People want to talk about how the Ravens “lost their entire team” every time football comes up. They try to accuse Flacco of being the issue. Let’s take a look at it shall we?
Joe Flacco– Just signed a new contract worth $120 million over 6 years. What people don’t realize, is that this contract is cap friendly through 2016. Joe will renegotiate by then as $55 million of this is guaranteed to help the Ravens stay afloat. The biggest thing people need to know however, is Joe’s cap hit for the 2013 season. Any guesses? $6 million for the 2013-2014 season. Yup, All Joe’s fault that the team lost a bunch of starters…..
Ray Lewis– Retired after 17 seasons. Yes, he was a motivational leader. At his age, he had lost a step or two though. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking he was able to cover tight ends like Vernon Davis or Rob Gronkowski. The replacing Arthur Brown looked very great in college and should bring back that lost step. He may not have the same football sense Ray did, but being able to keep up with the game will balance that out. He can hit hard and takes good angles on the ball carrier.
Ed Reed– Already missing the first week(s) of the season. One of the greatest to ever play his position and can still make plays. However his body just isn’t holding up anymore. With mounting injuries and the fact that he’s not getting any younger, it’s better to let go now instead of after paying him to run the PUP list. First round draft pick Matt Elam looks to be a playmaker and can lay the lumber on ball carriers. He won’t be the ball hawk Reed was, but can still fill in the void nicely. Michael Huff can also fill in should the Ravens use Elam at strong safety for the void left by Bernard Pollard.
Bernard Pollard– A very good safety that delivered devastating hits at crucial moments. He was a bit of a liability in the passing game and seemed not to get along with the coaching staff. A mixture of new comer Matt Elam/Michael Huff/James Ihedigbo will work just fine without the drama created by Pollard. I mean, 4 teams in 5 years kind of screams prima donna, no?
Paul Kruger– He was a great situational player off the edge. He only was effective when Terrell Suggs was on the other side. Kruger had a good season in Baltimore, but was not worth the huge contract the Browns gave him. A cheaper choice was found who is better than Kruger and will supplement Suggs in a big way. Elvis (Dumervil) is now in the building.
Dannell Ellerbe– He was lucky to fall into the position he did. With the first and second string linebackers injured, Ellerbe got his chance to shine. He did pretty good. He lead the team in tackles during the post season, mostly because he was viewed as the weakest link which teams tried to exploit. Ellerbe was a safe option, but not worth the money Miami gave him. Instead, for yet again a lower price, the Ravens added Daryl Smith to fill that void. Smith is a veteran with the stats to back him up. He lead the Jaguars in tackles most of his career and is the Jaguars all time leader in tackles.
Cary Williams– Williams only started because second year player Jimmy Smith was unable to play due to injury. He was a liability in coverage most of his career. He recorded his first career interception last season off a deflected pass. He has yet to record an interception that was not deflected or on target with the receiver. After getting to Philadelphia, Williams missed all workouts and fell to a third string cornerback due to his lack of commitment and knowledge of the playbook. Lardarius Webb returns from a season ending ACL injury, Jimmy Smith is healthy, Corey Graham is ready to go, as are a few second year players and a rookie. Not a very big loss for the Ravens.
Matt Birk– He was solid up the middle for Baltimore, but was also at the end of his career. Second year player Gino Gradkowski looks to anchor the line and A.Q. Shipley was brought over from Indianapolis to help out.
Vonta Leach– He’s back. Even if he hadn’t returned, he wouldn’t have been worth his asking price. While it is true that Leach is the best lead blocking fullback in the league, his reputation precedes him. Last season, Ray Rice had more yards per carry with Leach on the sidelines than with him on the field. Leach also only played 42% of the offensive snaps. Leach comes from a dying generation of the game which will ultimately bring his retirement given all the concussion cases and the new rules put in play to prevent the type of play that Leach excels at. Kyle Jusczyk is the new kid on the block who offers a duel threat combo that will fit into the evolving offense of the Ravens. A versatile back with speed and hands, defenses won’t know whether to expect the run or pass.
Anquan Boldin– Boldin still had a good year left in him, however the Ravens were unwilling to pay him $6 million for the simple fact that his production during the regular season did not match the salary. During the regular season, Boldin only scored four touchdowns while accumulating less than 1,000 yards. It is obvious that Boldin’s best years are behind him and the Ravens are focusing on the future, not the past. To fill that void, third year receiver Tandon Doss looks like the third down go-to guy. He spent his first two seasons under Boldin learning and looks to challenge for a starting spot this season.
Dennis Pitta– He’s still a Raven, however his season is already over. Unfortunately for Pitta and the Ravens, this was the final year of his contract. While Pitta was huge for Flacco last season, it is unsure if he will return to 100% this early in his rehab. Pitta will need a hip replacement and a little luck to return in 2014. Being a contract year, will Pitta get a contract he feels he is worth or will he test the free agent market? Expect to see him test the water unless The Great Oz gets a good look into his crystal ball. In the meantime, the Ravens signed veteran Visanthe Shiancoe to a one year contract. He looks to be more of a blocking tight end while Pitta’s counterpart Ed Dickson looks to step it up when the team needs him. Billy Bajema is back as well, but will be used in goalline formations. Rookie Matt Furstenburg also looks to come up in Pitta’s absence.
The team looks to have had a quietly productive offseason. People are still worried about the starters from last season but still fail to look at their position last year. Last years defense was mediocre and one of the worst in the last decade for Baltimore. Look to see the defense rebound with a revamped line that should cause a lot of chaos. Haloti Ngata is 100% which is bad news for opposing offenses. Around him is Art Jones and Pernell McPhee who showed flashes of great play last season. Veterans Chris Canty and Marcus Spears provide depth and leadership on the line. The Baltimore defensive unit looks solid. If Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce can be the duo Jim Caldwell predicts, Flacco will playing in his sixth straight playoffs.