Examining Baltimore Ravens' Offseason and Key Preseason Positional Battles

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Examining Baltimore Ravens' Offseason and Key Preseason Positional Battles
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The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens lost more starters this offseason than any defending title squad in the Super Bowl era.

Forget about that.

Much has been made of Baltimore’s tumultuous offseason of retooling and adjusting. In an AFC North division loaded with contenders, losing eight starters following a championship run could easily be the team’s kiss of death.

But general manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business at restocking talent through both free agency and the draft. With a talented young core already in place, Newsome went to work to make up for some big losses—and he did a tremendous job.

With Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams and Ma’ake Kemoeatu all departing the Ravens defense for free agency, center Matt Birk and linebacker Ray Lewis retiring and receiver Anquan Boldin finding a new home with the San Francisco 49ers following an offseason trade, Newsome had to do a tremendous job.

It wouldn’t be easy, though. Joe Flacco’s new $120.6 million contract gave the 57-year-old GM limited cap space with which to work—one of the biggest reasons he was forced to let a bevy of veteran starters walk without new contracts.

To offset some of those issues, Baltimore had to make the most of its draft selections.

The Ravens did a fantastic job keying in on value and positional needs in the early rounds of the draft, selecting potential starters in each of the first four rounds. Along with the free-agent acquisition of defensive lineman Chris Canty and pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil and an already talented core of role players and new starters, Baltimore shouldn’t experience too many ill effects following the mass exodus of starters this offseason.

Especially with a healthy Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb returning.

Suggs and Webb combined to play in just 14 regular-season games in 2012, each dealing with serious injuries from which they both hope to rebound in 2013.

Webb—one of the best cover corners in the AFC North—tore his ACL and missed all but six games last year. Fresh off a 14-sack campaign in 2011, Suggs battled a torn Achilles tendon last season and never looked like his old self.

Provided Webb and Suggs are back to old form in 2013, there’s no reason to believe the Ravens will experience much of a drop-off in defensive performance, even with more than half of their championship defense no longer on the roster.

All that said, Baltimore still faces some questions on the offensive side of the ball.

While some still question whether Flacco is an elite NFL quarterback, he just led his team to a championship with an underutilized running game and a relatively young receiving corps. Say what you will about his new contract, but quarterback isn’t a position the team will have to worry about in the near future.

But that receiving corps did take a blow with the departure of Boldin, who likely would have been looking for a sizable contract this offseason. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones could be in line for even bigger seasons in 2013, though both must continue taking big strides this year.

We’ll take a closer look at the Ravens’ passing offense in the following slideshow, as well as their 2013 NFL draft class and a few positions to watch as the season draws near. Read on.

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