Ravens decision-makers have tough decisions

Ravens decision-makers have tough decisions
January 7, 2014, 10:30 am
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Harbaugh on next year's improvements

The Ravens have some tough financial decisions to make, involving some of their highest-paid players and free agents they would like to retain. Linebacker Terrell Suggs could have his contract restructured, and free agent defensive tackle Arthur Jones may simply be too expensive to keep. More should be learned about the Ravens’ offseason plans during their Wednesday morning press conference. Owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and coach John Harbaugh are all scheduled to attend. Among the many issues those men must weigh after a disappointing 8-8 season include:

@ Suggs’ contract

He is entering the final year of his deal, with a base salary of $7.8 million. The Ravens may approach Suggs about restructuring, adding years, but reducing the salary cap number for next season. That would give the Ravens more financial flexibility during free agency. But if the Ravens ask Suggs to restructure, whether he and the Ravens can agree on a price remains to be seen.

@ Which free agents are the top priority, and how much to offer them

The Ravens are expected to let free agent right tackle Michael Oher walk after a disappointing season. However, the Ravens probably have at least seven free agents they would like to keep at the right price – Jones, cornerback Corey Graham, wide receiver Jacoby Jones, safety James Ihedigbo, left tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta, and linebacker Daryl Smith.

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Keeping Monroe is a priority, an athletic 26-year-old left tackle to protect quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side. The Ravens could use the franchise tag on Pitta, which would pay him a reasonable $6.709 million for one season.

However, what happens with Brown, Graham, Jones, Ihedigbo, and Smith remains very uncertain, because they will attract interest elsewhere. The Ravens lost linebacker Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk to retirement last offseason, but they also lost talented players and leaders including wide receiver Anquan Boldin, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Krueger, and safeties Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed.

Expect another offseason of significant change. But after an 8-8 season, there is more pressure on the Ravens to improve.