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Ravens roster preview: Tight ends

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Ravens roster preview: Tight ends

It's clear that coming off a 5-11 season, the Ravens have some tough decisions to make regarding their 2016 roster. To be sure, injuries were a huge part of the story this past season, but there figures to be significant roster turnover after one of the worst seasons in team history. And as always, the salary cap will have a major influence on how the Ravens go about constructing their 2016 roster.

Over the next two weeks, we are examining each Ravens position group with an eye toward 2016. Who stays? Who goes? We've already covered the offensive line and wide receivers. Today it's the tight ends.

Note: For the purpose of this discussion, we will limit the roster to those players on the final 53-man roster and injured reserve, and in the case of the tight ends, suspension (looking at you, Nick Boyle...). (And here is more on free agency terminology.)

Under contract: Nick Boyle, Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams

Unrestricted free agents: Allen Reisner

Restricted free agents: Chase Ford

Exclusive rights free agents: Konrad Reuland

The tight end position appears to be in good hands after the Ravens invested pretty heavily in the draft -- a second- and a third-round pick -- in the past two years. And fifth-round pick Nick Boyle had a strong rookie season in 2015 before a suspension cut short his season.

The only real question with this group is what to do with Dennis Pitta. Pitta maintains that he wants to play again, but he hasn't been given the OK by doctors, and that might never happen after two serious hip injuries. He is due a $5 million base salary in 2016 -- which is more, by the way, than Gillmore, Williams and Boyle will make combined -- and so if Pitta doesn't retire, he likely will be released.

The Ravens will still carry more than $6 million in dead money, the vestiges of the $11 million signing bonus when Pitta signed that five-year, $32 million deal in 2014.

The Ravens could designate Pitta a post-June 1 release, which would push $4.4 million of that dead money to 2017 and save them $5 million. In the end, $6.6 dead money must be accounted for sooner or later, but it seems Pitta has probably played his last down.

No one feels good about that, as Pitta is among the more well-liked players in the organization and has been tireless in his rehabilitation.

Still, in drafting Gillmore, Williams and Boyle, the Ravens were prepared for Life After Pitta. Gillmore led the tight ends in catches (33), receiving yards (412) and touchdowns (4) and should enter camp as the No. 1 tight end again.

Williams (32-268, 1 TD) started slowly but came on strong late in the season, and he finished with better numbers than Todd Heap did as a rookie (16-206), although that team did have Shannon Sharpe. The Ravens like Williams' upside, and he will be just 22 next season.

Boyle was the most pleasant surprise of what was an underwhelming year for the Ravens 2015 draft class. Billed as a blocking tight end, he showed better hands and athleticism than advertised and finished with 18 catches for 153 yards. But a suspension for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs cut his rookie season short.

None of these three, though, made it through the season without injury, which led to the Ravens calling on stopgaps such as Konrad Reuland.

Still, overall this is a promising group that -- taking Pitta out of the equation -- is also being paid relatively little; none will be making $1 million this year. That value is vitally important as the Ravens try to improve their roster given the constraints of the salary cap.  

MORE RAVENS: Ravens roster preview: Wide receivers

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Ravens lower concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium ahead of 2018 season

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens lower concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium ahead of 2018 season

Enjoying a game at M&T Bank Stadium just became a little more affordable.

On Thursday, the Ravens introduced their new "Flock Friendly Fare," reducing the price of 21 of their most popular food and beverage items.  

The change comes as the organization focuses on revamping the fan experience in 2018. Fans will see an average of 33 percent in total savings and up to 53 percent savings on a single item.  

"As a lot of you probably know, after every game we survey fans to see how we're doing; what have we done well and what have we not done well. Over the years, one of the biggest criticisms we received was for the gameday concessions prices," Ravens President Dick Cass said on the team's website

Alcoholic beverages were all reduced by $1 with the addition of domestic 12 ounce beer for $5.

Chicken tenders with fries went from $11 to $7, while a slice of pizza went from $8.50 to $6. No single item will cost above $9.

On average, you will now be able to feed a family of four for $44 compared to $66.75 in years past. To see all of the reductions, click the arrow in the post below. 

In 2017, the Atlanta Falcons reduced their concession prices upon opening their brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Ravens, however, are expecting to lose $1.5 million in concession revenue due to the change. 

Introducing our new Flock Friendly Fare!

A post shared by Baltimore Ravens (@ravens) on

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Vegas odds against Lamar Jackson starting for Ravens in 2018

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Vegas odds against Lamar Jackson starting for Ravens in 2018

Vegas has spoken and they are not optimistic about rookie Lamar Jackson starting under center for the Ravens in 2018.

Bovado, an online gambling site, has set the odds on how the top 2018 rookies will perform and they have Jackson getting 0.5 starts this season.

That number will come as a surprise considering the popular narrative that Lamar Jackson will be the Ravens' starter in no time. The team made it clear they are planning for life after Flacco when they traded back into the first-round of the 2018 draft to select the quarterback out of Louisville at No. 32

Flacco - who is entering his 11th season with the organization - is experiencing a decline in his performance of late, one that can not be put entirely on his shoulders as the team has failed in finding him valuable weapons to throw to. Nonetheless, Flacco's projected 2018 season is very much up in the air and it appears Vegas is betting on the one-time Super Bowl MVP to bounce back. 

However, the Ravens have failed to make the playoffs four of the last five seasons, and if that trend continues into 2018, the rookie could get his shot at flipping the script.

If you're a betting man, it could payoff to bet the over on Jackson. Low risk, seemingly high reward. 

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