Now it's time to look ahead to the offseason and where the Ravens can improve in 2011. Here is an early offseason preview for Baltimore from the AFC North blog:
What are the needs?
The Ravens have one of the best rosters in the NFL. But there are several areas that were exposed this season.
Look for Baltimore to be in the market for an offensive tackle. The Ravens' pass protection was very inconsistent, and quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked five times in Saturday's defeat to the Steelers.
With the season-ending back injury to Jared Gaither, Baltimore rotated players such as Tony Moll, Oniel Cousins and Marshal Yanda at right tackle. None of them was very stout. Former first-round pick Michael Oher also struggled at times playing his first season at left tackle. He excelled as a rookie right tackle. So if Baltimore can find a blue-chip left tackle, it may want to consider putting Oher back to the right side and upgrade both positions.
Another big need is help rushing the passer. The Ravens need someone to complement Pro Bowl defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs. Rookie Sergio Kindle was drafted to be that player. But his playing status is up in the air after fracturing his skull last summer and it's unknown if he can be counted on.
Baltimore's pass defense was improved this year, but the team could still use a legit shutdown corner via the draft or free agency. Injured cornerback Domonique Foxworth will return from a knee injury next season, which will help. A speedy deep threat at receiver could also help the development of Flacco, who throws a beautiful deep ball but didn't get many opportunities to show it.
Who are the pending free agents?
Baltimore was built to win this year. So there are a lot of pending free agents on this team.
The biggest name by far is Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, who is a franchise building block. Ngata, who was drafted in 2006, finished his five-year rookie contract this season and is scheduled to become one of the highest-paid players at his position. The Ravens have made it clear keeping Ngata, who will turn 27 this week, is the utmost priority.
Other interesting names on this list includes fullback Le'Ron McClain, safety Dawan Landry, Gaither, Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff, punter Sam Koch and receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth. Out of these players, I think McClain is the one to keep an eye on. He has been frustrated with his lack of carries the past two years and likely will explore opportunities where he run the ball more in a different system. Gaither also is not expected to return.
Cundiff and Koch were vital on special teams and will be important for Baltimore to retain.
What about the coaching staff?
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will likely get a contract extension. He deserves one after leading Baltimore to three straight playoff appearances and one trip to the AFC title game.
There has been a lot of talk surrounding offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after the Ravens were No. 22 in total offense this year. But Cameron is well-respected by the Ravens and around the NFL and will stay on board in 2011.
Quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn may also be a name to consider for coordinator interviews in the coming weeks and months. Zorn has a lot of experience as an assistant coach and head coach.