As the Baltimore Ravens’ offseason plans come into focus after their AFC Championship Game loss to the Chiefs, it’ll be hard to let this loss go. For the first time in franchise history, the Ravens had a chance to host the AFC Championship Game.

That should have been enough to get them over the hump. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, wasting a golden opportunity to get to the Super Bowl.

Where do the Ravens Go After AFC Championship Game Loss?

If we were to do a full Ravens season review, the 2023 campaign would be anything but a waste. They won their first division title since 2019 and earned the top seed in the AFC. The Ravens also had blowout wins over the Lions, 49ers, and Dolphins, proving themselves against quality teams. Alas, the loss to the Chiefs is going to sting for a long time, and here’s why.

The Lamar Jackson Situation

Unlike last offseason, Lamar Jackson’s future in Baltimore is secure. His five-year, $260 million contract ensures that he’ll be with the Ravens moving forward. Jackson is also poised to win MVP honors for the second time and surely took a step forward this season. That should encourage the Ravens regarding Jackson’s ability to lead them back to the AFC Championship Game and eventually a Super Bowl.

However, Jackson’s record in the playoffs is now 2-4, as the loss to Kansas City failed to change the narrative that he can be at his best in big games. Equally concerning, the contract he signed in April will start to take up a significant chunk of Baltimore’s payroll. There’s no denying that Jackson has proven himself to be worth it. But Jackson’s salary could inhibit the Ravens from building a championship-caliber roster around him.

       

The NFC North

Despite claiming a division title in 2023, the level of difficulty inside the AFC North is by no means going to decrease. If the Bengals can keep Joe Burrow healthy, they will likely be among the best teams in the AFC in the years to come. Meanwhile, both the Browns and Steelers made the playoffs in 2023 despite shuffling quarterbacks throughout the season for one reason or another.

Winning the AFC North again will be challenging, to say the least. It will be even more difficult for Baltimore to earn the top seed in the AFC, making it all the more obvious that the Ravens squandered a golden opportunity this season.

The team at the Top

Even if the Ravens can continue to traverse the AFC North, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are still lurking as the team to beat in the AFC. Baltimore is just 1-3 against the Chiefs since Jackson became the starting quarterback. The Ravens appeared to have had the jump on the Chiefs this season. Baltimore earned the top seed with Kansas City looking vulnerable at times.

As a result, the Ravens were able to host the AFC Championship Game, an opportunity that may not come around again anytime soon with the way the Chiefs have dominated the AFC in recent years.

Keeping the Band Together

While Jackson remains the centerpiece, Baltimore has some work to do ahead of the 2024 season. The Ravens are at risk of losing two starting offensive linemen and six defensive starters to free agency, including Patrick Queen. Running backs JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards and veteran wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor are also among Baltimore’s outgoing free agents.

Even with the emergence of rookie Zay Flowers, the Ravens are facing serious questions about who will be the playmakers around Jackson in 2024 and beyond. That part of the roster will need to be rebuilt this offseason while the Ravens simultaneously try to maintain a top-flight defense.

Doing both will be a challenge with a little more than $11 million in cap space heading into the offseason. While it can be done, Baltimore’s 2023 roster was likely in a better position to win a Super Bowl than the 2024 roster will be. It’s just another reason why the Ravens will likely look back at the AFC Championship Game loss to the Chiefs as a golden opportunity that they squandered.

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