Baltimore Ravens: Ozzie Newsome

The Baltimore Ravens' braintrust of owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh and team president Dick Cass spoke for 50 minutes in their annual "State of the Ravens" news conference on Tuesday.

The blog will address many of the topics more in depth over the next couple of weeks, but here are 10 things we learned:

1. Running back Justin Forsett is more of a priority than originally thought. Forsett finished fifth in the NFL in rushing, but it was unclear whether the Ravens saw him as just a product of former coordinator Gary Kubiak's system. Newsome pointed out that Forsett's value increased more this offseason when he learned about how many young backs Forsett has mentored in his career. If the Ravens draft a running back this year in the first couple of rounds -- which is a distinct possibility -- Forsett "would be an asset," Newsome said.

2. Newsome still hasn't thought about retiring. Even though Newsome will only turn 59 in March, his future is a question every offseason since the team named Eric DeCosta the general manager-in-waiting. Those questions only increased after a health scare in 2013 when Newsome was hospitalized following a game in Chicago. Newsome wouldn't divulge how many years he wants to remain the Ravens' personnel decision-maker, but he didn't sound like someone who is entering his final season in the NFL. "I enjoy coming to work every day," Newsome said. "The first time I walk in here and it doesn't feel good, then that's when I'll call the boss and let him know."

[+] EnlargeTorrey Smith
AP Photo/Nick WassThe Ravens appear resigned to losing wide receiver Torrey Smith in free agency.
3. The Ravens know they have a lot of work to do to create salary-cap room. Newsome said twice that the Ravens "will exhaust every avenue" to get as much cap flexibility as they can. Here's the translation: the team needs to make plenty of moves before the start of the new league year on March 10. The Ravens will need to sign players to extensions (like defensive tackle Haloti Ngata), restructure contracts (like cornerback Lardarius Webb) and cut players (like defensive end Chris Canty) to get under the projected $145 million cap and create enough room to sign their own free agents as well as a few others in the free-agent market.

4. The Ravens are prepared to lose wide receiver Torrey Smith and linebacker Pernell McPhee. There wasn't much optimism expressed in keeping their top two free agents. When asked about each player, team officials essentially said the same thing: the Ravens don't have the cap room to pay "market value" for Smith and McPhee. "It would hurt our roster overall in trying to retain other guys," Newsome said.

5. It sounds like Matt Elam will be given a chance to regain his starting job. Elam, the Ravens' 2013 first-round pick, struggled mightily last season and lost his spot in the starting lineup after eight games. There are three factors that are working in his favor: starter Darian Stewart is a free agent, Terrence Brooks (knee) is going to miss at least the first six games of the regular season and the Ravens don't have the cap room right now to sign a proven safety. "Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year," Newsome said. "He has to be."

6. Bisciotti really, really admires the job that Harbaugh is doing. Bisciotti's appreciation for his head coach was on full display. There were three separate instances where Bisciotti made a point to praise Harbaugh. Bisciotti said Harbaugh's success in the 2014 season "reminded him of the good things" during his self-proclaimed worst year as an owner. "I think what John did and the way he handed the coaches and the players was masterful," Bisciotti said.

7. Tight end Owen Daniels is interested in returning. Many predict Daniels will follow Kubiak to Denver when free agency begins next month. But the Ravens aren't writing off Daniels just yet. "He's very interested in coming back here," Harbaugh said.

8. Ravens officials have already begun talking about Joe Flacco's 2016 salary-cap number. The biggest storyline next offseason will be Flacco's cap number, which soars to a league-high $28.55 million. The Ravens will have to either rework his contract or face the possibility of releasing him. "We've already addressed that to a certain degree [in meetings this offseason]," Newsome said. "We'll be prepared to deal with Joe at that number when we get there."

9. The Ravens may not have an answer on Dennis Pitta's status until the summer. There's still no certainty that Pitta will play again after hip surgeries the past two seasons. At this point, the only experienced tight end under contract is Crockett Gillmore. "This is a tight end-friendly offense that we watched last year," Newsome said. "The better the tight ends can get on the field, the better this offense will be and the better Joe will play."

