Official Ravens/NFL 2014 Offseason Guide

Posted on January 03, 2014 by Joe Platania

BALTIMORE TO HAVE COIN FLIP WITH DALLAS; EASIER SCHEDULE COMING

OWINGS MILLS -- As Ravens fans look ahead to a 2014 season they hope will erase the memory of a mediocre, inconsistent 2013, there are a few things in which they can take solace.

- After several straight years playing schedules ranked in the top five for difficulty -- and winning a Super Bowl after enduring one of them -- the Ravens are tentatively slated to play the league’s eighth-easiest schedule in 2014.

-- With a first-round draft slot at No. 16 or 17 overall, pending a coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys, the Ravens may have a chance to take a top-flight offensive lineman, receiver or tight end -- perceived to be their biggest needs -- when the annual draft begins May 8.

- If the Ravens need to use the franchise tag on one of their 13 unrestricted free agents, the one for which the team would likely place the most value would be tight end Dennis Pitta. Given his hip injury, which forced him to miss the season’s first 12 games, a prolonged negotiation doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

The Ravens’ easier schedule comes because they have six games slated against teams that made the playoffs this year: two with Cincinnati and one each with Carolina, San Diego, New Orleans and Indianapolis.

In fact, the four AFC North teams have schedule strengths ranked in the league’s bottom nine, with the Pittsburgh Steelers ranked last (easiest).

Conversely, the four NFC West teams have among the seven toughest schedules in the league, with a cyclical schedule rotation that conversely blesses and curses all teams sooner or later.

Here is an official guide to the Ravens’ offseason, complete with their list of free agents, 2014 opponents, the first-round NFL Draft order, the leaguewide calendar and the 2014 schedule-strength standings.

***

RAVENS 2014 FREE-AGENT CLASS
(Free-agent signing period starts when new league year begins March 11)

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (13)
(Four or more years' experience, can sign with another team with no compensation to the Ravens; years of experience in parentheses)

Tight end Dallas Clark (11), nose tackle Terrence Cody (four), tight end Ed Dickson (four), cornerback Corey Graham (seven), safety James Ihedigbo (seven), defensive end Arthur Jones (four), wide receiver Jacoby Jones (seven), safety Jeromy Miles (four), tackle Eugene Monroe (five), tackle Michael Oher (five), tight end Pitta (four), running back Bernard Scott (five), linebacker Daryl Smith (10), wide receiver Brandon Stokley (15)

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (TWO)
(Three years' experience, can be tendered offer sheet by other club, Ravens would have seven days to match)

Linebacker Albert McClellan, wide receiver Tandon Doss

EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (SIX) 
(Two years' experience, player has no negotiating leverage)

Safety Omar Brown, linebacker D.J. Bryant, linebacker Josh Bynes, linebacker Adrian Hamilton, safety Anthony Levine, safety Brynden Trawick

***

2014 RAVENS OPPONENTS
(Dates, kickoff times and TV networks to be released in mid-April)

HOME: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Atlanta, Carolina, San Diego (placement game) 

AWAY: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Miami (placement game) 

NOTES: The two placement games are determined by a team's finish the previous season. The Ravens finished third in the AFC North in 2013. … The placement opponents are defined as those who had the same finish in the standings as the Ravens in divisions from the same conference the Ravens aren't already playing in their entirety this year. … The Ravens will play the entire AFC South and NFC South in 2014.

