along with contract negotiations, the Baltimore Ravens have several concerning issues that need to addressed this offseason.

Even with an eight-win season, the Ravens were very close to making the playoffs. With the loss of several key players and the team's motivational leader Ray Lewis, Baltimore still was close to making another Super Bowl run. Aside from big losses to the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, Baltimore was able to stay competitive in all of its defeats. The only win against a quality opponent, however, came against the Cincinnati Bengals.

To say the offense struggled would be putting it nicely. Ranking 18th in passing yards and 30th in rushing yards, the team needs to find a way to gel in 2014. The contract negotiations of Dennis Pitta could have become one of the biggest stories before free agency started, but the Ravens were smart to keep Pitta before he could test the open market.

Luckily, one of the few off the field distractions that Baltimore had to deal with in 2013 was Jacoby Jones getting into an altercation on a party bus. There was still pressure to make another Super Bowl appearance, but the Ravens were allowed to focus on football. For the 2014 offseason, that will unfortunately not be the case.

Between legal issues with their star running back and revamping the entire offense, there are many important stories leading into free agency. The Ravens only have a few days left to make some of the most critical decisions of the entire year, and fans are anxiously waiting to find out if they should praise or disown Ozzie Newsome.

Here are five Baltimore Ravens storylines to follow leading up to free agency.

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5. The Rushing Attack

Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce
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With the potential suspension of Ray Rice for domestic violence, Gary Kubiak will quickly need to figure out how he plans on improving the rushing attack of the Ravens in 2014. Even with an increase in rushing attempts, Bernard Pierce went from averaging 4.9 yards per carry in 2012 to 2.9 yards per carry in 2013. Rice saw a decline as well. It didn't appear that the Ravens would pick up a new running back at the end of the regular season, but circumstances have completely changed. With the future of Rice uncertain, the Ravens may look for a cheap backup in free agency or look towards the draft.

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4. Jacoby Jones Could Be Leaving Town

Jacoby Jones Baltimore Ravens
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The signing or release of Jacoby Jones will completely alter the offense. The Ravens took a huge loss with the trade of Anquan Boldin, and Jones was never able to fill in that role. Marlon Brown showed flashes of talent, but there was never a receiver for Joe Flacco to completely rely on to convert third-downs. A healthy Pitta will help, but the release of Jones would indicate that the Ravens would be committed to finding a new wide receiver to complement Torrey Smith. Jones is great in the return game, but he may not have a spot if his contract requests are too large.

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3. Michael Oher Potentially Signing Elsewhere

Michael Oher Baltimore Ravens
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Baltimore will concentrate more on trying to bring back Eugene Monroe than Michael Oher. Finding a replacement in free agency will be difficult, and letting Oher walk means that the Ravens would be using a draft pick to find someone to protect Flacco. Pay close attention to these contract negotiations.

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2. Draft Prospects

NFL Draft Baltimore Ravens
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Not only did Mike Evans meet with the Ravens at the combine, but he also summarized that he would be a great addition to the team. Most mock drafts indicate that the Ravens will draft a wide receiver within the first few rounds, so this may further indicate that Jacoby Jones will not be back. Pay close attention to any specific comments that the Ravens release on draft prospects.

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1. The Future Of Ray Rice

Ray Rice Legal Issues
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If Ray Rice does not face any disciplinary actions from the Ravens, he will most likely have some type of punishment from the NFL. Unfortunately for Rice, 2013 was the most disappointing season in his career. This incident could allow him to find a new focus and motivate him, or it could become the start of a rapid decline. When more news is released, the public will have a better understanding of what will happen to the starting running back. Whether he is suspended or not, the Ravens will need to plan accordingly.