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Ravens Insider: 10 takeaways from NFL meetings, including Ravens ticket prices, uniforms, Christmas games and more

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ORLANDO, Fla. — There was golf, a swanky evening soiree complete with a band, committee meetings and interview sessions with the media. And, of course, the annual grilling of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

This year’s league meetings at the lush Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes was, as usual, a gathering of football cognoscenti, and it provided no shortage of storylines, most notably the implementation of wild new kickoff rules and the banning of a controversial tackle beginning next season.

The Ravens, meanwhile, had a much less fretful few days compared with a year ago, when quarterback Lamar Jackson revealed during the meetings that he’d asked the team to trade him.

After signing the now two-time NFL Most Valuable Player to a $260 million extension last April, finishing a league-best 13-4 and reaching its first AFC championship game in over a decade, this year’s affair was perhaps a bit more relaxed for Baltimore’s brass, with owner Steve Bisciotti, president Sashi Brown, general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh all on hand.

Here are the 10 biggest takeaways from the three days of meetings:

Ravens ticket prices going up

The Ravens will raise the price of season tickets by an average of 13% for next season to “remain competitive,” said Brown, who met with local reporters during the meetings. Last year, Baltimore ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in terms of pricing, and the bump, Brown said, is part of the Ravens doing so every other year.

Given significant renovations to M&T Bank Stadium, which began after the season ended and are scheduled to be completed in 2026, seating will also be “re-zoned,” Brown said. He added that they won’t lose much in terms of seating capacity, despite the renovations. The Ravens are also adding “about 160, 170” field seats, similar to what the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers have at their stadiums.

Alternate uniform change

Uniforms are always a hot topic among fans, and the Ravens “have some stuff that’s coming,” Brown said. He declined to get into specifics but did add that the Ravens are exploring changes to their alternate uniforms.

One thing that won’t be changing, however, are Baltimore’s regular home and away jerseys.

“We feel like we have really classic jerseys, and I think the team did a great job when we’ve had some minor modifications,” Brown said. “We’re really cautious about making changes, something that we think really works well.”

Ravens Training
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, right, talks with quarterback Josh Johnson. Baltimore released the 37-year-old quarterback in a series of roster moves Saturday.
Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, right, talks with quarterback Josh Johnson. The 38-year-old Johnson will back up Lamar Jackson this season.

Ravens name backup quarterback

When Tyler Huntley signed with the Cleveland Browns earlier this month, it was clear the Ravens weren’t interested in retaining him or investing much money in the position, given he got a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum. It also raised the question of who would be the No. 2 quarterback behind Jackson.

Harbaugh provided the answer: Josh Johnson.

Johnson, who will turn 38 in May and has played for an NFL-record 14 teams, joined Baltimore last offseason and spent the year as the team’s third/emergency quarterback. The only other quarterback on the roster — for now — is second-year player Malik Cunningham, who was Jackson’s teammate for one season at Louisville and was signed from the New England Patriots’ practice squad late last season.

“Thrilled to have him back,” Harbaugh said of Johnson. “I think he can still play at a really high level. He knows the offense inside and out. He contributes to the offense. He and Lamar have a great relationship.”

Offensive lineman Vorhees ‘full go’ after torn ACL

One of the more interesting moves the Ravens made last year was when they traded back into the draft and selected Southern California offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees.

Vorhees was projected to be a third- or fourth-round pick until he tore his ACL at the NFL scouting combine. The injury didn’t stop him from ripping off 38 reps during bench press, but it did end any chance of him playing this past season.

Harbaugh said Vorhees is now a “full go,” which could make things interesting again for Baltimore, given the uncertainty surrounding its offensive line. The Ravens lost starting guards Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson in free agency while right tackle Morgan Moses was traded to the New York Jets in a draft pick swap.

Goodbye, surprise onside kicks

The biggest news of the week was the NFL’s drastic new kickoff formation, which should boost the frequency of returns significantly. Perhaps that’s why on the same day the proposal passed, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed four-time All-Pro returner Cordarrelle Patterson to a two-year deal worth a reported $6 million.

