On Wednesday Ravens PSL and season ticket holders got an opportunity that many team’s fans do not get to experience: A Q+A session with the owner of their team. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti took an hour to answer some questions fans had over the phone and was very genuine and honest in all of his responses. Here are the highlights of what he had to say.
1. Displaying his regrets in dealing with the Ray Rice Domestic Abuse Case
Perhaps the question garnering the most attention from people around the league is whether or not Bisciotti wished he and the Ravens organization handled the Ray Rice case differently. Bisciotti expressed his regrets about the situation in the following quote taken from ESPN.com:
“We did the best we could. I can’t say I have no regrets. I said back then, my regret was not cutting him. My regret was not demanding to see the video. I believe we could’ve gotten it. If I had seen the video back in the spring, I think we would have [had] a different circumstance. We would’ve released him. We should have seen the video in May and not in September.”
Bisciotti also added that “2014 was my worst year as owner.”
It was good to hear Bisciotti admit that the Ravens did not pursue the video as aggressively as we all would have liked them to. Hopefully the Ravens brass used this as a learning experience. So far this offseason they have done a good job of laying down the hammer and immediately releasing anyone who gets arrested in the offseason.
2. Possible tampering with Haloti Ngata?
The Ravens had to let several veterans go this offseason, perhaps most notably defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Ngata played nine seasons with the Ravens and declined an extension to his contract (he was entering the final year of his contract that will have a $16 million cap hit this season with Detroit). This resulted in the Ravens trading Ngata to the Lions, and it will be interesting to see if Ngata sticks with the Lions after his contract season. Bisciotti mentioned that he would love to have Ngata back after next season, but may have violated the NFL’s tampering policy in doing so. Owners cannot express a desire to have a player back in the way Bisciotti did on Wednesday. I doubt the NFL or the Lions take any further action, but Bisciotti should avoid a similar question next time if it comes up.
3. Possible draft plan revealed?
With the departures of several veterans this offseason, the Ravens have a number of holes to fill on their roster, including RB, WR, TE, CB and a pass rush specialist. When asked about possible positions to fill in the draft, Bisciotti pretty much laid it all out for fans to hear. Bisciotti expressed his desire to draft a cornerback in the first round, a pass rusher “early,” and a TE/WR in the 3rd/4th rounds. If Ravens fans were anxious to find out what route they were most likely going to go, well there you have it. The team can also reach out into what’s left in the free agent market to fill holes on their roster, probably at cheap prices too.
4. The Ravens will probably have to negotiate a contract extension with QB Joe Flacco after this season
After the Ravens won Superbowl 47, the team signed Joe Flacco to a six year, $120.6 million deal that will see a $28.55 million cap hit for the 2016 season if the Ravens do not negotiate an extension. Considering the fact that the Ravens will be tight against the cap for years to come, it would be silly if they do not extend Flacco’s contract for at least three seasons. The Ravens are confident that they can get it done, but they were also confident that they could get Haloti Ngata to negotiate an extension. So until the time comes for negotiation, it is hard to predict what will really happen.
5. The team also hopes to get other contract extensions done
The Ravens lost key pieces in WR Torrey Smith, TE Owen Daniels and LB Pernell McPhee to free agency this offseason. I think it is safe to say that the Ravens and their fans do not want to see as many stars leave next offseason. Some players on the Ravens roster entering the last year of their contracts include G Marshal Yanda, CB Jimmy Smith, LB Courtney Upshaw, G Kelechi Osemele, S Will Hill, K Justin Tucker and P Sam Koch. Bisciotti did mention on the call that the team is currently looking to work out an extension with Yanda, who was drafted by the Ravens in 2007 and has been with them since. Yanda has been the anchor of the line and is a team leader, so him being back might be the highest priority. Behind that, Jimmy Smith should be the next order of business. Smith has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL over the last two seasons and was hampered by a foot injury last season. Considering what the Ravens went through at the cornerback position last season, it would be a huge blow if they lost Smith next offseason. Justin Tucker has also been one of the best kickers in the NFL since he entered the league in 2012, and Kelechi Osemele has been a monster in the middle of the Ravens offensive line. It is going to be tough, but hopefully the Ravens can keep the majority of these soon-to-be free agents after the 205 season.
6. The hope is still for TE Dennis Pitta to return
Over the last two seasons Dennis Pitta has only played in seven regular season games due to two hip dislocations in the same hip. According to head coach John Harbaugh, Pitta’s hip is back in place and he will be able to “live a normal life,” but is Pitta’s hip good to go for football? That remains to be seen, and there are serious question marks on if Pitta’s hip will hold up. Let’s not forget that Pitta’s second dislocation last season was a non-contact injury. Bisciotti used the term “praying” when describing the Ravens hopes for him to return next season. If not, the Ravens will have second year man Crockett Gillmore and an additional TE added through either free agency or the draft.
7. Ravens hope to play in London
Over the past few seasons the NFL has done more and more international series games in London and hopes to eventually have a team there. The Ravens are one of the teams yet to play a game across the pond, but Bisciotti expressed that the Ravens “would love” to play in London. Bisciotti did say that he hopes the game would be an away game, and anticipates that the Ravens would be playing there in the next three or four years.
Very few owners would set aside time to answer questions and give insight to a team’s plans going forward, and Steve Bisciotti proved once again why he is one of the best owners in the NFL. Interaction between a team’s brass and fans is very rare, and Ravens fans are truly lucky to have Bisciotti at the helm of their team. How well Bisciotti’s hopes and dreams line up with what Ozzie Newsome and company look to do going forward remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: The Baltimore Ravens continue to be in good hands with their ownership, front office and coaching staff.
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