10. The Ravens made it clear that they are taking domestic violence very seriously. Ravens officials once again acknowledged that they handled the Ray Rice domestic violence incident poorly, and they feel that they should be judged on how they deal with this issue going forward. The Ravens have taken a hard stance on this issue, saying the team isn't going to be interested in adding players who have a domestic violence incident in their past. "I think our fans have the right to be sensitive and expect us to perform better than maybe some of them thought we did," Bisciotti said. "That's our goal -- to perform better and have them say, 'I'm glad the way they responded.'"
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' stance on not acquiring players with a history of domestic violence is admirable. It speaks loudly about how serious the organization is taking this issue since the Ray Rice scandal, even more so than their charitable donations to the cause.

Still, maintaining this uncompromising position is going to be difficult. It might be unrealistic in this bottom-line NFL.

[+] EnlargeDorial Green-Beckham
AP Photo/David J. PhillipThe Baltimore Ravens are staying away from players such as Dorial Green-Beckham that have been accused of domestic violence.
A team's success is based on whether it is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, not staying out of the police blotter. A head coach won't hold onto his job if his players stay out of trouble and produce only a handful of wins year after year.

The draft's most talented wide receiver could fall into the Ravens' lap near the bottom of the first round, and the Ravens apparently won't consider taking Dorial Green-Beckham because he allegedly pushed a woman down some stairs. Green-Beckham was never arrested, but the Ravens presumably aren't interested in an impact playmaker based on an accusation.

There's no questioning that domestic violence is an important issue, and the NFL had to take a tougher approach when these incidents occur. But taking an extreme reaction like the Ravens are is a tough business model for success.

Randy Moss and Dez Bryant were two wide receivers who slipped to the bottom of the first round because of character concerns, and you won't hear the Minnesota Vikings or the Dallas Cowboys voicing any regrets about their decisions. It would be different if the Ravens decided to cross Green-Beckham off their draft board after interviewing him about the incident. But it sounds like the Ravens are moving on without asking one question to a receiver who could take their offense to the next level.

The same likely goes for wide receiver Brandon Marshall or cornerback Cary Williams if they're salary-cap casualties because of their domestic violence incidents. It's understandable why the Ravens are being extremely cautious about this issue after the number of hits to the organization's reputation over the past 12 months.

The problem with this "Ray Rice rule" is Rice didn't have any red flags when the Ravens drafted him. He was one of the most active members in the community before the video surfaced of him knocking out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, elevator.

There's no way the Ravens can avoid another domestic violence issue with a player. According to FiveThirtyEight, domestic violence accounts for 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among NFL players. The Ravens are just trying to do all they can to cut down their chances of an ordeal like last season's.

This is the right decision in terms of rebuilding the Ravens' reputation, but if Green-Beckham becomes the next Moss or Bryant, you can make the argument that it's not the right decision in building a championship team.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome drafted Ray Rice in 2008, gave him $22 million in bonus money in 2012 and accompanied him to New York for his meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell three months ago.

[+] EnlargeOzzie Newsome
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsOzzie Newsome did not meet with the media on the day he released Ray Rice.
So, where was Newsome when the Ravens released Rice on Monday? The person in charge of the team's personnel moves was not in front of reporters after the Ravens made their biggest move of the year.

Instead, coach John Harbaugh was the only team official who spoke about Rice. Harbaugh's job is to get the Ravens ready to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in a couple of days; it isn't to address a personnel move that made headlines across the nation.

Newsome was at Ravens headquarters Monday. He passed reporters when he was headed out to watch practice. For some reason, he didn't have 10 to 15 minutes to discuss the release of the second-leading rusher in franchise history.

According to Harbaugh, Newsome did talk to Rice after the team released him. He apparently didn't want to talk about a former second-round pick knocking a woman unconscious.

During a time like this, Newsome, owner Steve Bisciotti and president Dick Cass should have lined up in front of the media. At the very least, Newsome should have stepped forward. He hasn't talked to Baltimore reporters since the draft four months ago.

