It has become clearer over the last few days that in order for the Ravens to bring back Ray Lewis it is going to cost them. Signing Lewis back, at 33 would leave less money for younger players like center Jason Brown and linebackers Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott.
General manager Ozzie Newsome is a very smart football man, and he should do what any smart GM would do and that is to follow the blueprint of the Pittsburgh Steelers. By letting go of older players when their contract runs out and using that money to bring in younger, fresher talent at the position. The Steelers have let go of fan favorites like, Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Levon Kirkland and Joey Porter only to replace them with what is always a perennial top 5 defense. The Ravens are not unfamiliar with this practice either, and have replaced veterans like Adalius Thomas, Ed Hartwell, Sam Adams, and Will Demps without missing a beat.
Baltimore has in many ways already modeled themselves after the Steelers. Stop the run, suffocate the quarterback, and create turnovers on defense. On offense run the ball, go for the big plays in the air, and let the QB manage the team to a victory.
Now Newsome and Coach John Harbaugh, should look to April’s draft for their next man in the middle. With the team picking 26th there will definitely be an immediate starter available, either at middle linebacker or cornerback. With the Ravens history of excellent drafts, this year should not be any different.
While it may hurt fans minds to accept, Ray Lewis is not worth a huge contract at 33. He also is not the second coming of Cal Ripken Jr. who the Orioles had to keep because he was the only player that sold tickets, a problem the Ravens do not have. The NFL is a cutthroat business and one player is never above the team. Just look down south in Tampa Bay where the Buccaneers just released the franchise’s best defender of all time. Derrick Brooks might be the best player to compare to Lewis, they each have been defensive cornerstones on their respective franchises for the last decade and both helped lead their teams to super bowls. Look for their busts to go into Canton around the same time. Tampa just released Brooks yesterday, the Ravens don’t even have to be the bad guys this weekend, they are not cutting the beloved Ray Lewis, just allowing him to move on to greener pastures for the rest of his hall of fame career.
The defense will still be very talented, surrounding a new middle linebacker with Haloti Ngata up front, Ed Reed in the deep secondary and veterans Suggs and Scott if they manage to re-sign both. Not bad players to learn from coming into the NFL for your first season. With a new defensive coordinator in town the timing could not have been better.
There are talented run stoppers in this year’s class, most notably, Ray Maualuga of USC and James Laurinaitis from Ohio State. You know who the Ravens selected 13 years ago when they had the 26th pick of the first round? I do and I bet Mr. Newsome remembers that one as well.