(Sports Network) - Propelled by one of the all-time great seasons by a running back, the defensive-minded Ravens won 10 games and a division title with a rookie and a career backup starting at quarterback.
Baltimore went 7-1 at home before being knocked out of a first round playoff game on a Gary Anderson field goal in the final minute of play. To improve in 2004 the Ravens need the offense to play closer to the level of the defense.
Jamal Lewis' legal situation is the top question hanging over the organization. Lewis set an NFL record for rushing yards in a game and posted the second highest rushing total in NFL history, but faces charges of cocaine trafficking. Lewis entered a not guilty plea on February 26 and the Ravens need their offensive star to be cleared if they're to contend for another division crown.
Baltimore is finally in good cap shape and has the money to sign cornerback Chris McAllister. McAlister was named the team's franchise player, entitling him to the average salary of the top five highest paid cornerbacks. That figure is $6.8 million this season, but the Ravens and new majority owner Steve Bischotti will try to lock up McAlister to a long-term deal.
McAlister was suspended and sent home from an early season game at San Diego, but apologized to the team the following week and went on to have the best season of his career.
Baltimore took a shot on a pair of free agents coming off injury a year ago. Marcus Robinson flashed his old form late in the season and became a reliable deep threat. The Ravens will try to re-sign him if the price is right but will look to add another receiver regardless of whether Robinson can be re-signed.
The pool of free agent receivers was thinned by the subtraction of Terrell Owens and Dennis Northcutt from the unrestricted list. Like a lot of teams, the Ravens will have their eyes on what Tennessee does with RFAs Justin McCareins and Drew Bennett.
Right tackle Orlando Brown was Baltimore's other free agent addition last year and the Ravens are not likely to try and re-sign him. Brown was not a good pass blocker and continued to show the immaturity that plagued him earlier in his career. His penalty helped set the Titans up for the game-winning playoff drive. The Ravens will look for help at right tackle in free agency and will try and retain stable center Mike Flynn.
Baltimore is likely to tender Ed Hartwell at a high enough level to scare off suitors. The team may be able to keep versatile defender and standout special teams ace Adalius Thomas now that he is coming off a season-ending knee injury.
The Ravens hired ex-Giants head coach Jim Fassel to work with QB Kyle Boller, and the club is likely to re-sign backup Anthony Wright and let Chris Redman leave.
KEY UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB-Chris McAlister (Franchise Tag), WR-Marcus Robinson, C-Mike Flynn, OT-Orlando Brown, DE/LB-Adalius Thomas, QB-Anthony Wright, QB-Chris Redman, TE-John Jones, DE-Riddick Parker, LB-Bernardo Harris, CB-Tom Knight, K-Wade Richey, K-Matt Stover.
KEY RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: OG-Bennie Anderson, FB-Alan Ricard, DE-Marques Douglas, LB-Ed Hartwell, OG-Casey Rabach.