A popular saying within the organization and fan base is: "In Ozzie, we trust." It comes from Newsome making the right decisions at the right time. It wasn't true on Monday, when Newsome left his coach to face the media onslaught alone.
The Baltimore Ravens weekly chat was a time to address what the Ravens did in the draft as well as what they didn't do. You can click here for a full transcript. Here are some highlights:

Bill (Long Beach): Does Ozzie have something up his sleeve for the offensive line? This group was horrible last year even with Monroe. I don't see how we upgraded much aside from center Jeremy Zuttah.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): You have to remember LG Kelechi Osemele missed most of last season with a back injury. So, his return factors into this as well. Plus, RG Marshal Yanda had offseason shoulder surgery last year and didn't look as dominant. He should be better this year, too. Not sure what people wanted the Ravens to do. Monroe was the best option at left tackle. They improved at center. The Ravens were going to stick with Osemele and Yanda. The only question mark is right tackle.

Rich (New Jersey): Ray Rice is dealing with off the field problem, Bernard Pierce is coming off shoulder surgery, and there is Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro. By the time season opener rolls around, which one of the four will Baltimore like see starting ?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Ray Rice is the starting running back. He's not going to serve jail time, so the only issue left is a suspension. I'm guessing that will be in the two to four game range. If Rice is unavailable, the Ravens are banking on Pierce, who should be ready by the start of training camp. Because Taliaferro is a small school prospect, I'm not sure he's ready to start right away.

Pedestrian (South Orange, NJ): We've heard Eric Winston's name often for a free agent tackle pick-up, but who are the free-agent corners that would receive consideration? Do the front office "insiders" already have an idea of who will be cut June 1st?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): The best cornerbacks available right now are Terrell Thomas and Dominique Franks. You don't see too many June 1 cuts anymore because teams can designate them as a June 1 cut and get release them in March.

Mohammed (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia): If the Ravens were high on Towson running back Terrance West, why didn't they reach for him more then getting a blocking tight end?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN): West was taken five spots before the Ravens selected TE Crockett Gillmore. The Ravens couldn't have traded up because it was a compensatory pick. Earlier in that round, the Ravens got their starting safety in Terrence Brooks.
It's become a yearly tradition to ask Ozzie Newsome how long he plans to remain the Baltimore Ravens' general manager, and this year is no different.

The team's official website asked Newsome how long he would stay the Ravens' personnel decision-maker, and he gave a familiar answer.

“I enjoy coming to work every day. This is a job where each day there is something new,” Newsome said. “I don’t have a bad day at the office. When I do start to have bad days, that’s when I will start to walk away.”

[+] EnlargeOzzie Newsome
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsCould this be Ozzie Newsome's last draft as the Ravens' GM?
It's always been difficult to read Newsome, whether it's about his plans for retirement or the draft. That's why he is such a great general manager.

No one would be surprised if Newsome remained in his position for the next five years. Many forget that he's only 58 years old.

In the same respect, no one would be surprised if Newsome stepped down over the next year or two. He has nothing to prove as a general manager after building two Super Bowl teams. He had a health scare in November, when he was hospitalized overnight after the Ravens' overtime loss in Chicago.

Plus, the Ravens have been prepared for his departure since naming Eric DeCosta the general manager-in-waiting two years ago. At some point, the Ravens have to reward DeCosta for being a loyal soldier beyond giving him raises.

There was a moment at last week's pre-draft news conference when many reporters thought Newsome was announcing his retirement. When these media sessions end, Newsome is typically the first out the door. This time, there was announcement that Newsome wanted to make some closing remarks.

"I don’t know where this draft is going to stand in the 19 years that we’ve been doing this, but I do trust the information and the people that will be a part of the draft ... and we will bring in some players who are going to impact our football team, not only this year, but in years to come," Newsome said. "I just wanted to take the opportunity to sum this whole thing up, [and say] how pleased [I am] and how good it is to work with the people that I work with and the jobs that they do. They make my job very easy."

Was this Newsome's way of hinting this is his final season? Perhaps. In my 14 years of covering the Ravens, I don't remember an instance where Newsome ended a news conference quite like this. I also know Newsome doesn't tip his hand too often.

