The Baltimore Ravens were eliminated from playoff contention on Christmas after a hard fought loss to the Steelers. It was a classic back and forth rivalry game that was not decided until the final seconds.
The Ravens performance in Pittsburgh and body of work this season show they are close to being a formidable team again. But Baltimore’s margin for error will remain slim in the foreseeable future.
FACT: Steve Smith Sr. caught all seven of his targets for 79 yards and a touchdown in what is expected to be the penultimate game of his career.
OPINION: The Ravens should attempt to persuade him to delay retirement again.
Smith is a big game player who provides an intensity that the offense desperately needs. He also broke five tackles and caught a two point conversion against the Steelers.
In his 16th professional season, Smith has averaged more than five catches for almost 60 yards per game, along with five total touchdowns and 36 first downs. Physically, he should still be able to play next year at 38 years old.
Even in a situational role, Senior would be a valuable asset to the offense.
FACT: The Ravens failed to sack Big Ben on Sunday.
OPINION: Interior pass rush from Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams has been disappointing since the bye.
When the 2016 regular season began, defensive tackle appeared to be the strongest position on the entire team. With a transitional season at edge rusher expected, many were counting on the starting interior duo to supply pressure up the middle on a consistent basis.
Jernigan was very productive to start the season, and still has the second most sacks on the team at five, but none since early November. After Week 16, Williams has half as many sacks and quarterback hits as he posted in 2015.
FACT: The Ravens currently have the fifth least 2017 salary cap space in the NFL.
OPINION: Do not expect the Ravens to contend for elite free agents this offseason.
$14 million in expected cap space before the annual increase of the salary ceiling, with several straightforward cost savings options available and no top tier pending free agents seems like a prime position to be in for the Ravens. Not so much when compared to their AFC peers. Pittsburgh currently has roughly $37 million, Oakland has about $41 million and New England has approximately $60 million in current 2017 salary cap space.
FACT: The Ravens are in line for the 17th pick in the 2017 NFL draft before Week 17.
OPINION: The calendars change, but the Ravens draft needs remain the same.
Pass rusher...Cornerback...Wide Receiver, rinse and repeat since 2013.
Baltimore must land an immediate impact stud at one of these three positions with their first pick in the next draft. The last couple Ravens drafts have provided plenty of depth players, but not enough stars at premium positions. In order to win more close games in the fourth quarter, they need another difference maker who can win one on one matchups in the passing game.