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Ravens' Season Ends With Promise For 2021

theblackdog2071 via (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

At the end of a relationship, it’s typical for one or both parties to take stock, to dust oneself off, as it were, and try to figure out what went wrong towards a goal of making things better the next time.

In some cases, with the passage of time, you might even consider the wisdom of patching things up and trying again.

If you think of the end of an athletic season in the same way you would a relationship, then, in the wake of Saturday’s desultory 17-3 loss to Buffalo in the AFC playoffs, the Ravens are doing a “where did it all fall apart” assessment of the situation.

All things considered (and no pun intended), the team’s brass should take a more “it’s not me, it’s you” view of what happened in the season now concluded.

In other words, a lot of what happened in 2020 was beyond the team’s control. With a little luck, talent development and maturation and solid player acquisition, next season should see a fourth straight trip to the playoffs.

Of course, so much of the assessment process of this season is dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ravens had no preseason to evaluate talent and were forced, like the rest of the NFL, to go into the campaign sight unseen.

Once the season started, the team was unusually beset by coronavirus and injuries, which laid it low and forced games in November and December to be moved. 

The Ravens somehow survived that time and made a push to the postseason. If life returns to an NFL normal next season, the team should be well positioned to make another playoff run.

That’s not to say that the Ravens are perfect. Indeed, they’re far from it. The team still desperately needs a top flight wide receiver. Marquise Brown finished his second season on a roll, but he has to show this improvement for a full season to be counted on. 

The offense must continue to mature and not rely so much on quarterback Lamar Jackson’s running. 

Yes, he did become the first NFL quarterback to run for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, but Jackson’s third season did not show much appreciable improvement in his passing ability. 

His departure at the end of the third quarter Saturday because of a concussion should not obscure the idea that Jackson needs to work on his arm strength and his awareness.

That said, Jackson’s future will be the focus of the offseason, as he will be entering the final year of a four-year, nearly $10 million contract he signed before his rookie season. 

The Ravens can exercise an option for a fifth season, but it would be in their best interest to extend Jackson to a number that is both friendly to their salary cap, but commensurate with his status as a former Most Valuable Player and his future as the leader of the team.

The pain of Saturday’s loss will fade, but if the Ravens and Lamar Jackson can’t reach contract agreement by the deadline of May 3, the heartbreak may go on for a lot longer, 

And that’s how I see it for this week.  

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