Top offseason needs for Ravens, 49ers

Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens were so close to a Super Bowl. How can they improve? AP Photo/Winslow Townson

Adam Schefter answers reader questions in his mailbag twice a week. Got a query of your own? Submit it here.

Q: What do you think is the Baltimore Ravens' top offseason need? I think they need a young middle linebacker to (eventually) replace Ray Lewis.

-- Jess (California)

A: Jess: They need to infuse their roster with some youth. They began to do it this past season, and the transformation has to continue into next season. They have to upgrade their offensive line. Matt Birk could be thinking about retirement at center, and Baltimore could use some upgrades along the line. The Ravens could use a young middle linebacker. They also could use another cornerback and steadier play out of their wide receivers. There are some holes, no question, but this team always has been smart about the way it has built its roster. Don't expect it to be any different this offseason.

Q: Joe Flacco played a big-time game on Sunday against New England. Do you think he earned himself a contract extension? Will Cam Cameron be back in Baltimore with him?

-- Tyrone (Maryland)

A: What's interesting about that, Tyrone, is that had Lee Evans held on to that touchdown pass, everyone would be screaming to get Flacco signed to that extension this morning. Flacco certainly played well enough for Baltimore to win, and it seems as if Baltimore has little choice but to sign him to an extension. But look for him to be matched with a different offensive coordinator next season. As Chris Mortensen reported on "Sunday NFL Countdown," the Ravens haven't had any contract talks about an extension for Cameron, and his deal is up. It looks as if Baltimore is moving on. The Ravens hope a new offensive coordinator can lead to increased production for Flacco. Guess we'll see next season.

Q: Adam, what a heartbreaking loss for my Ravens. I feel like they outplayed the New England Patriots and deserved to win. Will they be back next year?

-- Gary (Washington, D.C.)

A: They have a chance to be back, Gary, but nobody can say if it will have an opportunity like that again. This is an aging team in certain spots. Of the 22 starters on offense and defense Sunday, nine will be 30 or older next season, and that's what makes Sunday's loss so disappointing. It was there, yet Baltimore barely fell short. Chances like that don't come along often, and with Baltimore's roster aging, it's hard to predict if it will have the same opportunity. That being said, the Ravens are one of the most well-run organizations in football. They will be competitive and they'll have a shot, but this was the season they won the division, clinched the first-round bye and gotten past the Pittsburgh Steelers. And then, they stumbled. That's what makes it so hard for the Ravens.

Q: The San Francisco 49ers' defense played about as well as a defense can play on Sunday, Adam, but the game was lost on turnovers. What areas of weakness, if any, do you think they need to address in the offseason?

-- Leroy (New York)

A: Anyone who watched that game, Leroy, saw how deficient the 49ers were at wide receiver. Yes, turnovers lost the game, but the contrast between the Giants' wide receivers and the 49ers' wide receivers was one of the biggest differences in the game. Victor Cruz came up with catch after catch, while San Francisco went 1-for-13 on third down. The 49ers didn't have wide receivers to make the type of plays that Mario Manningham did. It was so obvious. Braylon Edwards didn't turn into the type of player that San Francisco expected, Josh Morgan was lost to injury, and Michael Crabtree hasn't blossomed into the type of star many thought he would be. The good news is that there are plenty of wide receivers on the free agent market. Think Marques Colston would look good in red and gold?

Q: What do you think is the 49ers' biggest offseason need? It seems like they need a game-breaking WR who has some speed to pair with Vernon Davis. Will they re-sign Alex Smith?

-- Jerry (Indiana)

A: Jerry: The wide receiver need is obvious. As mentioned, this is a good year to need a wide receiver in free agency. There are plenty available. As for Smith, the team has to re-sign him. He has more value to them than he does to any other team, and the 49ers get more value from him than other teams would. They're good for each other, and that's a deal that should -- and will -- get done. If the 49ers can upgrade their wide receivers and add another cornerback, the team should be primed to compete again in 2012. San Francisco was such a tough team this season. The NFC Championship Game was so closely contested that it's hard not to feel bad for the 49ers. The Ravens too. Both teams that lost Sunday did so in such heartbreaking fashion. Tough ones to swallow for those franchises.