The Baltimore Ravens' offense got better last season, enough so that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was retained and given a new contract. The Ravens climbed to 15th in total offense last season, ranking 12th in scoring. While that represented solid progress from the previous year, it's something the defending AFC North champions still want to build on going forward.
"We have to be a better football team," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings. "From a personnel and scheme standpoint, I'd like to be more explosive on offense."
The Ravens averaged 338.7 yards and 23.6 points per contest last season.
They were 10th in rushing as Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice gained a career-high 1,364 yards and scored 12 rushing touchdowns.
They were 19th in passing, averaging 213.9 yards per game.
The Ravens generated 312 first downs, 98 on runs and the other 181 on passes.
"I'd like to get more first downs," Harbaugh said. "I'd like to score more points to take a little pressure off the defense."
One way the offense could become more prolific is through the continued development of wide receiver Torrey Smith as he enters his second NFL season.
The former second-round draft pick from the University of Maryland caught 50 passes for 841 yard and seven touchdowns last season, setting a franchise scoring record for touchdowns by a rookie.
"We want Torrey to continue to become a complete receiver and to be able to do all the little things," Harbaugh said. "We're totally confident Torrey will do that because how hard he works at it. Run the crossing routes, run the routes over the middle, make the contested catches inside.
"Keep doing all the stuff that he does downfield, the posts and the comebacks and all that. More screen passes to Torrey, I think, is important to us because he's proven in the New England game more than anything we saw him catch the ball and go for a touchdown. It was really an athletic play. Things like that from Torrey will help us."
The Ravens didn't get much production out of their third wide receiver spot as since-released Lee Evans only caught four passes for 74 yards.
The Ravens are hoping to utilize Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams this season after quiet rookie seasons where Doss didn't catch a pass and Williams finished with four catches for 46 yards.
"LaQuan had the shoulder issue," Harbaugh said. "I think he kind of did a really nice job. He was a big surprise for us. He came out of nowhere, played really well on special teams and on offense. He made some really big catches early in the year.
"His shoulder started hindering him a little bit. He tried to rest it in midseason and he came back and did OK. He fought through it. Being healthy is going to help him. Plus, he didn't get a lot of reps in college so the offseason is really going to help him."
Doss wasn't completely 100 percent last season because of a sports hernia that bothered him during his senior year at Indiana prior to Baltimore selecting him in the fourth round.
"Tandon was a more polished receiver than a lot of guys but he wasn't physically quite ready to beat somebody out," Harbaugh said. "He wasn't able to beat somebody out, but Tandon is going to be a really good player. I think the weight room and the offseason program is going to be huge for him. We're counting on him to be a big factor this year."
CONTRACTS: The Ravens have a history of retaining their core players, including defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
And they hope to sign quarterback Joe Flacco, Rice, the designated franchise player at a cost of $7.742 million, and cornerback Lardarius Webb to long-term deals.
"Does that mean you overpay a guy like a lot of organizations do or go crazy just to get it done and put your future in jeopardy as an organization?" Harbaugh said. " No, I think what you're saying is right. It gets done because it's a very fair offer. We've done it with all of our guys.
"We've put great offers out there for those guys and they want to be there. It's a great organization to be a
part of, it's a great city, the best fans in football. Players recognize that and they want to be a part of it."
HELPING FLACCO: The Ravens are hopeful that the addition of quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell will provide a boost to Flacco.
Flacco passed for 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season.
"Joe and Jim have already spoken a bunch of times," Harbaugh said. "I've talked to Joe and I've talked to Jim and I think they're hitting it off really well. Jim is really spending his time right now learning the offense and contributing to the offense.
"Jim is a big part of rebuilding our offense too. The No. 1 thing he's going to bring to the table, I think is a great record of teaching fundamentals to the quarterback and teaching some of the nuances that over the course of 30 years of coaching he's learned. That's going to help Joe a lot."
LEARNING FROM REID: Before Harbaugh was hired by the Raves, he was the Philadelphia Eagles' longtime special-teams coordinator working for coach Andy Reid.
Now, Harbaugh's the only coach in the NFL to win at least one playoff game over the past four seasons as the Ravens have reached the AFC championship game twice.
"I sure think that he's done a fine job and he'll continue to do that," said Reid, adding that he speaks often with his former assistant.. "He's wired right. He's got Ozzie [Newsome] who's been stable in his position and done very well there. He's got an owner that he has a good relationship with.
"John is a relentless worker and a pretty smart guy on top of all that. He gets along with people. He knows when you push the players, when to back off. He's got veteran players that believe in him. He's able to make people around him better."
NOT OVER IT: Getting over a crushing AFC championship game loss to the New England Patriots isn't a fast process for the Ravens.
Asked about how the lingering feeling from that game, Harbaugh replied: "It will be there forever."
