Attention Ravens Fans: Relax!!
During the first couple weeks of free agency, as Ravens fans watched several of their favorite players leave town, there is one question they seem to be asking on sports talk radio and internet message boards:
Should we start to panic? Are the Ravens going to be horrible this season?
Well that was actually two questions but the short answer is no. Now let me tell you why.
For some reason Ravens fans seem to forgot this sort of thing happens nearly EVERY offseason. Remember last year when the team released Todd Heap, Willis McGahee, Derrick Mason, and Kelly Gregg and fans were jumping out of windows like the stock market had crashed? Besides McGahee, who rushed for 1,199 yards last season, none of those players did anything in 2011. After dropping these four the team was still within a missed field goal of the Super Bowl. Not bad for a team that is a blend of veteran leaders and developing talent.
With the salary cap in the NFL the Ravens are almost punished for developing talent so well. General Manager Ozzie Newsome rarely misses on draft picks (well except for Michael Oher) so the team is not going to be able to resign all of their elite talent. Especially with guys like Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, and Lardarius Webb on the verge of big money contracts. It's part of the business of the NFL and also the reason why the NFL is so exciting.
This offseason has unfortunately seen a large exodus of quality players from Charm City. The biggest loss being All Pro Guard Ben Grubbs, who is one of the best offensive guards in the league. Grubbs is only 28 years old and his departure will surely be missed. His decision to leave made a weak offensive line even worse and I don't see him being replaceable in free agency or the draft. Jarret Johnson , who is now a San Diego Charger, was a reliable starter for the stout Ravens defense for a long time. His streak of 130 straight games for Baltimore was remarkable but he is slightly past his prime and not irreplaceable by any means. Safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski were solid backups but hardly NFL starters. Cory Redding was just a warm body. These guys were good players but I can see cheaper, younger replacements coming in April's NFL Draft.
The Ravens have a championship caliber team. I agree it's annoying that the front office haven't made any free agent signings as of this writing but fans need to be patient. Ozzie has built the Ravens into one of the few teams that is competitive year in and year out. Don't be surprised if he makes a big move via trade. You already know he's going to dominate the draft next month like he always does. Plus there are always veterans released prior to training camp that can provide solid depth on a veteran team like Baltimore.
With all the success Ozzie and the front office has had finding talent for this team they deserve the benefit of the doubt, no matter how frustrating it is sometimes. My advice is to relax and remember that the Ravens current roster is still filled talent and this team, barring any major setbacks, should compete for a Lombardi trophy again in 2012.
So relax Baltimore. It could be worse folks.....you could be a Redskins fan.