What is next for the 8-8 Ravens after winning the Super Bowl just a season ago? The reigning champions will not have a chance to defend their crown after being eliminated from the playoffs by the Bengals. This marks the first time that the Ravens will not make it to the postseason under John Harbaugh for the first time in six years.
Players cleaned out their there lockers Monday and Tuesday John Harbaugh addressed the media one final time. The main concern for the team this season was not the defense but the lack of execution on offense and the lack of run production.
“That’s probably our biggest disappointment,” Harbaugh said. The team finished near the cellar at 30th in total rushing yards on the season, not the kind of year veteran player RB Ray Rice expects for the team to have. “It’s tough when you’re home this early. Certainly, it’s a spark of fire for next year. I’m not unpacking my locker yet, because I’ll be around. I just feel like it’s too early to be packing up. We’ll get back. It’s not easy. It’s tough. This is a hard-working bunch, and we’ve just got to find things that fit us. We’ll get back and be better.” Rice finished the year with 660 total rushing yards, the second lowest of his career. Only his rookie season was worse when he complied just 454. But questions will still remain about how the running attack will look like at the start of the 2014 season.
“Yes, I think we need to diversify as much as we can what guys can do. I’ve had a lot of conversations with Ozzie [Newsome] and with Eric [DeCosta] and our different scouts about that, and our coaches, too. Yes, we want to have as many weapons as we can at our disposal. Big backs, fast backs, quick backs, route-running backs that you see around the league – we want to chase all those guys. You can’t always get everything you want, but those are things that we could use,” Harbaugh said.
Now that the 2013 season is over, the offseason is in full swing for the front office which will be very busy, and conduct a meeting in Florida within the next weeks to discuss the team’s cap situation, personal decisions, and big picture plans for the future of the franchise.
Free agents like James Ihedigbo who signed a one-year deal in the offseason and Corey Graham who just finished the last season of his two-year contract will be on that the list. Ihedigbo said “That’s kind of out of my hands at this point. I’m just kind of frustrated about the outcome of the season. I’ll let my agent handle all that stuff. There is really no comment on any of that.”
Ihedigbo, the 6’1, 215 lb strong safety, recorded 61 tackles and 3 interceptions on the season, not bad considering he used to play special teams. He was the starter at SS and took over the role of Bernard Pollard after the team cut him last season, but the possibility of Ihedigbo being a Raven in 2014 are slim because there are other key players that they have to lock up.
The players that the Ravens need in 2014 include Dennis Pitta, Eugene Monroe and Daryl Smith are most likely at the top of Ozzie Newsome’s list. Dennis Pitta missed the majority of the season with a hip injury but when fully healthy his play making ability is dangerous. They will need him after the offense finished 29th total offense only ahead of the Jets (8-8), Buccaneers (4-12), and Jaguars (4-12).
In addition to keeping their TE Pitta, the Ravens will most likely want to keep Monroe who came from in a mid-season trade from Jacksonville. After the injury to Joe Flacco he will be fragile moving forward it will be important to protect the $120.6 million dollar man who was intercepted a career high 22 times.
“He did a heck of a job. Juan [Castillo] did a heck of a job with him, for a guy coming in when he came in, and to pick up the offense and perform the way he did, it says a lot,” Harbaugh said.