For now, Newsome is focused on drafting players who will help make the Ravens a playoff team once again. If he decides to return for his 20th draft next year, he'll likely get asked how long he plans to remain general manager.
With the 17th overall pick of this year's draft, the Baltimore Ravens have a shot at finding an immediate starter, an impact player and someone who can end a once unthinkable streak.

Widely regarded as the gold standard in digging up the best talent in college football, the Ravens have gone five drafts without selecting a Pro Bowl player. There have been 47 players drafted by the Ravens since their last Pro Bowl player, running back Ray Rice in 2008.

No one could have envisioned such a stretch from the Ravens, who have drafted the likes of Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, Jamal Lewis and Terrell Suggs. In the franchise's first 13 drafts, the Ravens selected 19 Pro Bowl players, which was tied with the New England Patriots for the most during that period. Now, the Ravens are one of four teams who have failed to select a Pro Bowl player since 2009, and the others (Jaguars, Jets and Raiders) have all fired their general managers during that time.

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the NFL who would suggest Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta have lost their touch. It's just a startling trend for a franchise that has not only drafted NFL defensive and offensive players of the year but potentially three Hall of Fame ones.

"We don't care about Pro Bowls," DeCosta said this week. "We care about Super Bowls."

It's difficult to criticize the Ravens when they put it that way. In 2012, the Ravens won their second Super Bowl with 39 homegrown players on their 53-man roster. In comparison, the Seahawks won the championship three months ago with 29 players who were drafted by the team or signed as undrafted rookies.

While the Ravens haven't landed all-star players lately, the fact that they have been a perennial playoff team shows they've been able to add productive starters such as offensive tackle Michael Oher, cornerback Lardarius Webb, tight end Dennis Pitta, defensive lineman Arthur Jones linebacker Courtney Upshaw and wide receiver Torrey Smith. The Ravens aren't raising the Lombardi Trophy in 2012 without contributions from those players.

The Ravens, though, realize their recent drafts haven't reached their usual level of excellence. In their last five, there are more players who are no longer with the team (14) than who became starters (11). An argument could be made that the Ravens' top rookies the past two years were undrafted (kicker Justin Tucker and wide receiver Marlon Brown).

So, why haven't the Ravens' drafts been as flashy? They are a victim of their own success. Being a playoff team every season means you draft at the bottom of each round.

From 2009 to 2013, the Ravens entered the draft with these first-round picks: No. 26, No. 25, No. 26, No. 29 and No. 32. It's difficult to pick a Pro Bowl player at this point in the first round. Since 2009, only four Pro Bowl players have been drafted after pick No. 25 in the first round. This shows the Ravens aren't the only ones who aren't finding the flashy players in this area of the first round.

"When you pick higher in the draft, you have a greater chance of hitting a home run," DeCosta said. "When you're picking lower, you're going hit a lot of singles and doubles. A lot of our top picks were guys who were the fourth pick in the draft, the sixth pick in the draft. You don't want to pick up there. The challenge is when you do, you have to nail it. You have to find one of those impact guys. For us, we want guys who contribute, they're good citizens and play right away."

There have been other factors as well. In 2009, the Ravens could've ended up with linebacker Clay Matthews and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer with their top two picks instead of Paul Kruger and Oher. A year later, the Ravens gambled and lost when they traded out of the first round and took linebacker Sergio Kindle with their first pick. Kindle fractured his skull after falling down stairs before his first training camp and only played three games in his career.

"The process is we grade the players, and we allow the tape to give us the most information," Newsome said. "And our scouts do an unbelievable job of getting background information and bringing that to the table. What we try to do is -- I guess I learned this from the very first draft I went in by Milt Davis who had played for the Colts and was a Colt scout -- you check your ego at the door. And when you check your ego at the door and we allow all of the information to dictate how we are going to set the board, then we just pick the player that is available to us."

The player available to the Ravens this year is expected to be better than any during this five-year draft drought, just based on where they're selecting. After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Ravens find themselves in the middle of the first round. Pro Bowl players who were taken in this range include: defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, guard Mike Iupati, linebacker Brian Cushing and offensive tackle Branden Albert.

