Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent
It has been a week after the glorious win in New Orleans and everybody seems to be coming of the high of victory. And here are some highlights from the last week before the off-season:
Salary Cap Woes:
The first is Joe Flacco and how much money he is about to make. $100 million? $120 million? I would argue the latter amount for ten years to keep the salary cap hit down. The man is getting paid, whether you like him or not. I am a part of Team Flacco and I think he deserves a key to the city. 11 touchdowns and zero interception, tying Joe Montana for the most touchdowns thrown in a postseason? Yes. Pay. The. Man.
Oh, yeah. Salary cap. That pesky thing is going to bring a lot of problems over the next few months. Possible casualties to the roster could be Paul Kruger (led the team in sacks with nine), Dannell Ellerbe (one of our best pass rushers this season), and Cary Williams (had a sack and four interceptions, one for a touchdown). Out of those three, I would try my hardest to keep Kruger and Ellerbe. Both of them are leading pass rushers, whom the Ravens definitely need. Sorry Cary, but I do not see you at the top of Ozzie’s priority list with Lardarius Webb coming back and bigger fish to pay. But I have a feeling that the Ravens will not be able to keep both Kruger and Ellerbe. In that case, I would keep Kruger. He is just a guy we can not let go.
Other notable free agents (though they are restricted, i.e. they cannot be signed with another team unless the offering team gives the Ravens a corresponding draft pick and make the player an offer the Ravens can not match) are Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Arthur Jones and Morgan Cox. But I do not expect anybody on this list to go anywhere, especially Pitta.
Now it is time to address the other big elephant in the room, and its name is Ed Reed. He is a unrestricted free agent this year, and he has said that-unlike his friend Ray Lewis-this is not his last ride. He will play football next year. For whom he plays is a question that is still in the air. I have a feeling we will see Ed come out of the tunnel on September 5th in purple and black. Ozzie Newsome has expressed great interest in bringing Ed back after his football days are over in some sort of staff capacity, which would make staying with the Ravens an easier choice. And I do not think Newsome will let two defensive leader leave in the same year.
Same Stuff, Different Day:
People have already begun to doubt the Ravens as contenders for next year’s title. The majority of the Super Bowl winning teams of the last decade have all had flat defending seasons. The Giants did not even make it to the playoffs this year. Torrey Smith said “why not?” when talking about repeating. What boggles my mind, personally, is the fact that the analysts did not take this team seriously leading up to the big dance, and now that they have won the ultimate prize, they still give this team no chance of even contending. They quote the stats of teams of the past, why do they not realize that this team is not a team of the past? They are the Baltimore Ravens. Might not be the prettiest team in the NFL, but it is a team that just does not quit. So I beg the analysts to keep quoting stats, just to tell the Ravens more of what this team cannot do.
No Suggs? No title game this year. Three game losing streak? Definitely a one and done team in the playoffs. Playing the Broncos in Denver? Apparently Ray’s Last Ride will end in Denver. AFC Championship rematch? Sorry Ravens, you will lose again.
They never once asked what Ray Lewis asked of his team:
“What if we do the impossible?”
End of an Era:
Speaking of Ray. Ray Lewis has left the building. Literally. After Tuesday’s parade, he packed up his locker in Owings Mills and headed to Florida to be with his son, Ray Lewis III (RL3 anybody?), when he signed his letter of intent to the University of Miami. Deon Sanders is convinced that Ray is not done. I am fully convinced that we will not see 52 on the field as a player ever again. And he has already said that he has no interest in coaching at this point, so we will not see him on the field until he is inducted into the Ring Of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium. Where he will probably do his dance, one last time.
Thanks again Ray.
So that is it. Walking into the great unknown, with the Lombardi in their hands the Ravens will look to repeat the impossible again. They will be going forward without a few faces. One in particular that takes a lot out of the locker room. But that is okay. Mark my words: if there is any team to believe in, it is the Baltimore Ravens. They may not be the prettiest team in the NFL, but they get the job done. They are Baltimore’s team. They are my team. I look forward to all the heart attacks I know I will get from them next year, all the last-minute Justin Tucker field goals, and all the miraculous Jacoby Jones catches and dances. They may bend, but they certainly do not break. Tremendous obstacles could not stop this team this year; so do not expect the negative trend on Super Bowl champion teams to bring them down.
As John Harbaugh said in the State of the Ravens press conference: “Next year’s championship will be decided by who plays the best, and we will be fighting to get back there. And our guys are up to the task, they are the right guys for the job.”
Believe in Baltimore. Believe in the Ravens.
See you September 5th at 8:30 PM.