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Tucker confronts toughest conditions yet

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Tucker confronts toughest conditions yet

Coming out of the bye week, there aren't too many things the Ravens have been doing right even though they're 5-2.

But keeping rookie kicker Justin Tucker, 22, over veteran Billy Cundiff, who was released towards the end of the preseason, was a wise one.

Tucker has converted 14 of 15 field goals. More impressively, he's 4-for-4 from 50 yards or more with his longest coming from 56. Cundiff was acquired by the Washington Redskins but soon released and is out of the NFL.

Sunday, Tucker faces perhaps his toughest challenge of the season: Kicking outdoors at Cleveland Browns Stadium on a frigid day and possible swirling winds from the shore of Lake Erie.

"It only changes minor things, aiming points, maybe a shoe i'll wear if the ground is wet or soft," Tucker said. "But weather, field conditions, they have a little bit of an influence with what we do but as long as we stick to our technique and what we've practiced we'll give ourselves the best chance to be successful."

Tucker went back to his hometown of Austin, Texas, during the bye week and visited his college coach Mack Brown and the Longhorns.

"I got to watch what they do one afternoon. That was fun getting to see him … and all those guys there and get to reconnect real briefly," Tucker said. "I definitely miss the people. I miss my teammates. I miss my friends."

But playing with the Ravens isn't too shabby either. Inside a locker room jumping with chatter, music and a movie blaring over the speakers and a flat screen TV at Terrell Suggs' locker, Tucker basked in the chaos.

"How can you not be pumped up every day to come into this work environment?" he said rhetorically. "This is a great place."

Tucker isn't putting too much thought into his kicking duties. He trusts long-snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch.

"As long as Morgan and Sam and myself are all on the same page and we stick to what we know, stick to what we do best, we'll give ourselves a chance to be successful," Tucker said. "If we can make a kick more down the middle, that's what we're aiming for every week."

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The Ravens' future isn't Joe Flacco - but they don't want to face him in the AFC

The Ravens' future isn't Joe Flacco - but they don't want to face him in the AFC

The Baltimore Ravens made it clear after their Wild Card loss that Lamar Jackson would be their quarterback going forward, bringing the somewhat official end to Joe Flacco's 11-year career with the team.

So what's next for the Super Bowl MVP?

Retirement after a fruitful NFL career is an option, but in a league where teams are desperate for a seasoned veteran, Flacco could find himself with another affluent contract. The Ravens, too, could get something nice in return.

"Let's start with a second-round pick," former Redskins GM Charley Casserly said. "It's negotiable, we're going to keep him in pencil. Who am I not going to trade him to? Well, I may not have a choice. I may only have one trade pick. I don't want him in the AFC. I don't want this guy costing me a playoff position next year."

There are several AFC teams in need of a QB, too. The Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars would jump at the chance to get Flacco under center.

But it may not be that easy for the Ravens.

"If the team wants to renegotiate his contract, Flacco controls the trade," Casserly adds. "He can simply say, 'no' [and the] Ravens may have to just release him and let Joe go his own way." 

The former GM adds that he expects something to be settled come March. Why? Casserly places Teddy Bridgewater and Nick Foles as hotter free agency pickups for QB needy teams, and with the 2019 NFL Draft not offering a ton in terms of first-round quarterbacks, the Ravens may have to act fast in order to get a return on their investment. 

One team that is definitely in need of a QB1 is the Washington Redskins. The idea could interest Flacco as his family of seven could stay put in the DMV area. But can the Redskins afford Flacco? 

The team is facing a huge cap charge with Alex Smith, whose career is in question after suffering a catastrophic leg injury, and a rookie they can mold could make more sense than a 34-year-old Flacco.

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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