"I'm excited because I see the quality of player that we can get," DeCosta said. "We haven't seen that type of player in a few years. It's exciting. We just can't miss the pick. We've got to nail the pick."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome was asked whether his perception of Alabama players has changed since the disappointing outcome with linebacker Rolando McClain, who retired for a second time since signing a contract with the team last year.

"Have I lost faith in Alabama? My son is still there," Newsome said. "I think that takes care of that one."

It's unknown whether Newsome's son would've passed the Ravens' conditioning test, but I digress.

Based on the Ravens' unusual year-long commitment to McClain, some have questioned whether Newsome, the biggest Alabama fan north of Tuscaloosa, is partial to the Crimson Tide players. This would ramp up if the Ravens selected Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or linebacker C.J. Mosley in the first round this year.

History shows the Ravens do like to draft Alabama players. In their 18 drafts, the Ravens have selected six players from Alabama, which is tied for second with Miami for the most players drafted from one school. Only Oklahoma has had more players drafted by the Ravens (seven). It should be pointed out that the Ravens have never drafted an Alabama player in the first round.

As for McClain, Newsome didn't provide much insight on what happened with the linebacker.

"Rolando retired," he said. "At the end of the day, a person has to make a decision whether he wants to play football or not play football. It was his decision to retire."
The report that the Baltimore Ravens are among the six teams showing the most interest in Michael Sam was initially surprising.

Sam
It has nothing to do with the fact Sam is set to become the first openly gay NFL player. It's the fact he doesn't fit into the Ravens' base defense.

Sam struggled in space at the Senior Bowl practices, increasing questions about his ability to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He's also not big enough to line up at end in a 3-4 defense.

So, are the Ravens really interested in Sam? I can see Baltimore valuing Sam as a role player. The Ravens may use one of their last picks (a compensatory pick in the fifth round along with a sixth-round selection) on Sam because they view him as a situational pass-rusher and a core special teams player.

"Any player that has the qualities to be a great player and a good teammate, is a guy that fits us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL combine when asked about Sam. "We're really good at helping players, any player, become a part of our team."

Last season at Missouri, Sam led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He was named the SEC's co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Sam didn't post an impressive 40-yard time (4.91 seconds) at the combine, but the Ravens weigh a player's motor on film over timed sprints.

The Ravens have bigger needs than outside linebacker. All five of the Ravens' outside linebackers return this season, including Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw. But general manager Ozzie Newsome is always looking to add more pass-rushers.

Rob Rang, a draft analyst for CBS Sports, sees a connection with the Ravens, comparing Sam to Dumervil.

"Few undersized pass-rushers are capable of beating the odds like Dumervil but he's the model optimists will point to in projecting Sam to the NFL," Rang said. "Like Dumervil, Sam has an explosive burst and is more powerful than his relatively short frame might suggest."

Newsome said he doesn't believe Sam would have a problem fitting in the locker room. Sam made headlines in February by disclosing he is gay.

"He's been a good player, he's been in the locker room. It's what you, the media, what are you all going to do with it?" Newsome said at the combine. "I mean, once he gets in and he can rush the quarterback, get the quarterback on the ground and make tackles, he's going to be a good teammate. But the biggest thing is how the media is going to deal with it.

"This is something that's new to the league. We all we have to adapt to it. I think our locker room has had the tendency to adapt to things a lot smoother than maybe the media does."

The other teams showing interest in Sam are the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets, according to The Baltimore Sun.
A look at what the national media is predicting for the Baltimore Ravens with the 17th overall pick:

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
Posted: April 10
Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Banks' comment: "The Ravens are having the kind of strong offseason you'd expect them to assemble after getting the smelling salts treatment under their noses: coming off a playoff-less season for the first time since the close of the Brian Billick coaching era in 2007. And having Clinton-Dix, the top-rated safety, waiting for them at 17 makes this one of the easier draft debates conducted in the Ravens' war room."

Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
Posted: March 25
Pick: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Brooks' comment: "Gary Kubiak's arrival in Baltimore will change the core traits the Ravens' personnel department looks for in offensive linemen. Martin's athleticism, balance and technical skills are ideal fits for the Ravens' new zone-based blocking scheme."

Cooks
Charlie Campbell, Walter Football
Posted: April 7
Pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Campbell's comment: "The Ravens missed Anquan Boldin last season and need to get more receiving weapons for Joe Flacco. Steve Smith is on his last legs and may not provide much next season. A receiver like Cooks could cause a lot of mismatch problems on the other side of the field from Torrey Smith."

Charles Davis, NFL.com
Posted: March 18
Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Davis' comment: "Not a need pick, but too talented to pass up if he lasts this long."

Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated
Posted: April 3
Pick: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Farrar's comment: "What we do know is that the team wants to move 2013 first-rounder Matt Elam to strong safety, leaving it in the lurch when it comes to deep coverage. Pryor, who I actually like a bit better than Clinton-Dix, is physical in the run game and can handle everything from slot duty to center field. He’s not quite as fast as Earl Thomas, but he plays with a similar disregard for his own body -- and the bodies of his opponents."

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network
Posted: April 9
Pick: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Jeremiah's comment: "The Ravens could look at the receiver position here, but safety is a higher priority."

Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports
Posted: April 11
Pick: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Kirwan's comment: "Big Cyrus had a very good pro day and the doctors declared him ready to go. The Ravens have to do a better job of protecting Flacco, so it comes down to Zack Martin or Kouandjio. The upside is with the latter, and Ozzie Newsome is an Alabama guy."

Ourlads' Scouting Service
Posted: March 26
Pick: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Ourlads' comment: "The Ravens need help at center, guard and tackle. Martin fills one of the three positions. He projects inside from left tackle. He will get a chance to play on the edge first because he uses his hands well and is an efficient pass protector. Intense and focused. Good body control and balance."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Posted: April 10
Pick: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Prisco's comment: "He can play either guard or tackle, which would give the Ravens some flexibility."

Rob Rang, CBS Sports
Posted: April 14
Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Rang's comment: "General manager Ozzie Newsome is a master on draft day in large part because he sticks to the Best Player Available strategy. Lewan is a top 10 talent, whose propensity for over-aggression on and off the field could result in a bit of a slide."

If you have an Insider subscription, you can click here for the latest mock drafts from Mel Kiper Jr. Insider and Todd McShay Insider.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has built two Super Bowl champion teams. He was the architect of one of the most dominating defenses in NFL history. He selected a Hall of Fame offensive tackle in Jonathan Ogden with his first draft pick and should have two other picks headed to Canton with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

This offseason, Newsome will certainly add to his reputation if he can fix one of the worst offenses in team history. He has the money to do it. The Ravens have $28 million in salary-cap space, the sixth-highest in the NFL. But can he find the right players to put around quarterback Joe Flacco?

[+] EnlargeOzzie Newsome
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesRavens GM Ozzie Newsome needs to fix an offense that was 29th in total yards last season.
Those who follow the Ravens' offseason mantra "In Ozzie We Trust" believe he can assemble the right supporting cast. Others may have their doubts, based on history. The one smudge on Newsome's impeccable track record has been his inability to put together a high-flying offense, outside of the four games in the 2012 Super Bowl run.

The Ravens have gone 16 straight seasons without a top-10 offense, which is tied for the fifth-longest streak in NFL history. The previous Baltimore offense to reach that mark was the 1997 team, which featured Vinny Testaverde throwing passes and Bam Morris running the ball.

Last season, the Ravens’ defense was playoff-caliber, and their offense was one befitting a last-place team. When you look at the statistics on offense -- 29th in total yards and 25th in points scored -- it’s hard to believe the Ravens finished 8-8. The only way they become a Super Bowl contender again is to improve an offense that failed to score more than 20 points in 11 games last season.

“[Coach John Harbaugh] and I have had several conversations of what we think we need to do to get our offense better -- an offense that can not only just perform in crucial times like we did down the stretch [in the 2012 Super Bowl run], but to be able to play a 60-minute football game,” Newsome said at the end of the season. “He and I are very much on the same page."

