The Baltimore Ravens will take a few days to pick up the pieces from a disappointing defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers in the opening round of the NFL playoffs.
Then, incoming general manager Eric DeCosta will start planning for the 2019 season and beyond.
The main focus of this offseason will be ensuring Lamar Jackson takes the next step in his development. He endured one of his toughest games against Los Angeles with three fumbles and a tipped interception.
“There are a lot of things I need to work on,” he said.
The Chargers stacked the box and dared Jackson to beat them through the air. The rookie could not deliver until the fourth quarter when he threw a pair of touchdown strikes to Michael Crabtree.
By then, it was too late for a comeback and the Ravens lost 23-17.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg could have helped Jackson by using three tight ends to help block and set up intermediate passes, but there did not appear to be any proper adjustments.
Jackson will face similar defensive strategies next season unless he become more adept at throwing the ball downfield.
“He is the future,” safety Eric Weddle said. “He’s such a bright kid, unbelievable energy and personality. He’s likable. He works hard. As you guys can tell, he’s devastated right now, and that’s what’s going to drive him in the offseason. And, he’ll come back 10 times better than he was this year. For what he did, and to the belief that he gave not only our team, but our city, this organization, is pretty special.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh conceded that quarterback Joe Flacco has played his last snap for Baltimore. The Ravens can either release or trade him to a team that is able to absorb is $18.5 million contract in 2019.
“Joe Flacco is going to play really well in this league,” Harbaugh said. “Joe can still play; I think we saw that in the first half of this season. Joe’s going to have a market. A lot of teams are going to want Joe, because they understand that. I’ll be in Joe’s corner, wherever he’s at, unless we play him. He’s special.
“Joe Flacco is a great talent. He’s an even better person. He’s the best quarterback in the history of the Ravens, without question. That’s not even because I’m biased – it’s just a fact. Yes, he’s going to be just fine.”
The future of Terrell Suggs is also uncertain. The 36-year-old veteran linebacker is a free agent and wants to play in 2019 and beyond, but he might have to find a new home. Suggs is 36 years old and has played more games than any Raven in team history. Suggs appeared in all 16 games this season and finished with seven sacks.
“It’s pretty much out of my hands,” Suggs said. “I would like to be a Raven for life. It might not happen that way. Unfortunately, we’ve had to see some Raven guys line up in other uniforms. I hope that’s not my case. If it is, so be it. I chose nothing. I’m a football player. I was born, and this is what I am. Like I said, I plan on lining up in 2019. So, hopefully it’s in the black and purple.”
— WR John Brown
— LB C.J. Mosley
— QB Robert Griffin III
— TE Maxx Williams
— DE Brent Urban
— RB Ty Montgomery
— LB Za’Darius Smith
— RB Javorius Allen
— CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste
— RB Alex Collins
— LB Patrick Onwuasor
— TE Nick Boyle
— OL Matt Skura
— G Jermaine Eluemunor
— DT Michael Pierce
— WR Quincy Adeboyejo
— RB De’Lance Turner
— RB Gus Edwards
As a result, DeCosta will have some big decisions to make. The Ravens also need to upgrade the offensive line, which was man-handled by the Chargers, and find some more playmakers to complement Jackson.
Jackson’s Instagram handle – @new_era8 – is very fitting.
A new era for the Baltimore Ravens has begun … for better or worse.