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One Foot Short

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 11:21
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(Before It's News)

One could make the argument that the Ravens were just one foot
short of making the playoffs for the 7th time in John Harbaugh’s
nine seasons as the team’s skipper. One desperate extension of the
ball at the goal line by Steelers’ wide receiver href=
target="_blank">Antonio Brown
proved to be the difference
between a No. 3 seed in the AFC and the 16th pick in the 2017 NFL

On one hand, the play is a reminder of how close the Ravens are
to being a playoff participant in a very mediocre league. On the
other, it’s a reminder of how far they really need to go. There’s a
lot of work ahead for the entire organization – so much so that
it’s doubtful that they can repair all of the holes in their roster
in just one offseason.

Perhaps the Ravens don’t need to plug all the roster leaks over
the next 7 months. Maybe they can knock off a few and that could be
enough to push the team over the hump – prevent them from being one
foot short the next time around. And whether it’s the Ravens or any
team in the league, that first hump, the first hurdle, THE primary
goal, is to win their division. And in the Ravens case, that means
they need to figure out how to knock the Steelers from atop their
AFC North perch.

When comparing and contrasting the two clubs, on whole they seem
like relative equals, cut from similar cloths. Where they differ is
in the department of playmakers. The Steelers have them and the
Ravens don’t. It’s that simple. The Ravens have no answer for
target="_blank">Ben Roethlisberger
, Le’Veon Bell or the author
of the ""
target="_blank">Immaculate Extension
, the aforementioned

alt="one foot short" width="500" srcset=
" 300w, 768w, http://russellstreetreport.comhttp:///wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Immaculate-extension-antonio-brown.jpg 777w"
sizes="(max-width: 777px) 100vw, 777px" />

Photo Credit: Steelers Depot and NBC Sports

However hard they try, the Ravens aren’t going to match the
playmaking ability of the Steelers’ Killer B’s in one offseason.
But they do need to close the gap and find players on either side
of the ball, that can impact the outcome of games late in the
fourth quarter.

Such players can surface in one of three ways, developmentally,
via free agency or through the draft. Offensively, the Ravens will
look for ""
target="_blank">Breshad Perriman
and ""
target="_blank">Kenneth Dixon
to take that next step towards
becoming bonafide playmakers. Both possess the prerequisite skill
sets yet it’s incumbent upon them to put in the offseason work to
polish up their respective games and the coaching staff to place
them in positions to succeed.

If Perriman and Dixon take that next step, it opens things up
for the offense and paves the way for ""
target="_blank">Joe Flacco
to take a step up, play to the level
of his pay, and close the gap between him and Roethlisberger.

Free agency will be a challenge for the Ravens. "nofollow" href=
target="_blank">Ozzie Newsome
has made it clear that the Ravens
will pursue a veteran who will serve as a “complementary receiver”.
But the list of available pass catchers is thin while the cap
dollars available in the market to spend is vast, unless that
checkbook belongs to the Ravens whose cap situation is better than
only 4 other NFL teams.

And then of course there is the draft…

The Ravens had a very solid draft in 2016 and if their second
and third round picks can be productive in 2017, we might be
sitting here a year from today declaring it an excellent draft. The
coaching staff tied ""
target="_blank">Kamalei Correa
in knots by force-feeding him
too much, too soon. They asked him to play out of position and when
you combine the information overload with the challenges of
adjusting to the speed of the NFL, the result can be paralysis by
analysis. Consequently, Correa played too slow and his rookie
season was a wash – a wasted opportunity to get productivity from a
relatively average wage.

Bronson Kaufusi’s rookie campaign was washed out by a broken
ankle suffered during training camp. Injuries happen, as the Ravens
have painstakingly experienced over the past few seasons.

In 2017, the Ravens need to seek those young playmakers. They
need to land that receiver, edge rusher, corner and safety in the
draft. They need those guys to perform to the level of their draft
status and in doing so, the Ravens won’t feel compelled to make
poor investments in players like ""
target="_blank">Kendrick Lewis
and ""
target="_blank">Kyle Arrington
. There was a day when such
defensive players arrived on the scene in Baltimore and stepped up
their level of play. Those days left with ""
target="_blank">Ray Lewis
, who like ""
target="_blank">Tom Brady
, made those around him better.

Of course, retaining your own free agents is critical to
building, to moving forward. Losing players like href=
target="_blank">Brandon Williams
, Rick Wagner and "nofollow" href=
target="_blank">Kyle Juszczyk
represent a step or three back.
At this point, there’s little reason to believe that any of them
will return, the most likely of which is Juszczyk. Williams and
Wagner will command cap dollars that the Ravens really don’t have,
particularly in a cash flush market. 2017 is clearly a seller’s
market and Ozzie’s checkbook is a little light left of the decimal

The team could create some cap space by parting ways with a few

alt="Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 12.13.30 PM" width="500" srcset=
" 300w, 768w, http://russellstreetreport.comhttp:///wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Screen-Shot-2017-02-21-at-12.13.30-PM-1024x538.png 1024w, 1200w, 1392w"
sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" />

* Pre-June 1 release
** Includes a $1M roster bonus

Some have suggested that the Ravens blow up the roster and
initiate a cap purge to create a youth-laden team with the
potential of sustained success for years. Of course, if the Ravens
cut any from the list they’ll have to replace those players via the
draft or free agency, all the while keeping in mind that it is a
seller’s market. Should they try and negotiate lower wages with
some of the players above, they may refuse such overtures and take
their chances in a market that favors the players.

Looking to the draft the Ravens have 8 picks at the moment,
including two third-round picks, one of which is a compensatory
pick for ""
target="_blank">Kelechi Osemele
. But you have to wonder if
Harbaugh’s staff, one skating on thin ice, is willing to invest the
playing time and perhaps their respective careers in a youth
movement. The Ravens need to improve in 2017 and even before he
stepped into hot water, Harbaugh was relatively youth-movement

Might Harbaugh’s tenuous employment status influence the team’s
offseason approach? Could they take a win at all costs philosophy
into the season and push all of their chips to the middle of the
table and steal precious playing time from their younger

The Ravens face an organizational conundrum. There are no easy

But they better think long and hard about taking a win-now
mentality into 2017. It could cost them down the road and result in
more salary cap issues and players not performing to the level of
their pay. Again, and again we could be having the same discussions
that we’re having to day.

The team’s goal should be to establish long-term success like
they did from 2008-2014.

They must take positive steps that they can build upon.

Starting with that one foot short.

The post ""
target="_blank">One Foot Short
appeared first on "nofollow" target="_blank" href="/r2/?url=" target=
"_blank">Russell Street Report | Baltimore Ravens News


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