The Ravens have already made strides toward that end, hiring Gary Kubiak as their offensive coordinator and signing tight end Dennis Pitta to a five-year deal. But their work is far from over.

Every move that Newsome makes this offseason should be done with the intention of helping Flacco, whom the Ravens know can be a championship quarterback with the right players around him. They saw it 14 months ago.

Their priority in free agency has to be upgrading the offensive line. Their top pick in the draft has to be either a wide receiver, tight end or offensive tackle.

Newsome's strategy in free agency has always been about patience. Right player, right price. Don't make a splash early. Find the deals when the market settles down.

There's a vibe that the Ravens may show more urgency this year. Newsome said at the end of the season that the Ravens would be "active" in free agency and indicated last month that the team will "use every avenue" to get better. If the Ravens want to have an aggressive offense, perhaps it's time to get more aggressive in adding players.

Newsome hasn't hidden the fact that he wants to get bigger on the interior of the offensive line and add a reliable pass-catcher who can convert third downs as well as run after the catch.

The best free-agent center, Alex Mack, might be off the Ravens' wish list after the Cleveland Browns put the transition tag on him Monday. The other options are more under-the-radar, 20-something prospects like Brian De La Puente (New Orleans), Ryan Wendell (New England) and Joe Hawley (Atlanta).

There are more options at wide receiver in free agency, although there are risks with each one. Denver's Eric Decker averaged 86 catches the past two seasons, but he had Peyton Manning throwing the ball to him. The New York Giants' Hakeem Nicks has size (208 pounds) and youth (26 years old), but he didn't score a touchdown last season. New England's Julian Edelman caught 105 passes in 2013, but his numbers may be the result of the Patriots' system. Seattle's Golden Tate led the league in yards after catch per reception (7.75), but he has never had more than 64 receptions in a season.

"I think we’ve identified the type of receiver that we want," Newsome said. "And I think before the 2014 season ends, we will have that guy on our football team.”

What has made Newsome one of the best decision-makers in the NFL is his ability to recognize his mistakes and avoid repeating them. Last offseason was a tough lesson, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The Ravens traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a sixth-round pick and didn’t replace him in either free agency or the draft. They re-signed offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie based on four games the previous year. They believed Gino Gradkowski was ready to be a starting center, and didn’t have a proven safety net other than A.Q. Shipley. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

As a result, Flacco threw a career-high 22 interceptions and running back Ray Rice averaged a career-low 3.1 yards per carry. The dismal year for the offense extended to the offseason, when Rice was arrested last month in an altercation involving his fiancée at a casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

By next week, Newsome will start his plan of reconstructing the Ravens' offense. A year from now, everyone will know whether Newsome did enough to improve it.
Let's take a look at the Baltimore Ravens' Twitter mailbag:

 
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome sounded Saturday like a decision-maker who is willing to give running back Ray Rice a second chance.

Rice
Rice
"Right now, I feel very good about his side of the story, but I also feel very good about what he's done since that to help himself to not allow himself to get in a situation like that one again," Newsome told reporters at the NFL combine.

Rice was arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence after a physical altercation with his fiancee early Saturday morning at an Atlantic City casino. No court date has been set.

Based off what Newsome said, this could be the Ravens' stance with Rice going forward: He wasn't in any trouble before the incident, and he's proactive in making sure he stays out of trouble after the incident. Coach John Harbaugh told reporters Friday that Rice and his fiancee are "committed" to working out their issues through counseling. Rice is talking with director of player development Harry Swayne every day, Newsome said. This shows the Ravens aren't distancing themselves from Rice.

Newsome never claimed Rice was innocent when asked about the running back five times in his 13-minute media session. "I don't know whether a different story is going to come out," he said.

Newsome also never said Rice would get cut, even when asked whether a video came out showing Rice striking his fiancee. "We will allow the league to take its position before we would take any," he said.

Obviously, Newsome is concerned about the situation and acknowledged the TMZ video, which shows Rice lifting his fiancee out of an elevator, "doesn't look good."

