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John Harbaugh may be nearing last stand for stuck-in-middle Ravens, more notes

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The former Super Bowl-winning coach has two years on his deal, and his status, like the very franchise he is a part of, appears to be stuck perilously in the middle. The Ravens are too old in some key roster spots, with not enough young talent on the rise. They're not good enough to truly compete with the better teams in the NFL (1-5 against winning teams in 2017 while facing primarily back-up quarterbacks all season) and they are just .500 since winning it all five years ago. They have just enough talent to finish ahead of the dregs of the AFC (a deep list in this weak season) and not bad enough to secure a top-10 pick.



Couple the outcome on offense with the with the decision to promote from within at defensive coordinator after the retirement of Dean Pees (Don Martindale moved up from linebackers coach) despite so many qualified former Ravens coaches being available (Chuck Pagano, Steve Spagnuolo, Mike Nolan, to name a few) and it smells like a lame-duck situation. If Harbaugh is going to be gone in a year, then top coaches can catch that sniff and they'll look for longer-term deals elsewhere. And if ownership knows somewhere down deep that sweeping changes are coming in a year, then why take on a bunch of top salaries now only to blow up the staff in 2019?



Thus far, the message has been status quo from the Ravens, at least what little has come out of their camp, and until owner Steve Bisciotti does his annual offseason address that's likely to continue to be how others in the NFL are reading this situation. There are several factors pointing against a quick jump up. Baltimore lacks a haul of top picks in 2018 and any real tradeable commodities. They're also running out of big cap space and are stuck with the huge contracts for Joe Flacco and injured corner Jimmy Smith for another year. Recent draft classes have flashed next to nothing. Their huge needs are at pass catcher and the free-agent class stinks at that spot, while Baltimore's history of drafting receivers is spotty at best.



Of course, when Breshad Perriman (first round) and Maxx Williams (second round) look like complete busts (combined for 25 catches, 163 yards and 1 touchdown all season) and the veterans signed to bolster the passing game, Danny Woodhead and Jeremy Maclin, combine for 640 receiving yards and three touchdowns all season, a coaching staff of Bill Walsh with Don Coryell as his offensive coordinator isn't going to produce much, either. And with virtually no proven receivers or tight ends under contract for next season, and Flacco appearing in steady decline with injuries mounting in recent years, even the return of some quality offensive linemen from injury isn't going to do much to raise hopes of 2018 being a breakout year on offense.

Something has to change with how the team is evaluating talent, because similar decisions to those made since last hoisting the Lombardi will only yield similar results. And Bisciotti putting off the macro-level stuff until 2019, and punting in 2018, could have major turnstile ramifications this season. He's got a Hall of Fame general manager in Ozzie Newsome, but one whose recent results haven't been up to his own standards, and an excellent, Super Bowl-winning head coach in his prime who could get a top pro or college job within hours if he was let go, but one who has not been able to secure or develop the type of young, innovative offensive assistants who are all the rage (Adam Gase, Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, Matt Nagy, etc.).





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