With the new rule, however, comes a loss: the surprise onside kick.

Now, teams will have to declare when they are going to attempt an onside kick, which they can do up to twice a game and only in the fourth quarter while using a traditional formation. That means we might never again see what coach Sean Payton did in Super Bowl XLIV, when the New Orleans Saints, down 10-6 to the Indianapolis Colts, opened the second half with a surprise onside kick that they recovered. Six plays later, the Saints scored, completely changing the momentum of the game on the way to victory.

Hip-drop tackle chaos?

The other hot-button topic of the week was the NFL banning the use of the hip-drop tackle after the league’s owners unanimously voted to outlaw the move.

Several defensive players — including now former Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen — have been outspoken against the ban because it’s viewed as more legislation favoring offensive players. Advocates for getting rid of it, meanwhile, believe it can be coached and enforced accurately.

If a hip-drop tackle is used, it results in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down. But plays will also be reviewed by the league and offending players will be hit with a fine — even if they weren’t flagged. Goodell said he expects a learning curve, but this undoubtedly will end up being at least a little messy.

New trade deadline

One of the lesser talked about but important proposals that was approved is moving the trade deadline back a week to the Tuesday after Week 9. Pushing the deadline back was something Harbaugh said he was in favor of when asked about it during last season.

“It is better for the players and the teams and the fans,” he said. “As long as it doesn’t compromise the fairness and integrity. As far as I can tell it would be great.”

The Tuesday after Week 9 this year also marks another, even more important day: Election Day.

Military flyover M&T Bank Stadium before the AFC Championship as seen through goalposts.
Maryland Air National Guards A-10 fighters fly over M&T Bank Stadium before a playoff game against the Texans. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff)

Draft could be coming to Baltimore, but not Super Bowl

As reported earlier, the Ravens have already begun talks with the NFL about hosting the draft, which has rotated cities since 2015 after 50 years in New York. It also might be a while, between M&T Bank Stadium renovations not being scheduled to be completed until 2026 and other teams, including the rival Steelers, also expressing interest in what has become one of the league’s biggest events.

What about the idea of Baltimore someday hosting a Super Bowl?

The Ravens haven’t talked or even thought about that, Brown said. Though the NFL has gone to cold weather cities before, most of those featured indoor stadiums. MetLife Stadium in New Jersey was the exception, hosting the event in 2014, but it’s also just outside New York City, which has the kind of hotel and event space Baltimore simply doesn’t.

International games

Last year, the Ravens played overseas as part of the league’s international series for the first time since 2017, beating the Tennessee Titans, 24-16, in London. Despite the win and a largely positive experience, don’t expect them to be a part of that again this season, even as the NFL expands its reach with a game in Brazil for the first time.

“We know there’s an expansion, and we’re supportive of the expansion of the game internationally,” Brown said. “It’s not an easy task to get over there. But I think the league’s been really thoughtful and flexible in terms of helping teams and giving them support when they go over. We had a good time over there. Obviously, it’s more helpful when we win, but I thought the stadium that we played in over at [Tottenham] was fantastic. And our opportunity to get our players over there was a neat experience. But we’re focused and six days later, we’re playing another [game].”

The Eagles, one of the teams playing in Brazil, face the Ravens next season, but their rumored opponent for the Sept. 6 opener in Sao Paolo is the Browns. An announcement could come any day.

More Christmas football

The NBA and Christmas have long been tied together, with the league holding games on the holiday on 76 occasions. The NFL, meanwhile, has played on Christmas just 30 times, including last year when the Ravens blew out the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

Next Christmas falls on a Wednesday, a day the NFL typically doesn’t play — until this year.

Last year’s Christmas triple-header averaged more than 27 million viewers per game, according to Sports Media Watch, which dwarfed the NBA’s average of 2.85 million viewers across five games. So guess what? The NFL decided it will hold two Christmas games this year.

Matchups haven’t been announced, but both games will feature teams that played the previous Saturday, which would allow for the same amount of time off for teams that play a Thursday night game.

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