The Ravens’ offseason started with fans expressing feelings of panic, but that has since given way to hope.
Baltimore lost several key veterans from its Super Bowl champion team - cutting some, letting others leave via free agency, trading another and watching two retire.
Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams, Paul Kruger and Brendon Ayanbadejo are all gone.
And most had departed before general manager Ozzie Newsome had done anything to replace them.
But the hope came once he did, signing veterans Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Rolando McClain, Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to join the Ravens’ defense.
Until Tuesday, Newsome hadn’t spoken publicly about the overhaul and his actions remained consistent with what he forecast before free agency. The Ravens weren’t going to renegotiate their way into a bad financial spot for the future. They wanted staying power. And Newsome managed to sign five players for a combined cap hit similar to what Kruger received from the Browns and Ellerbe got from the Dolphins.
“What happened after we won the Super Bowl, that’s something that Steve (Bisciotti), John (Harbaugh) and I probably started talking about in October, November, as to what this team was going to look like in 2013,” Newsome said. “It wasn’t that one day we woke up and decided that we were going to let a lot of really good football players walk away and play for other teams, but we had a plan in place. We had to allow the plan to unfold.
“It unfolded after we won the Super Bowl, which makes it really, really nice, but it also makes it really, really tough when you go to battle with guys, and then you have to see them walk away from your organization, because we have to prepare for ‘14, ‘15 and ‘16. Steve has put the four of us in charge of making sure that we remain a competitive football team, even over the course of that.”
Newsome said the Ravens did learn from prior mistakes, like ones made after Super Bowl XXXV, when they renegotiated a number of contracts to keep that team intact in 2001.
“I think you learn from it, and I will say this and I still believe it: If we don’t lose Jamal Lewis (to a knee injury), we win back-to-back Super Bowls. I just felt like we were that good,” Newsome said. “We might have been better that next year. I think in anything you do - whether it’s drafting players, coaching players, making decisions on Sunday like John and the coaches - you learn from what you’ve done before. I think we’ve learned from that.
“I think we like our football team this year. To say that where this team is going to end, I’d like for someone to be able to tell me that we aren’t good enough to go to the playoffs right now. Can anyone say that? OK then. I think what we did is we just wanted to make sure that when we look downstream that we were able to keep the Torreys (Smith), the (Dennis) Pittas - guys that we wanted to keep. If you don’t make tough decisions this year, then it will be tougher to keep those guys in years to come.”