The Ravens entered this offseason fully intending to reload for another playoff run.
Instead, new general manager Eric DeCosta is now looking to rebuild the roster.
The Ravens lost several key contributors to free agency:
— LB C.J. Mosley, the leading tackler, signed a 5-year, $85 million deal with the Jets.
— LB Za’Darius Smith, sacks leader, inked a four-year $66 million deal with the Packers.
— LB Terrell Suggs, longest tenured player, signed a 1-year, $7 million deal with the Cardinals.
— S Eric Weddle, six-time Pro Bowler, reached a 2-year, $10-.5 million deal with the Rams.
— WR John Brown, the Ravens’ top downfield threat, signed a 3-year, $27 million deal with the Bills.
DeCosta took a pragmatic approach to these players, who were not going to get that type of money in Baltimore. The short-term consensus is that DeCosta made the correct decisions.
Mosley made the Pro Bowl in four of the last five years but struggles in pass coverage. His leadership will be missed the most.
Smith had a breakout season last year with 8.5 sacks, but had only 10 sacks combined over the previous three years. He certainly did not warrant a $66 million contract in Baltimore.
Suggs is 36 years old and he struggled to make plays over the second half of last season. He chose to sign perhaps his final deal with his hometown team and the Ravens are better off investing money elsewhere.
Weddle is 34 and is also on the back end of his career. He had a solid tenure in Baltimore but it was clear that he had lost a step last season. His leadership will also be missed.
Finally, there was no surprise that Brown was going elsewhere. He signed a one-year deal in Baltimore to get a better payday this offseason and the Bills obliged him.
That said, DeCosta now needs to replace these players and cannot rely solely on the NFL Draft. The Ravens need to find some veterans to fill these holes.
Compounding the challenge is the Cleveland Browns, who made perhaps the biggest splash in the early days of free agency by trading for Odell Beckham Jr. The duo of Jarvis Landry and Beckham, teammates at LSU, will provide a formidable challenge for any opponents.
Many Browns fans are already saving for their playoff tickets and crowing at Ravens players, such as Tony Jefferson.
People tend to forget that Super Bowls are neither won nor lost in March.
That’s why DeCosta has plenty of time to put together an effective roster to keep the Ravens moving forward.
However, there is already some talk the Ravens will be looking to rebuild for a title run in 2020 or 2021, and that might be the prudent way to go at this point. The younger players on the roster, especially quarterback Lamar Jackson, need more time to develop.
Either way, the next few weeks leading up to the NFL Draft will be a critical time.