Best and Worst Moves Baltimore Ravens Made in Free Agency
The first wave of NFL free agency is over, and for the Baltimore Ravens, there have been a lot of changes made to their roster. Four important defenders from last season will suit up for different teams in 2013, and at least one offensive starter is gone as well.
Ozzie Newsome has proven time and again that he has a plan, and this time is no different. The Ravens have landed Elvis Dumervil and also signed two defensive linemen who could provide key depth.
Obviously, there are still some holes on the roster, but with the draft coming in a month, there is always the possibility that one or two starters could come from there.
Here's a look at both the best and the worst moves from the Ravens during free agency. Although it looms over the franchise like a cloud, Joe Flacco's record deal will not be mentioned because it occurred two weeks prior to the start of free agency. Though not appearing in this list, that deal was the Ravens' biggest move this offseason, and it impacted how the Ravens approached free agency this year.
Good Move: Signing Elvis Dumervil
Only three days ago, the Ravens made their first big splash in free agency by signing Elvis Dumervil away from the Denver Broncos. Dumervil's contract is a five-year, $35 million deal, by far the most expensive signing the Ravens have made since free agency began.
With the Ravens' 3-4 defense, Dumervil can return to playing outside linebacker. His best season as a pro came in 2009 when he lined up at outside linebacker and led the league with 17 sacks. Interestingly enough, his linebacker coach that season was Don Martindale, who is now the Ravens' linebacker coach.
Now, both Dumervil and Terrell Suggs will line up as outside linebackers, creating what could be a very frightening pass rush. The two players have combined for eight Pro Bowls, and each player has spent one season leading the AFC in sacks.
Some Ravens fans will remember Dumervil's poor showing in the divisional round of the playoffs, where he only had half-a-sack and two tackles. In an introductory press conference, Dumervil claims to be extra motivated now, particularly by the bizarre fax snafu that ultimately led him out of Denver, per Dan Hanzus of NFL.com.
Snatching up Dumervil after he was cut by Denver is just a classic Ozzie move. Now the Ravens have acquired a premier pass-rusher and effectively replaced the departure of Paul Kruger, the team's sack leader last season.
Bad Move: Letting Ed Reed Walk Away
The Ed Reed saga was a complicated one that had Ravens Nation divided. As one of the best players in franchise history, most fans wanted Reed back, so that he could finish his career as a Raven.
Two things ultimately resulted in Ozzie Newsome not matching the Houston Texans' offer. One, was worries about Reed's play level which has gradually declined over the past two seasons. Two, was the amount of money that Reed was looking for.
Now Reed will spend at least one season suiting up for a team other than the Ravens. It would have seemed unthinkable as recently as the Super Bowl victory parade, but that's how this business works.
The difference with Reed is that he was a leader in the locker room and an icon in the city. Make no mistake, letting him walk away is a bold move, and there's no guarantee that it will work out well for the Ravens.
Even as an older player, Reed is better than the alternatives that the Ravens have at the free safety position. For now, only Omar Brown or Christian Thompson seem qualified enough to be considered starters. To say that the Ravens should consider safeties in the draft is an understatement indeed.
Time will tell if the gamble pays out for the Ravens. Meanwhile, both the Ravens and Reed will have to deal with their emotions later this season when the Texans take on the Ravens. Hopefully by then, someone will have claimed the Ravens' newly vacant free safety position.
Good Move: Re-Signing James Ihedigbo
While the Ravens have a lot of concerns at free safety, their strong safety position is relatively safe for the time being. This is because they re-signed James Ihedigbo, who can step in and take over for the recently released Bernard Pollard at strong safety.
He may not have the reputation that Pollard has, but Ihedigbo is a veteran with past starting experience. He started 12 games as a New England Patriot in 2011, and amazingly, is the only player to have appeared in the last four AFC Championships.
With three starts and lots of time playing special teams in 2012, Ihedigbo still got a respectable 25 tackles. Also for better or for worse, Ihedigbo does not have the reputation of being a headhunter, which was basically the league-wide perception of Pollard.
Signings like Ihedigbo's don't generate headlines, but it's still a brilliant move. Likely Ozzie Newsome knew that Ed Reed and Pollard would be gone, so he re-signed a solid strong safety at a cheap price.
Bad Move: Trading Anquan Boldin
Before the Ravens even began their playoff run, it seemed likely that Anquan Boldin would not return in 2013. After all, Boldin is a 32-year old receiver who only put up 921 receiving yards and four touchdowns, despite starting 15 games.
Of course, he then went on a crazy playoff tear where he racked up 380 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Still, that wasn't enough for the Ravens to bring him back, and it was mostly financial differences that resulted in Boldin leaving for San Francisco the day before free agency started.
The trade gave the Ravens a sixth-round pick. It's a good deal, considering that they could have outright cut Boldin and got nothing for him. It's tough moving on from a receiver like Boldin, particularly now that the Ravens are lacking in slot receivers.
Tandon Doss could step up or maybe they could find Boldin's replacement in the draft. Regardless of what happens, it's a shame that only one month after his epic playoff run, Boldin is no longer a Baltimore Raven.
Good Move: Not Overpaying for Linebackers
Both Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger took advantage of injuries to break out in 2012. There's no question they were important to the Ravens' success, with Kruger leading the team in sacks and Ellerbe effectively taking Ray Lewis's place later in the season.
As good as both Ellerbe and Kruger were in 2013, both players had disappointed in the years prior. Kruger was viewed as a bust just two seasons ago, and Ellerbe has missed playing time due to injuries and also because of frequenting John Harbaugh's doghouse.
Now Ellerbe and Kruger have gotten massive paydays, despite not proving themselves over a substantial period of time. It's only fitting that their new teams are the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns, respectively—two franchises desperate to return to their glory days.
The Ravens, meanwhile, get to move on by replacing Kruger with Elvis Dumervil. Ellerbe has yet to be replaced; however, his departure increases the possibility that the Ravens draft a middle linebacker with the No. 32 pick in the first round.
Could Ellerbe and/or Kruger still go on to have lots of success with their new teams? It's certainly possible; however, regardless of the outcome, the Ravens can feel good that they did not overpay for two players who are unproven at this stage in their NFL careers.
Good Move: Signing New Defensive Linemen
With so many faces leaving on defense, it's only natural that new faces would show up. The nose tackle position was likely the worst position on the defense last season, and as good as Haloti Ngata is, his injuries caused him to have a slightly down year.
The Ravens addressed the defensive tackle concern with the signing of Chris Canty. Canty previously won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants, and he provides great depth should Ngata go down again.
The Ravens also got a little richer at the defensive end position when they signed Marcus Spears. Spears' specialty is stopping the run, which fills another area of weakness for the team last season.
Both Canty and Spears could potentially be shuffled around to different positions alongside the line. Canty is also good as rushing the quarterback which could lead to him playing at defensive end.
The bottom line was that, with these guys, the Ravens feel as though they got the right players for the right price. Here are two solid defensive linemen who could play a part in fixing a defensive line that got manhandled by the opposing running game in multiple games last season.
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