But the Ravens don't appear to be ready to part with Rice. On Friday, Harbaugh said he expected Rice to be part of the team in 2014. A day later, Newsome said he is pleased with what Rice has done since the incident. Two days, two signs of support.

"Up until we get all of the facts, we will let the process run its course," Newsome said.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- For a movie buff like Terrell Suggs, it would be a Hollywood ending for him to follow the likes of Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden and finish his career with the Baltimore Ravens.

Is it realistic to think Suggs will be a Raven for life?

At this point, there's a chance that could happen but it's far from a guarantee. All Suggs did Monday by signing a four-year extension was give himself a shot to take his final bow in Baltimore.

If you listen to Suggs, there's no doubt that he's retiring as a Raven. During his 20-minute news conference, he mentioned that he will be a "Raven for life" three times. "That's the plan, unless [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] has a trick up his sleeve," Suggs said.

What stood out to me was Newsome never expressed the same optimism.

"This gives Terrell the opportunity to continue to play football in Baltimore," Newsome said. "Now that he has the additional four years, hopefully he continues to play real good football for us."

Suggs is relatively young at 31 for someone who has played 11 years in the NFL. He has been durable, missing a total of only 11 games due to injury.

But rushing the passer is a young man's game. In the past three seasons, only two players over the age of 30 (Robert Mathis and Cameron Wake) have ranked in the top five in the NFL in sacks.

In addition, Suggs hasn't been the same dominant player since winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2011. Injuries limited him in 2012 and inconsistency dogged him in 2013. In the last eight games last season, Suggs managed 20 tackles and one sack. He believes he tried to do too much instead of letting the plays come to him.

"Basically the plan going forward into the offseason is to hit another level," Suggs said. "I came back in phenomenal shape last year, and I plan on coming back in phenomenal shape this year."

Suggs received an $11 million signing bonus and is guaranteed $16 million in the next two seasons. The Ravens are essentially on the hook with Suggs for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. If Suggs isn't worth the $4 million salary after that, the Ravens may decide to cut him after the 2015 or 2016 seasons. Then it's up to Suggs, who would be 33 after the 2015 season, whether he wants to continue to play or retire as a Raven, as Lewis did a year ago.

"I've learned the value of the word 'legacy,' being on one team and in one uniform your entire career," said Suggs, who ranks first in franchise history in sacks and second in tackles. "I don't want to go anywhere else. This city loves me."
The Baltimore Ravens are still projecting Ray Rice as their starting running back, three days after Rice was arrested and charged in an altercation with his fiancee in Atlantic City.

Neither general manager Ozzie Newsome nor coach John Harbaugh have talked to Rice but one will likely do so over the next day.

"When I left my office 20 minutes and John been in there 15 minutes before then, Ray Rice was still a big part of what we plan to do in 2014," Newsome said Monday.

The Ravens released a statement Sunday, saying Rice and his fiancee returned home together after being detained.

"I don't know the situation. I've only gotten what has been written," Newsome said. "I've not had a chance to talk to Ray. I really don't the situation. Up until I get all the answers, then that's when we make decisions within this organization."
The fourth-quarter collapses by the Baltimore Ravens defense cost the team three or four games this season, according to general manager Ozzie Newsome.

One theory for the Ravens' late-game woes is the defense wore down. But, when looking at time of possession in the first three quarters, there were 12 other defenses that were out on the field longer than the Ravens. So, there's a hole in that argument.

Newsome believes the problems in the fourth quarter are the result of something missing on defense.

"In order to be successful, you have to have confidence," Newsome said. "I think we’ve got to build a confidence amongst our defensive players that, in those situations, they can make a play and win the game. They don’t have to go out there and play tentative or scared. Go make the play; the other 10 guys have got your back."

In the Ravens' Super Bowl season, the Ravens gave up a combined 82 points during the fourth quarter. A year later, the Ravens allowed a franchise-worst 134 points in the fourth quarter.

The difference in 2013 was seven new starters and the loss of veteran leaders like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

"I think we’ll be able to get to that [level of confidence] because it was a new mixture of guys … so they had to get the cohesiveness going," Newsome said. "You have to get to the point where you feel like you can make that play and get the defense off the field.”

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