THE GRAPEVINE: If Ray leaves then what?

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: If Ray leaves then what?

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Ray Lewis…now there’s a name you haven’t heard in a while right?

While I don’t think he’s going anywhere, what if he does? What will the Ravens do?

The reality of the situation is that some day, the Ravens will be playing without Ray Lewis.  If that reality happens sooner than we all expect, there are ways in which the Ravens can improve in other areas while augmenting their corps of linebackers. There is a plan. To think anything else is to undermine the integrity and ability of Ozzie Newsome.

Some might believe that the Ravens can’t reach the AFC Championship Game without Ray Lewis. Well there are 3 other teams that did and so too can the Ravens with key additions should Lewis be a subtraction.

Here are a few names to keep in mind…

Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, UFA, Oakland Raiders ~ The Raiders believe it or not are struggling with their cap and to tag Asomugha will cost them about $11.7 million.  It is doubtful that he would want to stay in Oakland so a long-term deal to stay in the Bay Area is highly unlikely.  Could you imagine a healthy Ed Reed and the game’s best shut down corner in the same defensive backfield? His ability to shut down an opponent’s best receiver single-handedly would open up the possibilities for new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. The Ravens could free up room for Asomugha by cutting Chris McAlister.

Asomugha was a college teammate of Kyle Boller’s and he will be 28 before opening day of ’09, so the Ravens will need to keep that in mind when spreading a big signing bonus over too many seasons.  That said, Asomugha is 6’2” and could move to safety to extend his career should he lose a step or two in his early 30’s.

Leigh Bodden, CB, UFA, Detroit Lions ~ Samari Rolle had a surprisingly good season – when he played.  But Rolle’s health has to be a concern and “dependable” is not an accurate description of the veteran corner.  His release would trigger a $4.1 M cap savings.  Bodden is younger, more durable and at this point a better corner than Rolle and he could be a relative bargain. Bodden has had some minor off the field issues which would need to be addressed.

Jonathan Vilma, LB, UFA, New Orleans Saints ~ Once described as a smaller version of Ray Lewis, Vilma is fast to the ball and is more than capable in pass coverage.  He could be a more than adequate replacement for Lewis, a player that Vilma emulated. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year might embrace the discarded torch of Lewis with a chip on his shoulder and help rebuild his stature in the league as a key component of the Ravens defense.

Don’t know about you but I’ll be interested in this year’s Pro Bowl.  While they tell us it is taboo for coaches to recruit at the Pro Bowl, you have to think that John Harbaugh and his staff are on display for some of the league’s best free agents.  Bart Scott once told me that playing for Bill Belichick in the Pro Bowl back in January of 2007 changed his opinion of “Mr. Personality” completely and he would eagerly accept the opportunity to play in New England if it ever presented itself.  Let’s hope Harbs leaves the same kind of impression on players like Asomugha.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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