The losses are mounting. Six defensive starters (Lewis, Kruger, Ellerbe, Pollard, Williams, Kemoeatu) are gone and a seventh could be leaving by the time you read this piece – Ed Reed.
And even if Reed leaves, the current model, what will the Ravens have lost then?
Put aside your emotional ties to the All-World safety. Forget all those times you chanted his name at M&T. Disregard that he’ll be in the Ring of Honor, a Hall of Famer and atop Baltimore’s sports Mount Rushmore.
How good was he really in 2012? Is he still a difference maker?
Were any of the aforementioned losses really difference makers?
They may miss the push off the edge with Kruger but couldn’t a much better edge setter in Courtney Upshaw combined with a healthier Pernell McPhee offset that loss?
Pollard, Ihedigbo, even Christian Thompson or Omar Brown — besides their paychecks is there really that much falloff, if any?
It could be successfully argued that the biggest loss is Ellerbe but given the money it took for Miami to lure him, is he worth that gamble? Here’s a guy who is injury prone, hasn’t consistently shown a commitment to conditioning and is said to love the nightlife.
And now he’s in South Beach!
Seven possible starters down, but is that such a bad thing?
Here’s a defense that declined rapidly in 2012 yielding 351 yards per game during the regular season (up 21% from 2011) and 428 yards per game in the playoffs (up 33% from 2011). And after giving up 468 yards in the Super Bowl, an NFL record for a champion, the Ravens’ brain trust has to be sitting around, scratching their heads and asking, “How did we win the Super Bowl with that defense?”
Clearly changes had to be made – changes guided in many ways by the team’s salary cap structure.
The Ravens are looking to invest, not just spend.
They want to be pragmatic and thrifty instead of acting swiftly and become victims of the early seller’s market.
During the opening of free agency last year, the Ravens quickly lost Jarret Johnson, Ben Grubbs, Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura. All chased the money but besides the money, what did the get? What did they do?
The Ravens showed patience and nabbed Corey Graham and Jacoby Jones, modest investments that inspired yawns at the time. Many who covered and observed the Houston Texans laughed at the acquisition of Jones.
Who’s laughing now?
In 2012 the Ravens weathered tragedies, several major injuries, a late-season firing of their offensive coordinator and a near mutiny. They persevered, guided by a front office and a coaching staff who collectively selected a group of men with character who somehow, despite the odds got it done.
But to think it could happen again given the way that their defense was trending towards older and slower along with the loss of their leader, would be naivety in its finest form.
Instead the Ravens have opted to gut a below average defense and build one that is younger and faster. Spending to keep last year’s defense intact amounts to throwing good money at bad.
Last year the Ravens were considered offseason losers. This year is no different.
Ask the Philadelphia Eagles what winning the offseason got them two years ago.
Let’s see what winning this year’s offseason gets the Chiefs or the Dolphins.
The safe money is on the man called Oz!