This is the 19th in a 20-part series examining some possibilities for the Browns in the 2013 NFL Draft, including extensive looks at the most likely prospects for the No. 6 overall selection, potential targets later in the draft, trade-down scenarios, what the other teams in the AFC North might do and the top players coming out of Ohio State and the Mid-American Conference.
Each morning will bring a new, daily posting leading up the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. And every Monday, we look at another team around the division.
Today it's the Super Bowl champs looking at this offseason's biggest decision and a couple of stars with at least one foot out the door.
Overview: Before this past season, many around the NFL got in a good laugh when Joe Flacco said he thought he was the best quarterback in the league. That still most likely isn't true, but he has been fitted for a Super Bowl ring as the Ravens won the title on Flacco's efficient play and Ray Lewis' last ride into the sunset.
Now the most noteworthy decision in the NFL is left up to the Ravens in determining what to do with Flacco, who is an impending free agent. It is believed the team, if a long-term deal cannot be reached, will put one of two franchise tags on Flacco -- an exclusive tag, which would pay Flacco about $20 million a year and means no other team can sign him, or a non-exclusive tag, meaning Flacco would make a little more than $14 million a year and if another team wants to give two first-round picks to the Ravens, it could then sign him for that price. Much of what the Ravens do this offseason will revolve around that sole decision and the ramifications of it, but this team might be as busy as any dealing with other positions.
The Ravens reportedly have about $15.7 million in cap space heading into 2013 but will have to make decisions on their many unrestricted free agents, including future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Cary Williams, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, left tackle Bryant McKinnie and half a dozen others. And the team's top two tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, will be restricted free agents. With Flacco's payday coming up, the Ravens will have to be delicate while deciding who stays and who goes. Also worth noting -- some around the league believe Kruger's likely destination could be with the Browns after a breakout season in which he had nine sacks.
Citing the Ravens' draft needs at the current moment is an inexact science, especially because so many key players have unknown destinations in 2013. For now, these are projected, but it starts by filling the hole Lewis left at inside linebacker and preparing for life without Reed. The Ravens have the 32nd overall pick.
Biggest draft needs: ILB, OLB, S.
Targets to watch: Manti Te'o, linebacker, Notre Dame -- The Ravens might be the benefactors of two talented linebackers who might see their draft stock falling, and it starts with the infamous Te'o. At some points during the season, Te'o was inside the top-eight ranked players, according to Scout's Inc. There were already some concerns with Te'o's athleticism, but the Lenny Kekua hoax will cloud his draft process. Perhaps more than any player, Te'o will need to leave teams with peace of mind after his interviews. If many teams don't want to deal with the added circus that will surely follow Te'o at least in his rookie season, nabbing him at No. 32 might be a great value pick. He was also a surefire team leader on the field for the Fighting Irish and could be a notable replacement for Lewis. Both NFLDraftScout.com writers, Dane Brugler and Rob Rang, see this happening.
Alec Ogletree, linebacker, Georgia -- Like with Te'o, the Ravens might benefit from Ogletree sliding on draft day after he was charged with a DUI a couple of days ago. This is troubling, considering Ogletree was suspended for the first four games of 2012 for violating team rules but it has been reported it was for violating the team's substance abuse policy. Now what's between his ears most likely has a bigger impact on where he'll be drafted than his 40-yard dash time. But at times, Ogletree was the best player on a defense that had Jarvis Jones, which is saying something. Again, Ogletree falling could provide the Ravens with a "best player available" option.
Kevin Minter, linebacker, Louisiana State -- Another "quarterback of the defense," Minter has a strong core and nice mobility for his size. Normally ranked in the second-round range, Minter could be next in line if Ogletree and Te'o don't fall like the Ravens might hope.
Matt Elam, safety, Florida -- The Ravens could lose two backup safeties to free agency. Bernard Pollard dealt with injuries, and Reed is either gone or about to be gone. Elam doesn't have prototypical size but is versatile enough to play either safety spot and is the best safety on the board after Texas' Kenny Vaccaro.
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