In 2013, after the retirement of the legendary Ray Lewis and Matt Birk, losing Ed Reed to the Texans and trading Anquan Boldin to the 49ers, many thought the Ravens lacked leadership during the course of the 2013 season. Whether that theory has merit or not is still up for debate, but to ensure that it isn’t a problem in 2014, here are a couple of veterans that can step in right away and provide leadership along with productivity on the field.
CB Champ Bailey: Even though the 7-Time All-Pro and 12-Time Pro Bowler will be 36 years old in June, the Folkston, Georgia native and former Georgia Bulldog proved he is still a solid player when healthy as evidenced by his 2012 season. A nagging foot injury limited the 6-0, 192 pound Bailey to just 5 games in 2013, in which he recorded 14 tackles and 3 PD’s.
After being a two-time 1st team All-SEC selection (97-98), an All-American (1998) and Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner (1998) at the University of Georgia, Bailey was drafted by the Washington Redskins with the 7th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft and recorded 313 tackles and 18 INT’s with the Redskins from 1999-2003 before being traded to the Denver Broncos for Clinton Portis in 2004.
During his tenure in Denver (2004-2013), Bailey cemented his status as one of the best CB’s to ever play the game, recording 596 tackles, 34 INT’s, and 123 PD’s, while winning two Defensive Back of the year awards (05-06) and was named to the NFL’s 2000′s All-Decade squad. In his 15-year NFL career, Bailey has totaled 925 tackles, 203 PD’s, 52 INT’s and 4 Defensive TD’s.
Bailey might have lost a step, but if he can stay healthy, he could make a big impact on D for whoever signs him. One option for the Ravens would be to sign him to a one-year deal to play Free Safety. Bailey recently stated he was open to a switch to Safety, and the Ravens definitely have a need for a playmaking defender in centerfield. For a future Hall-of-Famer like Bailey, it’s worth a shot.
WR Steve Smith: The word on the street is that the 34-year-old (35 in May) will be cut by the Carolina Panthers to free up cap space, and the Ravens have already been linked as a potential landing spot for the 5-Time Pro Bowler and potential Hall-of-Famer from Los Angeles, California.
After being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2001 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers, the 5-9, 185 pound Smith went on to play for the Panthers for 13 seasons (2001-2013), setting franchise records in receptions (836), receiving yards (12,197) and receiving TD’s (67) while posting 1000+ yards receiving in seven seasons, also a franchise record.
In 2013, the former Utah Ute posted 64 receptions for 745 yards and 4 TD’s, all ranked 2nd on the Panthers squad behind TE Greg Olsen. Smith proved he still has a solid year or two left in the tank, and he could provide valuable veteran leadership to a young Ravens WR corps. Smith has always been known for his toughness and intensity along with his playmaking ability In other words, Smith already plays like a Raven and could be a perfect fit.
TE Owen Daniels: Even though Daniels will be 32 in November, the two-time Pro Bowler can still be a valuable weapon in the passing game as evidenced by the 2013 season. The Naperville, Illinois native recorded 24 catches for 252 yards (10.5 avg) and 3 TD’s through 5 games before a broken leg cost the former Badger the final 11 games of the season.
After being selected in the 4th round out of Wisconsin in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, Daniels went on to play eight seasons in Houston (2006-2013) before being released on Tuesday. Daniels leaves the Texans firmly entrenched in the franchise record books, being ranked 2nd in team history in catches (385), receiving yards (4,617) and receiving TD’s (29).
In his two Pro Bowl seasons (2008 and 2012), Daniels posted a career high in receptions (70) and yards (862) in 2008 and a career high in TD’s (6) in 2012.
If he can stay healthy, the 6-3, 250 pound Daniels could be a great addition to the Ravens in 2014. Daniels excelled in OC Gary Kubiak’s system during his tenure in Houston and with his addition the Ravens could field a dangerous 1-2 TE punch in the passing game, something the Ravens have coveted for years.