The Ravens are rightfully basking in their Super Bowl victory, but behind the scenes, work on the 2013 season has already begun. The personnel staff has already spent countless hours scouting college players and is at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.
General manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff also must deal with free agency and the salary cap. Newsome made clear at the 'State of the Ravens' news conference after the season that the Ravens do not expect to restructure a lot of contracts as they did after the previous Super Bowl title. Translation: There is likely to be significant roster upheaval this offseason.
We’re taking a look at each Ravens position group to see who is likely to come back, who is likely to be gone, and what the ramifications are.
You can find more on the terminology (unrestricted vs. restricted free agents, etc.) here. Note that for this analysis, we look only at players who were on the final 53-man roster and injured reserve.
Unrestricted free agents: Joe Flacco
Restricted free agents: None
Exclusive-rights free agents: None
Under contract: Tyrod Taylor
There is no bigger story in Baltimore this offseason -- and perhaps in the NFL -- than Joe Flacco's contract. Flacco played out his contract as well as he possibly could -- with a Super Bowl title and the Super Bowl MVP Award. Now he's going to get paid.
How much? That's the $20 million question, and it will go a long way toward informing the rest of the Ravens' roster.
Flacco is due to become an unrestricted free agent on March 12, but that won't happen. Flacco will either work out a long-term deal with the Ravens, or if that hasn't happened by March 4, he will be given the franchise tag.
The Ravens could give Flacco a nonexclusive tag, for about $14.6 million, but any team with a lot of cap space and the willingness to trade two first-round picks could swoop in and make an offer that the cap-challenged Ravens couldn't match. Or, the Ravens could give Flacco the exclusive franchise tag, which would prohibit him from negotiating with any other teams and would pay him about $20 million next season.
The ideal solution, for both the team and Flacco, would be to work out a long-term deal before March 4. The Ravens could structure it in such a way that the cap hit wouldn't be quite so large this season -- though make no mistake, the contract will be a whopper; Flacco would get long-term security, which a franchise tag does not give since the tag is essentially a one-year contract.
The Ravens and Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, will reportedly meet in Indianapolis this week. Newsome said at his end-of-season press conference that before last season began, the Ravens and Flacco were "very close to a deal, but we did not come to an agreement."
Flacco rolled the dice somewhat by walking away from a deal last August, and his stock certainly soared after a playoff run that included 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He finished 317-for-531 for a career-high 3,817 yards in the regular season, with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His passer rating of 87.7 was slightly above his career average of 86.0. But he continued to play his biggest in the biggest games, outplaying Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in succession to reach the Super Bowl.
He also is about the most durable quarterback there is, starting every game in the five seasons since the Ravens drafted him.
Flacco's durability, in fact, has left little action for Tyrod Taylor, but he is likely to return as the Ravens backup. The Ravens like his athleticism and the different look he brings to the offense. Taylor beat out veteran Curtis Painter for the No. 2 job, and in training camp, coach John Harbaugh frequently said the Ravens were going to find packages and ways to get Taylor on the field.
That never really happened, though. Taylor appeared in six games this past season, seeing his most extensive action in the regular-season finale when most of the starters rested most of the game. Taylor finished 17-for-29 for 179 yards, and he also ran 14 times for 73 yards.
The Ravens had Dennis Dixon on the practice squad this past season, and he served to simulate read-option quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. Dixon has moved on to the Eagles, and the Ravens will bring in two or three more quarterbacks in camp, with one likely to land on the practice squad again.