We flashback to January. The Ravens have won the Super Bowl, Ray Lewis goes out on top. The improbable team who had to win by a freak hail mary play in Denver and had to win in New England to even get to the Super Bowl, and then they went and won it! Who was the most important player? Ray Rice? Ray Lewis? Ed Reed, surely? Terrell Suggs then? Was it Bryant McKinnie? No? Then who!? Surprise, it was Joe Flacco. The calm, cool and collected signal caller who had been accused of being carried by his defenses since he had come into the league was white hot. He threw 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions down the stretch, and helped bring Baltimore its second title in the team’s history.
Joe Flacco was then compensated for his efforts, as he received a 6-year, $120 million dollar contract. Was this probably a little too much for Flacco? Likely, but in today’s NFL, where there are 32 teams, and approximately 16-20 legitimate franchise passers, you’ve got to protect one when you’ve got him. The contract Flacco signed, despite the gaudy number, was extremely team friendly. However, the team friendly period is over, and it’s time GM Ozzie Newsome starts talking to Joe Cool about renegotiating his contract to lessen its cap hit on the salary cap.
Don’t expect Flacco to be stubborn; he wants to win, and he knows he needs to restructure his contract to acquire more talent. I know it doesn’t seem like that long ago that he was drafted, but Flacco just turned 31 in January. His window to win is closing.
What the Ravens need to do with the money (they’ll likely re-backload) is vital to this year’s success.
First of all: Baltimore was bad this year, meaning they get first cracks at free agency, something that they’re not accustomed to winning ten plus games per year. Someone like Antonio Cromartie, who was just cut by the New York Jets, could be someone the Ravens (who need help in the secondary) could look at. Usually veterans who have been cut will take one year deals used as “prove it” contracts, to attempt to earn another contract the following season. If they get cut, it’s little reward for the team who signed them.
The other major thing, is re-signing their own players. Stud left guard Kelechi Osemele has reportedly turned down a contract that would have made him the second highest paid player on offense, so he’s likely gone. This opens up a bit of money to sign other important players, like the best kicker in the NFL, Justin Tucker. While it may seem silly that a team would pay significant money to a kicker, like I mentioned with quarterbacks, if you had a good one it’s tough to let them go. Some others I think will likely be retained include: OLB Courtney Upshaw, LB Albert McClellan and LS Morgan Cox.
Bottom line, if the Ravens want to get competitive again quickly, they’ll need to draft well of course. But they’ll also need to hit free agency with some fervor and restock this roster with talent. With Steve Smith turning 37 and the long in the tooth Terrell Suggs(33) coming off of Achilles injuries, the Ravens don’t have a ton of time to get this thing done. Expect the roster to be supplemented with some quality free agent signings.