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."
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.'"