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 will attend the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next week.
General manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff also must deal with free agency, the salary cap, and the enormous issue of Joe Flacco's contract status. 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: None
Restricted free agents: David Reed
Exclusive-rights free agents: None
Under contract: Anquan Boldin, Tandon Doss, Jacoby Jones, Torrey Smith, Tommy Streeter, Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams
On paper, this looks pretty simple: All the Ravens' top receivers are under contract for next season. But it definitely isn't that simple. With the Ravens' up against the salary cap, they have major questions about Anquan Boldin, who is due $6 million next season and has a cap figure of about $7.5 million. Likewise, Jacoby Jones is due $3 million, and has a $1 million roster bonus that would kick in on March 16.
Can they Ravens afford to keep both? Can they afford not to? Could either of them, who were both at the heart of the Ravens' Super Bowl run, be cut loose as cap casualties? The short answer, honestly, is yes. The salary cap can be cruel.
General manager Ozzie Newsome has said the team won't restructure contracts to keep this team together as they did after the previous Super Bowl title. Still, they have restructured a contract or two in the past, and they could do so with Boldin to get his cap number down this season. But that would probably involve extending his contract, which expires after next season, and Boldin will be 33 in October.
Still, Boldin showed he still has plenty left in the tank after 10 NFL seasons. He led the Ravens with 65 catches for 921 yards in the regular season and was phenomenal in the playoffs, with 22 catches for 380 and four touchdowns, all team highs. Boldin doesn't bring the breakaway speed, but his hands and his toughness remain top-notch. How much do the Ravens value that? Boldin's status is one of the offseason's more interesting storylines.
Jones is four years younger than Boldin and could be a candidate for a contract restructuring. Like Boldin, he has said that hopes to retire as a Raven.
If Boldin and/or Jones leave, Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson would likely fill their respective roles. Doss had seven catches for 123 yards this season, but for a player viewed as having excellent hands, he had his share of drops. Thompson held the starting return job early in the season before losing it to Jones and hardly played again. His spot on the team could be linked to Jones' future.
The Ravens still have Torrey Smith in the fold as an outstanding deep threat. Smith had 49 catches for 855 yards this past season, and the way he torched future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey in the playoffs at Denver was eye-opening. The combination of Smith's speed and Flacco's arm gives the Ravens a downfield threat at all times.
Williams, the hometown-boy-made-good from Poly and the University of Maryland, never really got on track in his second season. He rarely played on offense, seeing primarily special teams duty before ending his season on injured reserve. For the third straight year, he'll be on the roster bubble come August. Ditto for Streeter, who was placed on injured reserve before the season and is viewed as a project. David Reed worked hard to return from a torn ACL and appeared in five games, primarly on special teams. The Ravens could use a low-round tender on him.