With so much attention on the salary cap in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens seem to be set with the core of their roster for 2013, if not well beyond.
Nowadays one of the most important guys on every NFL team is the "Capologist," the one who fits the salaries of the players into the total permitted by the league. The Baltimore Ravens have had their share of issues over the years, but have managed to find space to keep their core intact.
Shortly after this season is over, the Ravens and QB Joe Flacco will return to the bargaining table to work out a long term deal. They will not release nor use the Franchise Tag on him but will find a common ground that will put the issue of who should, or more specifically, should not be the team's QB for the foreseeable future.
Unlike even the Ravens most fierce rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens are already built for the future. The status of both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may remain undecided at this point, but the offensive and most of the defensive core remains intact.
On offense, along with Flacco, are Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Marshal Yanda. There is youth with a lot of upside in Bernard Pierce, Tandon Doss, Gino Gradkowski, Jah Reid and Kelechi Osemele.
Defensively, despite the uncertainty of Lewis and Reed, there is still a solid mix of veterans and kids including Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Dannell Ellerbe, Arthur Jones and Courtney Upshaw.
The kicking game is in good hands with both Sam Koch and Justin Tucker among the best in the league. The key to future success will be who else ends up complementing this nucleus and how they are managed by the coaching staff once the clock starts ticking in each game.
However, until then, this team has the core to compete for a division title next year and beyond, in addition to extending their consecutive trips to the playoffs streak that is already at a league-best five years,...and counting.