Ravens have options at middle linebacker (and Brian Urlacher isn’t one)

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For the Ravens, inside linebacker has been an area of need since even before the retirement of Ray Lewis, who arguably was the greatest to ever play the position. After the troubled Rolando McClain retired from the NFL prior to the Ravens even assigning him a uniform number, fans are now left wondering who will be thrown into the mix with Jameel McClain (health pending) and second-round pick, rookie Arthur Brown.

Parts of the fan base and even local talk radio hosts have mentioned former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher as a candidate to replace Lewis, a lock for the Hall of Fame and former face of the franchise. Even though Urlacher was himself the face of the Bears franchise for 13 seasons and will be included in the Hall of Fame discussion one day, he’s not a fit in Baltimore.

Lewis was/is beloved in Baltimore but father time eventually caught up to him. For as much as Lewis picked up his teammates with his pregame speeches, his teammates returned the favor to Lewis with their play on the field. While Urlacher would fill a void with locker room leadership, he would essentially be the same player Lewis was on the field last year, and accompanied by plenty of younger and less experienced players at the professional level.

Also, Urlacher turned down a one-year, $2 million deal with the Bears; there is no way the Ravens would pay him more to come to Baltimore.

After Karlos Dansby signed with the Arizona Cardinals this past weekend, the Ravens are essentially out of options on the free-agent market for somewhat impactful linebackers to join the team…and I’m totally fine with that.

Personally, I believe the Ravens are comfortable in what they have. The defense does have a lot of depth at outside linebacker and the addition of Elvis Dumervil during the offseason will allow the team to shift some of their outside linebackers to the inside (as they did with Albert McClellan last season).

Aside from the aforementioned McClellan and Dumervil, at outside linbacker the Ravens also have Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw, rookie John Simon, Adrian Hamilton, and Pernell McPhee, who has lost weight and will be transitioning from defensive end according to John Harbaugh.

The crowded group at outside linebacker will keep plenty of players with potential off the field, unless they are flexible in their linebacking duties. Upshaw is fantastic against the run and will be mixed in with Dumervil and Suggs as the team’s primary pass rushers. Simon is a big body and would likely see more time on the field his rookie year at middle linebacker than he would rushing from the outside.

It’s too early to tell what the Ravens will do, but the story will unfold as OTA’s, mini-camps and training camp begin. This season is going to be make or break for Terrell Suggs coming off a tear of his Achilles tendon last offseason. If he returns to the level of play that won him Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011 (or near it), the Ravens will be willing to accept the $12.4 million cap figure he’ll consume in 2014; if not, Upshaw will likely permanently take his spot.

Knowing that the team would likely not want to shift Upshaw around with the uncertanty looming for Suggs, that makes Simon, the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the year, more likely to be asked to try his hand at inside linebacker.

It’ll be an interesting summer at the inside linebacker position, but don’t expect Brian Urlacher to be following former teammate Corey Graham’s Chicago-to-Baltimore footsteps.

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About Kris Jones

Kris Jones
Kris - or "Goob" as he's widely known - has turned an obsession into a career. As a media member by day and super fan by night, he reports from the Under Armour Performance Center twice per week and brings Ravens news from a fan's perspective. His popular YouTube series...more

17 Raves on “Ravens have options at middle linebacker (and Brian Urlacher isn’t one)

  1. Rants N Ravens on said:

    So many pass rushers, so few run stoppers, lol…good thing that front line will be top notch this coming season!

  2. M Smith on said:

    Bryan Hall is converting from DL too. And don’t forget the guy who made the last tackle in theSuper Bowl. Josh Bynes. Won a nat’l championship at Auburn. Now a SB w/the Ravens. He’s had 2 years now to learn the pro game. Loved that kid coming out of college & during preseason games. He could be a nice low-priced player surrounded by lots of talent. I’m rooting for him to get lots of opportunity to prove he’s capable.

    • Anonymous on said:

      Bynes and McClellan will be stalwarts inside this year, while Brown learns the system and becomes dominant in year two.

  3. Lucas on said:

    Not to mention that Urlacher actually SAID he didn’t want to come to Baltimore. He mentioned something about learning a 3-4 and not wanting to try to replace Ray Lewis. He’s not an option, and apparently never was.

  4. AAAAAAAZEEE on said:

    I got the chance to see a lot of John Simon, being an OSU fan. He has good instincts and is high energy. Putting him at ILB might be sleeper move for the Ravens, I have no doubt he can be good in nfl. He really embraces that hard work mentality that permeates the Raven Way.

    • Jerry Moore #44 on said:

      That’s what I’m saying Bro. Give Simon a chance I promise you he will take over and be dominate mark my words ( If they give dude a Chance ) Iv’e seen a lot of talent sit on the bench and never get their time to shine do to having Elite talent already big sometimes there is a difference in Eliteness

  5. Sdot on said:

    Was really looking forward to R McClain turning things around and becoming dominant at only age 23. Hopefully Bynes will step his game up and establish himself as the starter alongside Brown, because J McClain is not starter material for our team, great guy and great intelligence but he is not physically dominant enough to play the position as we have witnessed last season. I don’t understand why we ever changed him from OLB his rookie year when he was wreaking havoc and forcing all kinds of safeties

  6. omar on said:

    the egos of these players is just amazing, i would just learn from past players if i was them, u reject a paycut thinking u r worth more, and end up getting less, he rejected $2million dollars, harrison rejected to paycut that would still pay him 6 mill, and i know u guys remember WR harrison of the colts when he rejected 6 mill too, and he was never signed by anyone.

  7. Ravenwoman on said:

    I am not worried about the linebacker situation. I believe we have plenty of guys in house and with the new rookies, that at the end of the day, the decision of which ones to keep will be very difficult.

  8. patrick on said:

    Big mistake converting McPhee to a 3rd string OLB. He’s a great interior pass rusher, a skill that is hard to find. When you have a guy who can provide pressure from the inside, you keep him there.

    • Phil on said:

      He’s not exactly big enough to be a 3-4 interior rusher. He’s like 280 pounds, flat. He could not play inside.

      • patrick on said:

        Do you watch the guy play? When he’s in there, he consistently generates pressure from the inside like few others do. Example, 4th quarter of last year’s AFC championship, where he dominated and tipped the pass that Ellerbe intercepted, sealing the game. He should be a situational interior pass rusher, used on 3rd down in close games, and every down late in games when we have the lead.

  9. Mike on said:

    I am 100% comfortable with Bynes and McClellan backing up McClain and Brown. They both have looked great in limited action in their careers so far. They are both better options than anyone left on the market.

  10. Robert Fuse on said:

    With the nasty defensive front that is being built (Ngata, Canty, Spears, A.Jones, McPhee, B.Williams) and the pass rushing duo of Suggs and Dumervil, the ILBs will look much better. If Jameel doesn’t make it back, I actually like Bynes and Carr. They could be very productive in our system. We also haven’t seen Bryan Hall’s potential at ILB yet. If it’s one thing the Ravens know how to do, it’s developing undrafted linebackers.

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