Last Season’s Record: 10-6
Key players released: G Bobbie Williams, S Bernard Pollard, LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
Retired: LB Ray Lewis, C Matt Birk
Key free agents lost: LB Paul Kruger, LB Dannell Ellerbe, CB Cary Williams, S Ed Reed
Key free agents re-signed: QB Joe Flacco, S James Ihedigbo, CB Chris Johnson, T Bryant McKinnie
Key free agents added: DT Chris Canty, DE Marcus Spears, LB Elvis Dumervil, S Michael Huff, LB Rolando McClain, QB Caleb Hanie
Key trade additions: C A.Q. Shipley
Key trade losses: WR Anquan Boldin
Rd. 1 (No. 32 overall)… Matt Elam, S, Florida
2 (56)… Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
3 (94)… Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
4 (129)… John Simon, DE, Ohio State
4 (130)… Kyle Juszczyk, FB, Harvard
5 (168)… Ricky Wagner, T, Wisconsin
6 (200)… Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE, Notre Dame
6 (203)… Ryan Jensen, G, Colorado State-Pueblo
7 (238)… Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon
7 (247)… Marc Anthony, CB, Cal
Analysis: Life as the reigning Super Bowl champion often isn’t easy, and the Ravens have had a bumpy offseason.
Ray Lewis retired after the Super Bowl, as expected, but the Ravens also lost fellow linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe in free agency. Safety Ed Reed and cornerback Cary Williams likewise exited as free agents. Center Matt Birk retired. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded to the 49ers.
So the Ravens team that takes the field on opening night in Denver—thanks to the unresolved scheduling conflict with the Orioles that has the champs playing the traditional Thursday night NFL season opener on the road—won’t resemble all that closely the team that beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
But General Manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business, and he knows how to retool. That process is well under way for the Ravens. They did what they had to do and signed quarterback Joe Flacco to a mammoth six-year, $120.6 million deal to keep him off the free agent market, as he cashed in on his postseason exploits. With Lewis gone, it is Flacco’s team now, and he must elevate his game to become consistently productive and reliable in the regular season in addition to knowing when to turn it on in the playoffs.
The Ravens signed Michael Huff in free agency to begin to fill their void at safety. They fortified their defensive front by adding Chris Canty and Marcus Spears. They took advantage of the contract-renegotiating snafu between Elvis Dumervil and the Broncos to add a top pass rusher when he unexpectedly became available. They passed up a chance to choose Manti Te’o with the final pick of the first round in the NFL draft to select safety Matt Elam instead, then got a promising linebacker anyway, in Arthur Brown, in the second round.
Whether the Ravens have done enough to offset their considerable losses and remain a Super Bowl contender remains to be seen. But there always is a sensible plan at work in this organization, and Newsome again has ensured that there are plenty of positive possibilities for the Ravens going forward.
Why Redskins fans should pay attention: The Redskins beat the Ravens last season in overtime at FedEx Field on their way to winning the NFC East and reaching the playoffs. But the Ravens outdid their regional rivals by securing the Super Bowl title. As the two franchises vie for supremacy in the Baltimore-Washington market, the Redskins have some catching up to do.
Conversation starters: How much does it matter to Redskins fans that their team outdoes the Ravens? How much do Ravens fans care about outperforming the Redskins?
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