In an unforgettable season full of injuries, adversity, and drama, the Ravens overcame all odds to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. The strength and courage they displayed (especially by quarterback Joe Flacco) made them worthy of being champions. However, this offseason has been quite a sad time for most Ravens fans. Being up tight against the cap, the Ravens had to cut/trade many beloved veterans and could not sign back many of their free agents. Combine that with the fact that Ray Lewis, the 2 time Super Bowl champion, and arguably the greatest linebacker of all time, retired, really had Ravens fans panicking. In all, 9 starters from last year’s super bowl Ravens team are no longer on the team. That list includes notables Ray Lewis (retired), Dannell Ellerbe (free agency), Ed Reed (free agency) and Anquan Boldin (traded to 49ers for a 6th round draft pick). Also, contrary to popular belief, it is not Joe Flacco’s fault as much as people think, just because he got the big contract. His salary cap hit this next season will be about $6 million, which is only the fifth highest cap hit on the team. The next two seasons after this his cap hit will be about $14 million, which is a lot, but nowhere near the biggest hit in the league among QBs. Also he will not see years 4, 5, and 6 of his contract (cap hit of about $30 million each year). Why? The Ravens will not be able to overcome the salary cap hit of about $30 million. So, what will most likely happen is that they will restructure his contract. It is only natural for people to be anxious in this situation, when seeing big contracts given and especially since the two faces of the team, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed left. But, here is why you should not panic. First off, the Ravens undoubtedly had to make all of these moves or they would either be over the salary cap this year, or jeopardize the next few years and having to let players go then. They are doing what is best for the team so they will not suffer for many years to come. Second, they have the best general manager in Ozzie Newsome, who always has a plan and has performed admirably, making the best of this situation with many great moves to compensate for all of these losses. Now, let’s get down to additions. With the loss of Paul Kruger the Ravens have more than boosted the defensive line with a couple of additions; most notably, Chris Canty from the Colts. They also added Marcus Spears from the Cowboys giving them much-needed depth on the front lines. Next, after the loss of Ray Lewis at MLB, the Ravens have many talented and capable back ups for him. One such player is Jameel McClain, who was injured last year, but is a solid proven linebacker when healthy. Another very underrated player, of whom the Ravens signed from free agency is Daryl Smith. He was injured for most of last season, but averaged over 100 tackles over the course of three seasons before last year. The others are Josh Bynes, Courtney Upshaw, and 3rd round draft pick, Arthur Brown, who are very young and talented. Author Brown is thought by many people to possibly be good enough to be an opening day starter. With the loss of Ellerbe on the edge at OLB, the Ravens countered with signing pro bowler, Elvis Dummerville, from the Denver Broncos. This only happened because of a fax machine error with his contract for the Denver Broncos and, in effect, it put him on the market for the Ravens, who were very fortunate to get him in this weird circumstance. For the Cary Williams loss the Ravens have options with Ladarius Webb coming back from injury and also Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams. In the last line of defense at FS and SS, the Ravens lost possibly the greatest safety of all time, Ed Reed, and a solid strong safety in Pollard. But, Ozzie and the Ravens again went out and got better players for less money. Ozzie signed Michael Huff who was among the leaders in the NFL in passes deflected. Ozzie and the Ravens then got SS Matt Elam with their first pick in the draft from LSU. Most people expect that because of his amazing talent, he may be the opening day starter at strong safety. Now, on the offensive side there were 3 key losses in Birk, Boldin, and Leach. They prepared in advance for Matt Birk having drafted center Gino Gradkowski in the fourth round last year out of the University of Delaware who is expected to start next year. Though the Ravens have not yet gotten a replacement for Boldin, there are many players who are still young that can vi for a spot across from Torrey Smith for starting wide receiver. Leading the pack so far is the speedster Jacoby Jones but right behind him is LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss, and David Reed. As sad and devastating as it is losing all of these players, there is hope and reason to be excited for next season. The defense will be much better than last year. With almost every loss the Ravens either upgraded or got younger. On the offensive side, one potential weakness could be wide receiver. Other than Torrey Smith there are really no other proven guys on the team and they could have trouble moving the ball through the air and keeping up with the better offenses in this pass happy league. Dennis Pitta will probably play more of a slot receiver role similar to Anquan Boldin which will help. The Ravens also still have Super Bowl MVP who rose to among the elite quarterbacks last year with his great playoff performances and clutch play. Although the Ravens may technically be in a rebuilding mode, they still look to have a team that is willing to fight for another playoff run, and if they can upgrade at receiver, quite possibly another super bowl run. There is no reason to panic whatsoever. Fans panic every year when the Ravens cut key guys, but for the past five seasons the Ravens have made the playoffs every year with 3 AFC Championship appearances and a super bowl win. Even though things may look bleak now, we just need to remember and trust that Ravens management knows what they are doing and that the Ravens will be back sooner rather than later.
- Joe Flacco: Don’t Bet Against Him (commonsensefootball.com)