The Baltimore Ravens had to be pleased that wide receiver Steve Smith plans to return in 2015. The Ravens likely have their fingers crossed that they can re-sign free agents Torrey Smith and Justin Forsett.
But, for the Ravens' offense, nothing this offseason will top the news that broke Sunday night: Gary Kubiak is returning as their offensive coordinator.
The loss for the New York Jets and Chicago Bears -- two teams interested in Kubiak to be their next head coach -- is a tremendous gain for the Ravens. In one season with Kubiak, the Ravens underwent an offensive renaissance, going from a struggling attack that essentially hit bottom in 2013 to one that broke franchise records.
A day after their season ended with a playoff loss in New England, the Ravens were given a reason to be optimistic about 2015 with Kubiak's announcement.
“I feel like it means we can continue to build on what we started," guard Kelechi Osemele told the team's website."We’re a really young team and we have a lot of young players. It definitely would have been a loss."
His biggest influences were instituting a zone-stretch run scheme that transformed the Ravens' ground attack and connecting with quarterback Joe Flacco to give him a better feel for the offense. Every Friday, Flacco was given the play-call sheet for that upcoming game and he gave it back to Kubiak with his what he liked and disliked about it.
Here is how Kubiak impacted the Ravens offense this season:
The Ravens finished with their highest offensive ranking in 17 years (No. 12) and set records for yards per game (364.9) as well as points scored (25.5).
Flacco reached career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27) a year after finishing second in the NFL in interceptions (22).
Despite abruptly releasing running back Ray Rice early in the season, the Ravens went from an NFL-worst 3.1 yards per carry in 2013 to averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season, which was No. 7 in the league.
The offensive line jumped 20 spots to No. 3 in Pro Football Focus' rankings. This line protected Flacco, who was sacked a career-low 19 times. This group also opened up running lanes as the Ravens averaged 3.1 yards before contact (third-best in the league).
Losing Kubiak would have been a major setback for the Ravens because a chunk of the coaching staff would've been gone as well. Quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani, both of whom came from Kubiak's Houston Texans staff, are expected to follow him. With no obvious successor to Kubiak on staff, the Ravens would've had to search for what would have been Flacco's fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons.
The Ravens still have work to do on their offense. They need more young playmakers at wide receiver, running back and tight end. But, by keeping Kubiak, the Ravens can carry over that comfort level and confidence from this past season.
"This is a special organization and we, like [coach John Harbaugh] says, are building something great," Kubiak said in a statement. "I want to be a part of that and contribute in whatever ways I can.”