The Baltimore Ravens Are At The Crossroads In 2018

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Since the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in February of 2013, they’ve missed the playoffs in four of the past five years. In three of the past five years, they didn’t finish with a winning record. Every year, the teams talks about how this year’s team will be different, and how all the young players they’ve accumulated will be counted on to “step up,” but there always seems to be something that’s pulling them back as there is something that’s pulling them forward, effectively keeping them in the same place.

So as the Ravens enter the 2018-2019 season, they have to ask themselves: who, or what are they going to be? Are they going to extract “one last run” out of the group of players they have assembled, or is this the year they decide to take one step backwards, in order to potentially take two steps forwards towards?

One way or another, a lot of jobs are going to be determined by the outcome of this season. Head coach John Harbaugh can’t keep trading on the fact that he led this team to a Super Bowl, considering he’s won one playoff game since then. For a franchise like the Ravens, that’s accustomed to making the postseason and being contenders each year, such droughts won’t cut it.

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There’s also the albatross of a contract of Joe Flacco. The recent three-year, $66.4 million contract signed won’t allow the Ravens to part ways with him until after 2018 at the earliest (though they’d still face a brutal $16 million hit of dead salary against the cap for doing so). But if Flacco continues to be a quarterback who’s too good to be bad but too bad to be good, it might be time to hand the team over to rookie Lamar Jackson sooner rather than later, and bite the bullet with   Flacco’s aforementioned release.

Whoever is at quarterback, they’re not likely to get a ton of help. While running back Alex Collins was a pleasant surprise for the team, he’s a free agent this offseason, and there’s always some skepticism around whether a team should spend big money to sign (or re-sign) a running back. While the Ravens invested in the tight end position in the 2018 NFL Draft, their group of wide receivers is as talent-deficient as any group in the NFL.

The calling card for the Ravens has always been defense, but the situation isn’t much rosier there. Outside of interior defensive lineman Brandon Williams, Baltimore is much thinner than we’re accustomed to seeing. In the back seven of the defense, there are salary cap questions everywhere. They’ll need to extend the contract of CJ Mosley (one of the few true building blocks for the team moving forward), but have to figure out what they’re going to do as far as re-signing Terrell Suggs, and what to do with the contracts of cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr.

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Everyone knows that this year will be the swansong for General Manager Ozzie Newsome. For as tremendous as he’s been for the organization, the problem is that he’s leaving far from a full cupboard when he departs .

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