Heading into the 2001 season the Baltimore Ravens had a Lombardi Trophy in tow and Super Bowl bling on their fingers. But what they didn’t have was a capable backup running back.
Jamal Lewis was heading into his second year as a pro coming off a successful rookie season. Backup Priest Holmes decided to cash in on his team’s success and test the free agent market seeking a job as a starter. He left for Kansas City where he had an extremely successful run as a Chief.
These things happen to Super Bowl winners.
And so do injuries.
On August 8, 2001 Jamal Lewis tore his ACL after a tackle by Kelly Gregg during training camp. With Holmes gone, the Ravens had next to nothing to turn to. The remainder of the season was spent trying to patchwork a running game with a seemingly ancient Terry Allen and an overweight and inexperienced Jason Brookins.
Ozzie Newsome vowed to never again leave the team’s rushing attack so vulnerable.
Fast forward to 2013, the Ravens next adventure as defending champions. This time they find themselves with a 3-time Pro Bowler in starter Ray Rice coupled with a very promising second-year backup in Bernard Pierce who has drawn many comparisons to Arian Foster.
Not a bad one-two punch.
How long might the dynamic pair stay together?
Ray Rice is signed through 2016. Pierce will become an unrestricted free agent after his rookie deal ends in 2015.
That means the Ravens will have both for the next three seasons when it’s likely that they will share the workload, probably to the tune of 60:40 in favor of Rice for 2013. Beyond this coming season, who knows?
Running backs have been known to hit that wall rather abruptly. Splitting carries without a drop off in productivity benefits the team and both players in that it prolongs careers.
What happens between now and the close of 2015 will determine what the Ravens do with the last year of Ray Rice’s deal (to release him then would cost $4.75M in dead cap space) and what they do in the draft.
But for the time being and unlike the last time the Ravens were the defending World Champions, let’s label the seemingly crowded backfield a “good problem.”
The next Jason Brookins won’t be playing in Baltimore.