***

2014 FIRST-ROUND DRAFT ORDER
(Team, 2013 record and opponents' 2013 win percentage; ties determined by weaker schedule strength; order of positions 21-32 to be finalized by playoff results)

1. Houston Texans (2-14) .559 
2. St. Louis Rams (7-9) .551 (from Washington)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) .504
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12) .516
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12) .523
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) .553
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) .574
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1) .512
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10) .520
10. Detroit Lions (7-9) .457
11. Tennessee Titans (7-9) .504
12. New York Giants (7-9) .520
13. St. Louis Rams (7-9) .551
14. Chicago Bears (8-8) .465
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) .469
T-16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) .484
T-16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) .484
18. New York Jets (8-8) .488
19. Miami Dolphins (8-8) .523
20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6) .531
21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) .453
22. San Diego Chargers (9-7) .496 
23. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) .453
24. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) .445
25. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) .480
26. Cleveland Browns (4-12) .516 (from Indianapolis)
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5) .516
28. New England Patriots (12-4) .473 
29. Carolina Panthers (12-4) .494 (head-to-head win against San Francisco)
30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4) .494
31. Denver Broncos (13-3) .469
32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3) .490

***

2014-2015 Ravens/NFL Calendar
(Dates subject to change)

Date TBA -- "State Of The Ravens" press conference featuring majority owner Steve Bisciotti, Under Armour Performance Center
Feb. 3 -- Waiver system begins for 2014
Feb. 8 and 9 -- Regional Combine, Methodist Training Center (Texans), Houston
Feb. 15 and 16 -- Regional Combine, Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility; Florham Park, N.J.
Feb. 17 -- First day to designate franchise or transition players
Feb. 22 -- Regional Combine, Orange Coast College; Costa Mesa, Calif.
Feb. 19-25 -- NFL Combine Timing and Testing, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

March 1 -- Regional Combine, One Buccaneer Place; Tampa, Fla.
March 3 -- Deadline for clubs to designate franchise and transition players (4 p.m. EST)
March 8 and 9 -- Regional Combine, Atlanta Falcons Training Facility; Flowery Branch, Ga. 
March 8-11 -- Clubs are permitted to enter into contract negotiations with certified agents of players who will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the current league year.
March 11 -- Before 4 p.m. (EST), clubs must exercise options for 2014 on all players who have option clauses in their 2013 contracts.
March 11 -- Before 4 p.m. (EST), clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.
March 11 -- Before 4 p.m. (EST), clubs must submit a minimum salary offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2013 contracts and who have fewer than three seasons of free agency credit.
March 11 -- All 2013 player contracts will expire at 4 p.m. (EST). All clubs' combined salaries for their top 51 players must be less than the salary cap before 4 p.m. (EST), and the 2014 league year, trading and free-agency period begin at 4 p.m. (EST).
March 15 -- Regional Combine, Halas Hall; Lake Forest, Ill.
March 22 – Regional Combine, Nova Southeastern University; Davie, Fla.
March 17-20 -- Annual League Meeting, The Biltmore, Phoenix
March 22 and 23 -- Regional Combine, Virginia Mason Athletic Center; Renton, Wash. 
March 23-26 -- Annual League Meeting; Orlando, Fla.
March 29 -- Regional Combine, Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Indianapolis
March 29-30 -- Regional Combine, Under Armour Performance Center, Owings Mills, Md. 

April 12 and 13 -- Super Regional Combine, Ford Field, Detroit
Mid-April (date TBA) -- Ravens offseason conditioning program begins, Under Armour Performance Center

May 2 -- Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets
May 7 -- Deadline for prior club to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents
May 8 -- 79th Annual NFL Selection Meeting (aka The Draft), Radio City Music Hall, New York City, 8 p.m. EST (round one)
May 9 -- NFL Draft, Day Two, 7 p.m. (rounds two and three)
May 10 -- NFL Draft, Day Three, noon (rounds four through seven)

May 19-21 -- NFL Spring League Meeting, Atlanta
May-June (dates TBA) -- Ravens' organized team activity practices and mandatory minicamp, Under Armour Performance Center

June 2 -- Final day teams can make tender offers to unrestricted free agents for exclusive negotiating rights

June 5-8 -- Ravens Summer Bash and Ravens Roost Convention and Parade; Ocean City, Md.
June 16 -- Deadline for old teams to withdraw original qualifying offer to unrestricted free agents and maintain exclusive negotiating rights with submitted tender of 110 percent of previous year's salary
June 22-28 -- NFL Rookie Symposium; Aurora, Ohio