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh praised offensive line coach Andy Moeller, who was promoted to replace John Matsko when he was fired after the 2010 season. The Ravens allowed 33 sacks last season and averaged 4.3 rushes per carry. The Ravens' line dealt with a turf toe injury to Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs that sidelined him for several games and signed left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie right before the season. "We had some real issues," Harbaugh said. "I thought Andy did a great job of coaching those guys and improving them. There were some rough patches. There were probably some games where we had rough patches where if we had won one of those games we would have had home-field all the way through. We recognize that. I get that. I understand that. I also recognize we were fighting like crazy to be the best we can be. I thought Andy did a good job. We got better even with those issues." … Harbaugh said he hasn't spoken to running back Ricky Williams since a few days after he retired. "Where is he?" Harbaugh said. "Is he in the United States. Ricky, where are you? We're looking for you Ricky Williams. Ricky was awesome. Ricky was tremendous. I learned a little yoga, a little meditation,. He's a normal guy, a lot of great conversations, a hard-working guy, knows pass protections inside and out. A good ballplayer, a good guy." … After being drafted in the first round, cornerback Jimmy Smith got off to a slow start due to an ankle injury. Later, he became more involved in the nickel package and intercepted two passes with 18 tackles and eight pass deflections. "Jimmy's biggest issue was the fact that he got hurt early, had no offseason and didn't get a chance to take reps," Harbaugh said. "So, he was behind learning the defense and the fundamentals of it. It's so much more advanced than college. I'd just say continued improvement. The offseason is going to be huge for him, technique-wise and scheme-wise. Mostly at corner, it's technique. It's the fundamentals, it's being disciplined and it's playing technique. And I'm quite certain he's going to be very good at that." …
Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle was retained by the Ravens with an exclusive-rights tender. The former second-round draft pick barely played last year, but is now a few years removed from fracturing his skull when he fell down two flights of stairs prior to his rookie season. He suffered permanent hearing damage to one ear and also nerve damage. "Well, it's Sergio's first offseason, so it's going to be very valuable for him," Harbaugh said. "We're looking for big improvement. He's coming from a major injury where he had severe nerve damage to being a productive player in the NFL. I think what the Ravens did to facilitate that is unparalleled in the NFL. I don't know anybody that has stuck with a guy through this kind of off-field injury in the history of the NFL. If he comes back and becomes a player in the NFL, it's going to be an unparalleled accomplishment. But you know what? We think it can happen and we're going to know by the end of training camp. I'm really hopeful that he can get it done and I'm excited if he can because he's really a talented guy and he's a good guy."
Ravens: Breaking down Jameel McClain's $10.5 million contract, salary-cap situation
Ed Reed intends to keep playing 'four or five' years
OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain's three-year, $10.5 million contract includes a $3.6 million signing bonus.
The deal has base salaries of $700,000 this year, $3 million in 2013 and $3.2 million in 2014.
McClain counts $1.9 million against the salary cap this year, $4.2 million in 2013 and $4.4 million in 2014.
McClain will become an unrestricted free agent again when he's 29 years old.
He recorded 84 tackles, one sack and an interception.
Pro Bowl special-teams ace and nickel back Corey Graham's two-year contract is worth $3.7 million and includes a $1.2 million signing bonus.
If a minimum playing time escalator clause is triggered, then Graham can average over $2 million per year.
Three-time Pro Bowl special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo's three-year contract is worth a total of $3.21 million.
It included a $400,000 signing bonus and base salaries of $925,000, $940,000 and $955,000.
Safety Sean Considine's one-year deal is worth $890,000 and includes a $65,000 signing bonus. Under the minimum salary benefit, the contract includes a salary-cap value of $605,000.
The Ravens were $4.664 million under the salary-cap limit prior to these recent contracts, including a $1.625 million cap figure for center Matt Birk, and are now down to $1.701 million in cap space with 46 players under contract.
That doesn't include $1.5 million the Ravens can borrow against future years.
The Ravens could create more salary-cap breathing room by signing players to long-term contract extensions, including quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice and cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams.
Meanwhile, the Ravens are due to pay free safety Ed Reed $7.2 million in the final season of his six-year, $44 million contract. He carries an $8.5 million salary-cap figure.
Although often mentioned as a candidate for a contract extension, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year currently has no representation after firing Eugene Mato years ago.
An extension for Reed was discussed internally at one point last season.
Reed and the team have already declared that he will return for next season, but each year his health is a question mark due to a lingering nerve impingement in his neck.
Reed, 33, told South Florida reporters Thursday night while being inducted into the University of Miami Hall of Fame that he intends to keep playing.
"There's a lot of talk out there," Reed said. "I'm not going to say I'm 50-50, because I'm not. I want to play football, but it's something me and my team have been discussing the last couple of weeks.
"My partners, they do a great job of making sure I know the pros and cons of what's going on with my body and with the organization and where we're at. I plan on doing it, but depending, it could change. If it was up to me, I'd be with a walking cane out there. I don't know, man. I think four to five years is a reality for me."
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