When the Ravens front office gathers in Indianapolis with other league officials, agents and NFL hopefuls for the NFL combine, they will be working through more than who to bet on in the draft.

While they interview prospects and watch them perform a series of tests, they will also be thinking about all the ways they can build their roster for 2024. The franchise tag window is open. Free agency is approaching. And cap space, even though the Ravens gained a little more room, is an ever-present concern.

The combine starts Monday, and general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh will speak Tuesday morning. Here are five things for Ravens fans to keep an eye on.

1. First chance to address the police report on Zay Flowers

Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers had an important role in the offense last season. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

The last time Harbaugh and DeCosta spoke publicly was Feb. 2. The news that wide receiver Zay Flowers, who played a big role in his rookie season, was being investigated by the police for an alleged domestic assault broke six days later.

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Since then, the case has been closed but disturbing details have come out. The Ravens have not addressed the matter beyond a statement that said, “We take these matters seriously and will have no further comment at this time.” It is also unclear whether the NFL is investigating Flowers or intends to do so. The NFL’s spokesperson has simply said they “continue to monitor all developments.”

After the Ray Rice incident, the Ravens have said they have a zero-tolerance policy, but it’s unclear what the policy entails. They also signed running back Dalvin Cook this season. Cook has been in a legal battle with his ex-girlfriend over allegations of abuse.

When Harbaugh and DeCosta speak at the combine, it will be the first chance for them to address the allegations against Flowers, his future and the organization’s overall policy against domestic violence.

2. Will they act while the franchise tag window is open?

If the Ravens put the franchise tag on defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, it reportedly will cost them $22.1 million this year. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The window to franchise tag players opened Tuesday and it will remain open until March 5. DeCosta has been questioned about his intentions of using the tag on defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, but at the time he had weeks ahead of him to mull the decision. When he speaks at the combine, DeCosta will be in the middle of the window with the deadline approaching.

Madubuike was the team’s leader in sacks and led all NFL interior defensive linemen in that category. And he made history, becoming the first Raven since Terrell Suggs in 2017 to have 10 or more sacks in a season. He also tied the NFL’s longest streak for recording at least a half sack in consecutive games (11). It’ll reportedly cost $22.1 million to tag him.

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With only about $12 million in cap space, according to Spotrac, this decision isn’t as easy as it seems. And DeCosta has been reluctant to provide insight.

“I learned a lesson this year and that was ... not to revisit the Lamar [Jackson] negotiations — but one of the great things about that negotiation was that I learned that it’s beneficial to just not talk about things,” DeCosta said.

Whether the Ravens use the tag or not will affect the way the front office looks at free agency and the draft, and thus the combine.

3. Prioritize offense or defense in the draft? Plus, players to watch for.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) warms up before the game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson warms up before the playoff game against the Houston Texans. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Much of the Ravens’ success came from their stout defense, which stands to lose significant starters and depth players to free agency. But everyone in the locker room knows the Ravens rise and fall with Jackson. So will the front office look to build up the depleted defense or continue to build around Jackson?

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Many mock drafts have the Ravens selecting a defensive lineman in the early rounds, probably with the intention of bolstering a pass rush that could lose veteran outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy to free agency. Even if the Ravens tag Madubuike, that’s only a one-year deal. They could look to the future at a position that takes a few years to develop. Darius Robinson, a defensive end from Missouri, is a name I’m seeing a lot. He’s 6-foot-5 and 286 pounds and can move. He’s versatile, lining up at tackle and end, which will be valuable if new defensive coordinator Zach Orr runs similar schemes to Mike Macdonald’s.

On offense, the Ravens could go two ways. They could add another weapon and pick a wide receiver, or bolster their protection with another lineman.

The Ravens never established a true second or third wide receiver behind Flowers. They also might lose one of their best options, Odell Beckham Jr., to free agency. If they keep adding to the receiving corps, Keon Coleman of Florida State could add an element the Ravens don’t currently have. Flowers and Rashod Bateman are speedsters and route technicians. At 6-foot-4, Coleman adds size and the ability to win 50/50 balls.

Along the line, the Ravens could bring in someone at guard or tackle. Both guards, Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson, are free agents, and both tackles, Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses, are veterans who could be cap casualties. Tackle Amarius Mims from the highly touted Georgia offensive line could be a player to watch here. He finished 2023, playing only seven games, with a 75.6 grade from Pro Football Focus. He had an even better grade (77.5) in 2022 when he played 14 games. He is especially strong at pass blocking.

4. Coaching staff updates

New defensive coordinator Zach Orr takes questions from reporters at the Under Armour Performance Center this month. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Orr was the most recent Raven to hold a news conference when he was introduced as the defensive coordinator. When asked what’s at the top of his list, he said, “We have to get ready to get some more coaches in here.”

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Orr’s promotion was one of many changes for the coaching staff. Macdonald, Orr’s predecessor, became the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach. Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson became coordinators for the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans, respectively. And director of player personnel Joe Hortiz left John Harbaugh for Jim Harbaugh. He will help the former Michigan head coach try to turn around the Los Angeles Chargers as the team’s general manager.

All those positions need to be filled. The Ravens have promoted passing game coordinator and secondary coach Chris Hewitt, who was also interviewing for other jobs, to assistant head coach, but they have not announced other moves.

In Indianapolis, Harbaugh and DeCosta will be able to provide updates on any decisions they have made and give a sense of their timeline.

5. Local prospects in the draft and at the combine

Defensive back Beau Brade (2)
Maryland Football vs. Nebraska  at Memorial Stadium  in Lincoln, NE on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. 
Brieanna Andrews/Maryland Terrapins
Defensive back Beau Brade is one of four Maryland players invited to the NFL combine. (Brieanna Andrews/Maryland Terrapins)

Eighteen players from three local universities are draft eligible.

Four of them, all from the University of Maryland, have been invited to the combine: offensive linemen Gottlieb Ayedze and Delmar Glaze and defensive backs Beau Brade and Tarheeb Still.

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Brade attended River Hill High School in Howard County and grew up in Clarksville. As a senior at Maryland, he was the team captain and earned an honorable mention for the 2023 All-Big Ten team. He led the team with 75 tackles and had six pass breakups, a forced fumble and an interception.

Ayedze attended Northwest High School in Germantown. He previously played for Frostburg. Ayedze started 10 games as the Terps’ right tackle and finished the season with the sixth-highest pass blocking grade in the Big Ten, according to PFF.

Here are all 18 players by school:

Maryland

Towson

Morgan State

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