Mid-July (date TBA) -- NFL Supplemental Draft
July 15 -- Deadline for designated franchise free agents to sign multi-year extensions -- after this date, players can sign only one-year contracts and cannot sign extensions until after the team's last regular-season game.
July 22 -- Veteran free-agent signing periods ends here, or first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later.
July 22 -- Signing period ends for unrestricted free agents to whom a team tendered a June 1 offer and for transition players with outstanding tenders
Late July (date TBA) -- Ravens training camp opens, Under Armour Performance Center (could be one week earlier if Ravens are selected to play in the Hall of Fame Game)

Aug. 2 -- Hall of Fame Class of 2014 Induction Ceremony; Fawcett Stadium; Canton, Ohio; 6 p.m. (NFL Network)
Aug. 3 -- Hall of Fame Game; Fawcett Stadium; Canton, Ohio; teams TBA; 8 p.m. (NBC)
Aug. 5 -- Deadline for under-contract players to report to earn a season of free-agency credit; unsigned rookies acquired during the draft that have not signed by this date may not be traded to another club in 2014
Aug. 7-10 -- First full preseason weekend
Aug. 14-17 -- Second full preseason weekend
Aug. 21-24 -- Third full preseason weekend
Aug. 26 -- Roster cut-down deadline to maximum of 75 players (4 p.m. EST)
Aug. 28 and 29 -- Final slate of preseason games
Aug. 30 -- Roster cut down deadline to maximum of 53 players (6 p.m. EST)
Aug. 31 -- Teams may begin to establish eight-man practice squads at noon EST.

Sept. 4 -- 95th NFL regular season begins with Super Bowl XLVIII champions hosting first regular-season game versus team TBA, 8 p.m. (NBC)
Sept. 7 and 8 -- Kickoff Weekend: first Sunday-Monday regular-season games
Sept. 9 -- Players still on the roster on this date after having played one regular-season game are guaranteed their full 2014 salary.

Oct. 28 -- Trading period ends at 4 p.m. (EST)

Nov. 15 -- Signing deadline for unrestricted and restricted free agents who were tendered a qualifying offer before June 1; signing deadline for transition and franchise free agents who remained unsigned by another club
Nov. 16 -- Week 11; Sunday-night flex scheduling begins

Dec. 28 -- Week 17; final regular-season games
Dec. 31 -- Teams may begin signing their own free-agent players for the 2015 season 

Jan. 3 and 4 -- Wild Card Weekend (NBC, CBS, Fox)
Jan. 10 and 11 -- Divisional Playoff Round (NBC, CBS, Fox)
Jan. 18 -- NFC Championship Game, teams TBA, 3 p.m. (Fox); AFC Championship Game, teams TBA, 6:40 p.m. (CBS)
Jan. 25 -- Pro Bowl; Aloha Stadium, Honolulu; 7:30 p.m. (NBC)

Feb. 1 -- Super Bowl XLIX; AFC champion versus NFC champion; University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, Ariz.; 6:30 p.m. (NBC)

***

2014 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

(Listed from most difficult to easiest; preliminary rankings by PredictionMachine.com)

1. St. Louis Rams
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Houston Texans
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Seattle Seahawks
7. San Francisco 49ers 
8. New Orleans Saints
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
10. Carolina Panthers 
11. Indianapolis Colts
12. Tennessee Titans 
13. Miami Dolphins
14. Oakland Raiders
15. New York Giants
16. New York Jets
17. Buffalo Bills
18. San Diego Chargers
19. Washington Redskins 
20. Minnesota Vikings
21. New England Patriots
22. Denver Broncos
23. Dallas Cowboys
24. Cleveland Browns
25. Baltimore Ravens
26. Kansas City Chiefs
27. Cincinnati Bengals
28. Philadelphia  Eagles
29. Chicago Bears
30. Green Bay Packers
31. Detroit Lions
32. Pittsburgh Steelers

Joe Platania is in his 20th season covering professional football.

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