Even though it was apparent all along that Nakamura would likely sign elsewhere, the Ravens can now officially look for Nakamura's replacement. However, that replacement does not need to come now, nor does it need to come anytime soon.
Simply put, losing Nakamura is not a big deal for the Ravens.
In Nakamura's four years with the Ravens, he struggled to find a significant role in the team's defensive rotation. Part of that was because of his ongoing injuries, and part of that was because he could never outplay the other safeties on the roster.
In 2011, Nakamura was the fourth-best safety on the Ravens, behind Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Tom Zbikowski. That led to Nakamura seeing more time on special teams. While Nakamura was a solid and reliable special teams player for the Ravens, he was not spectacular.
The team will likely try to re-sign Zbikowski, and then find Nakamura's replacement in the draft. The Ravens may draft a safety somewhere in the first three rounds, as the team not only has to find a replacement for Nakamura, but an heir to Reed and Pollard, as both of their times in Baltimore will be coming to a close in the next year or two.
All in all, the announcement of Nakamura's deal with the Panthers shouldn't hit Ravens fans too hard. The team has problems much greater than this, such as finding a replacement for Ben Grubbs and finding a running back to backup Ray Rice.
In fact, Ravens fans should feel good for Nakamura. If he stayed in Baltimore, he would've just continued to be a role player. In Carolina, he is expected to compete with Sherrod Martin for the starting free safety job.
Nakamura is a likeable guy, but he simply didn't need to be re-signed by the Ravens.
Best of luck in Carolina, Haruki.
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