Ravens fans barely had a chance to bask in the glow of a second Super Bowl win before the team was seemingly dismantled, right before our eyes.
After Joe Flacco signed his cap-friendly contract, I had visions of the Ravens extending Anquan Boldin, resigning Dannell Ellerbe, Ed Reed, and Bryant McKinnie, and cutting Vonta Leach, Brendan Ayanbadejo, Jameel McClain and Mount Cody, all the while bidding a fond farewell and best wishes to Cary Williams, Paul Kruger, Ray Lewis and Matt Birk.
Only the last four transactions happened.
Not only that, but Boldin was traded, Ellerbe went to South Beach, Bernard Pollard was cut, and Ed Reed signed with a conference rival that the Ravens will meet in the 2013 season.
Over the past several weeks, callers to sports talk shows have been giving their best Dr. Phil imitations, soothingly advising the listening audience not to fret . Trust in Ozzie. Don’t worry. Be happy.
No Ellerbe, no Kruger, no Ed, no Ray, no Williams, no Pollard. No defense.
As Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine would say, What, Me Worry?
Yep! Damned right I’m worried!
The logical, left side of my brain understood that changes had to be made on a defense that ranked in the upper 20’s for most of the season. The defense made a spectacular goal-line stand in the Super Bowl after being pushed around by the 49ers for most of the second half. But that last gasp is deceiving. Things had to change.
Taken one at a time, the losses don’t appear to be that great. Kruger was a two down linebacker, Ellerbe couldn’t stay healthy over the course of a season, Williams played with his back to the ball and gave up gobs of yardage, Reed wouldn’t tackle and hung his CBs out to dry, and Bernard Pollard, a real banger, was probably one more helmet-to-helmet shot away from a suspension.
But like a very wise man once said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Apologists can talk all they want about trusting in a front office that rarely misfires, but the fact is that the Ravens have lost six (6) starters from their Super Bowl winning defense. And those six players contributed to a synergy that let the Ravens defense bend, but not break, and keep most offenses out of the end zone.
Now I admit those losses have been mitigated by the addition of Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and a gift from the team that keeps on giving, whether it’s on the field or in the front office, in the person of one Elvis Dumervil, late of the Denver Broncos. These moves will bolster a defensive line that was pushed around far too much last season and will punch up the pass rush. The addition of Dumervil, in particular, was a steal.
But holes remain. We need a left tackle, a slot receiver, two inside linebackers and two safeties. Is Ozzie still bargain hunting? I hope so. There’s several million left in available cap money that could be used for a potential left tackle (McKinnie?) and safety (Michael Huff?) Work it, Ozzie.
The Ravens have 12 draft picks and, as a Baltimore Sun sports writer so aptly put it, Ozzie has to nail this draft. I think he will. This draft is talent rich in positions the Ravens need to fill, such as linebacker and safety and we have enough selections to be creative.
As long as he doesn’t draft a wide receiver in the 1st round. Travis Taylor and Mark Clayton, anyone? Newsome’s record there, is abysmal.
Work your magic, Ozzie.
Finally, I have to comment on the fiasco that has the Super Bowl winning champion Ravens opening on the road due to a scheduling conflict with their parking lot neighbors, the Baltimore Orioles.
At first I was more than happy to pile on the O’s for refusing to budge and give the Super Bowl Champions their chance to open the season at home, with no competition.
But I was wrong.
Leave the Birds alone. The details of the negotiations are well-known by now and they’re well within their rights to stand their ground. In fact, I applaud them for trying to work things out.
I SEE THE FINE HAND OF NBC IN ALL OF THIS. The excuse not to play on Rosh Hashanah is a ruse and pure, unadulterated bull. The NFL played a full slate of games just last year on the first day of the Holy Day on Sept 16, 2012 and nobody – that I know of – raised a peep.
I think the Peacock Network didn’t want to screw up their precious Wednesday Night programming by playing a football game. Pure and simple. And since they’re paying the freight, what they say goes.
And shame on Steve Bisciotti for not standing up to, as Tony Lombardi so aptly coined, Commissioner “Greedell” and NBC for not demanding the game be played on Wednesday Sept 4. The Ravens and their fans deserved that game and now we’re not going to get it.
I think it’s time for another pin for my Roger Goodell doll………