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Glenn Clark: Free Agency Will Reveal What Ravens Believe Their Window Is

March 11, 2019
I'm so sorry I didn't do this earlier in the offseason, you guys. It was a staple last year and I just simply forgot to bring it back. 

So as we head into the start of NFL free agency, here are my Ravens Offseason Power Rankings. 

10. Free agent running back Le'Veon Bell

9. Same

8. Same

7. You get the point

6. Bell again because it feels like I need to finish this thing out

5-1. Yeah, Bell. 

This column isn't necessarily about why the Ravens should sign Bell, per se. I've already written that column. I think the Ravens should pursue the former Steelers running back for myriad reasons, including his potential fit in a Greg Roman offense and the Ravens' need for "special" players. If the Ravens are going to win a Super Bowl this season, they need higher-end talent on their roster in general. 

But as free agency officially kicks off this week, that last thought is the one I actually find most compelling at this point. 

Are the Ravens even approaching this offseason with the intent to try to win a Super Bowl right now? And frankly, should they be? 

Stick with me. I'm aware that every team "wants" to win the Super Bowl every year. And I certainly don't think many (if any at all) are imitating the Orioles in making their intentions to NOT win fairly clear. That's far more of a baseball concept than a football concept. 

But as much as I've campaigned for Bell, I can't help but wonder if the Ravens don't recognize their need for greater "game-changing" talent and yet think to themselves, "That's just not where we are right now."

Soon-to-be former quarterback Joe Flacco still counts for $16 million worth of dead money against the Ravens' salary cap this season but will completely come off the books next year. The $16 million isn't necessarily crippling (and hey, the Steelers are taking on even more for receiver Antonio Brown), but it's certainly a significant figure. 

When you combine that burden with the fact that the contracts for the new quarterback (Lamar Jackson) and head coach (John Harbaugh) keep them around for another three seasons past this year, it's hard not to wonder if the team just practically views 2020-2022 as a more realistic title window than 2019. 

It's not likely that new general manager Eric DeCosta is going to drastically change the team's strategy in free agency, but cap-wise, 2020 look like a better time to take a risk or two than this current offseason. 

If they do, it's hard to imagine they'd be willing to outbid other teams in pursuit of Bell. They'd perhaps find themselves better served not taking on long-term deals for free agents (which can lead to future dead money a la Michael Crabtree this season). 

The Ravens already gave more money to some of their own this offseason (cornerback Tavon Young and tight end Nick Boyle). The 2019 season might well be a year in which they'd be inclined to get a better look at some of their own young players (like running backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon) in hopes of determining if they might be worth future contract extensions as well. 

It's been hard to get definitive answers from league sources about the Ravens' offseason plans. I have spoken to multiple league sources about the Bell rumors in particular and not one of them has shot the Ravens down as a factor in the Bell equation. Similarly, even after the Ravens chose not to place the franchise tag on linebacker C.J. Mosley, a league source told me teams were still convinced the Ravens would try to spend big money to bring him back.

At least one of you reading this right now is thinking to yourself, "Just because the Ravens don't sign Le'Veon Bell, that doesn't mean the Ravens aren't trying to win a Super Bowl." You're right, of course. But signing Bell would be the biggest statement the team could make that they ARE attempting to pursue a title immediately. So I guess it's more "then, if" than "if, then." 

Clearly, the Ravens would never come out and say, "We don't want to win a championship this year." But paying attention to what they do this week might give us a better of idea of just when they realistically believe their window exists. 

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox