The Baltimore Ravens have been almost universally labeled as the losers of 2013 NFL free-agency period after losing a variety of high-profile players, but that can change in an instant thanks to former Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
Make no mistake, the Ravens have lost a lot of quality talent this offseason. Ray Lewis is gone, and while he wasn't all that great anymore on the field, his loss will be felt in the locker room.
Another team leader on the decline, safety Ed Reed, is currently floating around the free-agent market. The Ravens are still in the hunt for his services and are expected to know his decision sooner rather than later (per USA Today).
Even the loss of receiver Anquan Boldin is being heavily scrutinized despite the fact the front office found a way to dump a receiver with a $6 million contract at 33-years-old.
More than anything, the Ravens are labeled as losers thanks to the loss of outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe. On the surface, the losses look major, but looking at them in depth shows otherwise.
Last season, Kruger was rated as one of the best 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL by ProFootballFocus. The problem is that Kruger recorded only 1.5 sacks in the first six games of last season—and then racked up 7.5 the rest of the way upon Terrelle Suggs' return.
It's hard to fault Kruger for benefiting from the attention other teams gave Suggs, which allowed Kruger to wreak havoc. In the same vein, it's hard to justify a $40 million contract for Kruger.
Losing Ellerbe perhaps hurt the most, as he was the heir apparent in the middle of the defense and ranked as one of the best inside linebackers in all of football last season, according to ProFootballfocus.
Even with that ranking, Ellerbe graded out as horrible in coverage. The impact of the loss is softened by the fact that the Miami Dolphins were more than willing to overpay Ellerbe in the form of a five-year deal worth $35 million total (per Aaron Wilson on Twitter).
It's all gloom and doom in the media and among some of the fanbase because of these losses, but all of that can change.
The Elvis Dumervil mistake in Denver has that kind of power.
Dumervil is now a free agent, as he, his former representative and the franchise were working on a restructured contract near the deadline. Depending on whom you choose to believe, Dumervil was fine with being released to test the market and delayed sending the paperwork, or, the franchise sneaked a detail into the new contract at the last second which caused a snafu (per Mike Klis on Twitter).
Either way, Dumervil is a free agent and can turn around the Ravens offseason in a hurry.
Make no mistake—general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore front office know this all too well. A report from the Denver Post says that the Ravens and Dumervil are in negotiations, although that does not necessarily mean he will end up a member of the team.
The funny thing is, if Dumervil lands in Baltimore, he's an upgrade over the now-departed Kruger, who's loss has been the source of most of the frustration surrounding the franchise.
Dumervil recorded 11 sacks last season as a defensive end in Denver's 4-3 defense. In Baltimore, he would take over Kruger's spot as a 3-4 outside linebacker—a position that has allowed him to be the best pass-rusher in the NFL in years past.
In fact, his play as a 3-4 outside backer in 2009 when he recorded an NFL-leading 17 sacks is exactly why the Ravens are now pursuing him, as noted by the Denver Post report:
The Baltimore Ravens are also negotiating with Dumervil, according to an NFL source. Dumervil received a strong recommendation of skill and personal character from Ravens linebacker coach Don "Wink" Martindale.
Dumervil registered his career-best and NFL-leading 17 sacks in 2009 while Martindale was his linebackers coach.
To say Dumervil is more than qualified for Baltimore's defense and would upgrade the unit as a whole is an understatement.
Dumervil is still capable of a 17-sack season, especially when playing alongside another backer as talented as Suggs. Opposing offenses would have an almost impossible task in shutting both down at the same time.
Where Kruger struggled without Suggs, Dumervil would not. Throughout his career, especially in the 17-sack-season when his running-mates were the ineffective Mario Haggan and Robert Ayers, Dumervil has shown an ability to give offenses headaches on his own. He's a rare talent, and at just 29 years old, he's still in the prime of his career.
Once again, Ozzie Newsome has remained patient in the free agency process, and it may pay off in a big way. He's been blasted more than usual this offseason, especially for the massive contract to keep Joe Flacco around, but as always, he knows exactly what is best for the future of the franchise.
If that means allowing solid players to walk rather than overpay, so be it. It could also mean the Baltimore defense doesn't skip a beat as it adds one of the NFL's elite pass-rushers in Dumervil.
If Newsome can pull off landing Dumervil, the joke is on the rest of the league. The Ravens will come away as winners this offseason.
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