The game that kicked off the 2013 NFL season featured the defending Super Bowl champions on a special edition of Thursday Night Football, as per usual. After the Denver Broncos annihilated the Baltimore Ravens, you might have been unsure about which team was the defending champion.
The worst loss EVER by a reigning Super Bowl winner left many second-guessing general manager Ozzie Newsome’s decision to rebuild the team this offseason considering the problems that were on display in every phase of the game. Despite this fact, Newsome made the right choice for the future of the franchise.
No offseason move raised more eyebrows than the trade of Anquan Boldin. It was hard not to notice his absence for the Ravens in Week 1.
Peyton Manning and his receivers looked like they were in midseason rhythm as the legendary quarterback matched an NFL record by passing for seven touchdowns.
On the contrary, Joe Flacco looked like he didn’t know any of the receivers he was playing with (and to some degree, he doesn’t). They didn’t help their cause either, dropping five passes (including a potential touchdown by Dallas Clark).
|Week 1 Statistics|
|Baltimore Ravens receivers||15||215||1|
Flacco spent all of Thursday night trying to find a safety valve, but he was searching in vain as the Ravens finished the game converting only 36 percent of their third downs.
The injury to Jacoby Jones means that Baltimore will miss Boldin that much more, but Newsome made the right decision.
For starters, nobody could have foreseen the potentially season-ending hip injury suffered by Dennis Pitta. If Pitta were active, Flacco would still have one of his favorite targets on the field and the offense wouldn’t have been the train wreck that it was.
In addition, the six million dollars in savings from the Boldin trade was used to sign Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Michael Huff and Daryl Smith (their combined cap number this year is $6.47 million, according to ProFootballTalk). Those are four veteran starters who will play huge roles in making sure the Week 1 performance was an anomaly and not the norm.
Dumervil is signed through the 2017 season, Canty and Huff are both on three-year deals and Smith is the only one who will be a free agent next summer.
The defense might have looked abysmal against Denver, but the secondary can only get better and the front seven was actually very effective against the run and generating pressure on Manning.
Lastly, Boldin’s departure gave Newsome the chance to evaluate the young talent that was already on the roster at the receiver position. The vacancy at the position allowed for the discovery of Marlon Brown, who looks like he can develop into at least a quality starter. When Deonte Thompson recovers from his foot injury, he will get the chance to contribute and prove himself as a receiver.
If Boldin were still on the roster, the offense would be better this season—there is no question of that. But after he left, then what? There would be no knowledge of the skill of any of the young receivers, and the Ravens’ defense would still resemble the unit that was gouged by opposing running backs.
Let’s fast-forward to this time next year. What will the Baltimore Ravens look like? For starters, their defense should be excellent after a season of chemistry building and the development of Matt Elam and Arthur Brown.
The passing offense could be explosive and reminiscent of the group that Joe Flacco led to the Super Bowl. Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta are excellent at their positions, and Marlon Brown may have developed into a suitable No. 2 receiver. Even if he doesn’t, Newsome will have a good read of the receivers on the roster and he will be able to address that need via the draft or free agency.
By the start of the 2014 season, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that the Baltimore Ravens will probably be a strong Super Bowl contender for the next two years. If that’s the case, then Ozzie Newsome will have done his job. As an NFL general manager, you need to maximize your window of being a contender.
The trade of Anquan Boldin did just that.
It might have weakened the chances of repeating in 2013, but Newsome refused to mortgage the future. The result is that the next couple of years look bright in Baltimore. Experts may be questioning Newsome repeatedly over the course of the season, but they won’t be doing that next year.