INDIANAPOLIS -- The Baltimore Ravens are facing one of the most critical offseasons in franchise history.
The team has missed the playoffs for three consecutive years, the longest drought in more than a decade. The Ravens are also dealing with disenchantment from their fan base because of the floundering offense and player protests during the national anthem.
As a result, owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome are determined to correct those problems by adding some playmakers via the Draft and free agency to create some excitement.
This will be an especially important year for Newsome, who will step down from his role as general manager at the end of the 2018 season and assistant Eric DeCosta will take over.
"I don't like not playing in January," Newsome said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "That's something we talk about all of the time. We have to find a way to get to 11 wins. We've proven that once we get into the playoffs then we can do some damage while we're there. We should all have that burden on us. We want to be like Philadelphia. We want to be the Super Bowl champs."
The Ravens' biggest priority is adding more talented wide receivers and tight ends for quarterback Joe Flacco, who had another uneven season after missing all of training camp with a back injury. Flacco passed for 3,141 yards with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His 80.4 passer rating was 25th in the league.
Newsome said adding a receiver through the draft is a main priority.
"We're looking for opportunities to change the (wide receiver) room and the personnel in the room," Newsome said at the Combine. "We won't leave any stone unturned."
Still, Flacco is 32 years old and has dealt with both knee and back injuries over the past three years. Head coach John Harbaugh said the team would look into drafting a young quarterback this year, especially if they can find value in the later rounds.
Bisciotti, however, said the team has bigger priorities.
"I think that you can think about life after Joe, but most of the franchise quarterbacks ... I don't know of any franchise quarterbacks that are retiring at 33, 34, 35 anymore -- none of them. Eli (Manning) and Ben (Roethlisberger) and our friend up in New England (Tom Brady), they're all staying (at) 35, 36, 37 -- Drew Brees," Bisciotti said. "We've got bigger fish to fry, I guess. I don't consider that a big worry ... We're a long way off to have to worry about Joe."
The Ravens would pounce on the opportunity to select Alabama's Calvin Ridley, who caught 55 passes for 896 yards and three touchdowns last season as a junior. Ridley, who is 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, is effective running his routes and has the speed to get behind cornerbacks downfield.
Newsome is regarded as one of the best tight ends in the history of Alabama football and he maintains close ties to the program. In the past four years, the Ravens have selected two Alabama players -- linebacker C.J. Mosley and cornerback Marlon Humphrey -- in the first round.
The Ravens might have to trade up from the 16th overall pick to get him. Some draft boards have Ridley in the top 10. Traditionally, Newsome has been reluctant to part with draft picks, but he did not rule out the possibility of trading up to grab a player that is high on his draft board.
The Ravens' brass fully understands the importance of this year's free-agent market and draft. Look for them to deviate from the norm and make a splash once they clear some space with the salary cap.
"We'll do what we have to do to fill our roster through the draft and through free agency," Bisciotti said. "We've got some money, and we can create some more, so I'm not too worried about that right now. I think that what we figured out between what we have and what we can get, I think that we can make a splash and help us on the way to getting our offense clicking better."
--The Ravens are hopeful new defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale will bring an edge to a unit that has been susceptible to giving up costly, big plays late in games.
Martindale served as the Ravens linebackers coach for the past six seasons before being promoted to take the place of Dean Pees, who retired as the team's defensive coordinator in January. Pees then took a job as defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.
Martindale had the overwhelming support of his players to take over the job, as opposed to head coach John Harbaugh looking outside the franchise for a replacement.
"There are going to be sometimes where I am going to pressure more," Martindale said when comparing his style to Pees. "I think I have a more aggressive personality in calling a game -- sometimes too aggressive. That is something I have learned from the past. There is that fine line of what quarterback you are playing and things of that nature."
Martindale has just one year of previous experience as a defensive coordinator. That Broncos team ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed (390.8) and points (29.4) per game.
When asked about the struggles in Denver when he led its defense in 2010, Martindale said, "You win or you learn. And I learned a lot that year."
The Ravens have talent on defense, which was ranked in the top third of the NFL for much of last season. Linebacker C.J. Mosley has made the Pro Bowl in three of the past four years, the secondary led the NFL with 22 interceptions and cornerback Marlon Humphrey is showing early signs that he can be a key playmaker for years to come.
In addition to Martindale, the Ravens promoted Mike Macdonald to linebackers coach and Sterling Lucas to quality control defense.
Macdonald, 30, joined the Ravens in 2014 as a coaching intern on defense. He was promoted to defensive assistant (2015-16) and defensive backs coach (2017).
Lucas has worked for the Ravens the past two seasons, most recently serving as administrative assistant/defense in 2017. Prior to joining Baltimore in 2016, he spent two years as a defensive graduate assistant at North Carolina State.