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Ravens' decision on Marty Mornhinweg came down to Joe Flacco

Ravens' decision on Marty Mornhinweg came down to Joe Flacco

Don't look now, but Joe Flacco is suddenly the Ravens' $80 million problem.

Yes, Flacco has proved he can be – dare we say it? – elite. He has a Super Bowl ring and shiny Super Bowl MVP car to show for it. But he hasn't played at anything close to an elite level for at least two years, and that's a huge problem for a team that will commit roughly 15 percent of its salary cap to that one player.

And reading between the lines of Tuesday's "State of the Ravens" news conference, Flacco is the biggest reason embattled offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will return in 2017.

At the news conference on Tuesday, owner Steve Bisciotti said what anyone who watched the Ravens in 2016 was thinking: "We’ve seen a better Joe Flacco in the past."

"We need to get more out of Joe," Bisciotti added. "Joe would agree with me, and Joe is committed to making that happen."

One way, apparently, is by continuing to work with Mornhinweg.

Many observers expected Mornhinweg to be jettisoned after the season, as the Ravens showed little offensive improvement after Mornhinweg took over for the fired Marc Trestman.  But Harbaugh announced last week that Mornhinweg would return.

Even Bisciotti admitted in so many words that the Ravens offense this fall was a mess. The running game disappeared, and the Ravens had no semblance of an offensive identity. Flacco threw a team-record 672 passes – one shy of the league lead – but the Ravens ranked 26th in passing yards per play.

"I do not think that we are going to be successful putting the ball in the air 600-and-some times," Bisciotti said. "It is just not our identity, and I do not know how we got that far away from it."

Well here's an answer: They got away from it because Mornhinweg decided to get away from it. He's the one calling the plays. And he'll be doing so again next season.

When asked on Tuesday about the decision to bring Mornhinweg back for another season, Bisciotti said tersely, "My quarterback seems happy with it."

So there it is: The Ravens are all in on Mornhinweg because their $80 million quarterback wants it that way. After all, there probably isn't anyone in the Castle – other than Bisciotti – with more job security than Flacco.

He has a salary cap hit of $24.5 million this year, with more than $47 million in dead money tied up in a contract that still includes more than $80 million in base salary through 2021. Translation: He isn't going anywhere, so if he wants Mornhinweg to return, Mornhinweg returns.

On the one hand, that's understandable: Flacco has been through a revolving door of coordinators, and hasn't even been with Mornhinweg for one full season. Flacco will have an entire offseason of workouts, which he didn't have last year as he  recovered from knee surgery. Mornhinweg has an entire offseason as the coordinator, which he didn't have last year.

Fair point.

But the Ravens are losing one of their go-to receivers in Steve Smith Sr. They could lose the starting right tackle and fullback – a key cog in Mornhinweg's passing game – to free agency. They could lose Flacco's top target in tight end Dennis Pitta as a cap casualty.

Even if most of those players return, Flacco still has to get right. He needs to make better decisions. He needs to fix himself mechanically and get rid of the back-foot floater throws. He needs to get on the same page as his receivers. And oh by the way, the Ravens need at least one more legitimate receiver. General manager Ozzie Newsome said as much on Tuesday.

In other words, there are a whole lot of question marks going into 2017 for the Ravens offense.  The notion that Flacco and Mornhinweg will somehow have this offense purring next fall seems, frankly, wildly optimistic.

But the Ravens have about 80 million reasons to hope and pray that happens.

MORE RAVENS: Ravens owner wants more out of Flacco

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh says he's interested in bringing Anquan Boldin back

Ravens coach John Harbaugh says he's interested in bringing Anquan Boldin back

By: Lisa Redmond (@LisaARedmond) 

John Harbaugh would like to be reunited with one of his star players from Super Bowl XLVII.

During a presser at the NFL owners meeting in Arizona, coach Harbaugh mentioned that he would love to have former Ravens wide reciever Anquan Boldin back on the team. The two requirements to make this happen: Boldin having an interest and GM Ozzie Newsome making it work. 

Via ESPN 

"I know he loved it in Baltimore, and I loved him in Baltimore," Harbaugh said. "Didn't want him to have to leave when it happened. That's just the way it all worked out. But I'd be for it."

Boldin is currently an unrestricted free agent after signing only a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions this past year. The 36-year-old played with the Ravens for three seasons and was a staple in them bringing the Lombardy Trophy back to Baltimore during the 2012-2013 season. He was ultimately traded to John's brother, Jim, and the 49ers because he did not want to take a pay cut. 

Even though he is 36-years-old, Harbaugh feels he could still be a contending player.

"I will say this: I do believe he can still play at the highest level. I think his ability and skills are such that he's not going to drop off the edge just because of how he plays."

With Steve Smtih Sr. retiring this past season, they are looking to add one more veteran receiver to the likes of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman.

"I've got to be careful in how I answer that because, of course, we are. Of course, I am. I'm thinking about it every day. Just like I'm thinking about [several other open spots on the roster]," Harbaugh said. 

The team has several options when it comes to finding another wide receiver. There is, of course, the draft which will bring top prospects, a trade with another team or signing who've been cut. 

If a reunion with Boldin were to happen, it most likely wouldn't take place until after May 9. Boldin is an unrestricted free agent, but signing with the Ravens means they would lose a compensatory pick during the next draft and both coach Harbaugh and Ravens president Dick Cass have acknowledged that. 

When it comes to having chemistry with your QB, that shouldn't be a problem for Boldin and Flacco. While he was with the Ravens, Boldin had 186 receptions, 2,645 total yards, and 14 touchdowns.

MORE RAVENS: RAVENS WANTED TORREY SMITH BACK 

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Ravens wanted to bring back wide receiver Torrey Smith this off-season

Ravens wanted to bring back wide receiver Torrey Smith this off-season

BY TYLER BYRUM - @theTylerByrum

For years, Torrey Smith was a fan favorite wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. He is a local player that not only helped the Ravens win their Super Bowl in 2012, but went to Maryland to play college ball.

This past off-season the Baltimore Ravens were interested in bringing him back. 

On Tuesday morning at the AFC coaches breakfast, John Harbaugh revealed the team's plan of bringing back the wide receiver who accumulated over 3,500 receiving yards in four seasons with the team. Instead, Smith signed with the Philadelphia Eagles for a middle tier contract. 

Last season, the 28-year-old only brought in 267 yards in the 12 games that he played with the San Francisco 49ers. Smith left the Ravens after the 49ers offered him a five-year deal that he could not turn down.

With Steve Smith Sr. retiring at the end of this season, it almost felt like a perfect fit as the Ravens best option at the No. 2 wide receiver position is Breshad Perriman.

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