- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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When defensive tackle Arthur Jones, offensive tackle Michael Oher and cornerback Corey Graham signed elsewhere in the first week of free agency, the Baltimore Ravens said goodbye to three more starters from their Super Bowl team.
Just 13 months removed from hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans, the Ravens have less than half of the starters from the team that beat the San Francisco 49ers for the championship.
There are only three starters on defense (defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw) and six on offense (quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, left guard Kelechi Osemele and right guard Marshal Yanda) who remain on the Ravens' roster.
Despite the dramatic turnovers, the Ravens don't regret parting ways with most of the starters from the Super Bowl team. The Ravens made the mistake of trading wide receiver Anquan Boldin last offseason, but you won't hear much criticism over losing Oher or left tackle Bryant McKinnie. In fact, the biggest loss on offense was center Matt Birk, who retired after winning the Super Bowl. On defense, the Ravens felt the absence of Bernard Pollard's physical presence at safety, although the same wasn't said about the departures of cornerback Cary Williams and nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu.
Many predicted the Ravens would face a major transition period without linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, two future Hall of Fame players. While you can make an argument that the Ravens missed both players' leadership, Lewis and Reed weren't missed on the field. Daryl Smith's strong first season with the Ravens and Reed's declining play made many realize it was time to move on.
Change is part of life in the NFL, and the Ravens had to dismantle their first Super Bowl team two years after winning the championship in the 2002 salary-cap purge. The Ravens' 2014 team will have familiar faces from that championship season -- Flacco, Rice, Ngata and Suggs -- but the makeup of the team has changed. Of the 46 players who dressed for the Super Bowl, only 22 are still with the Ravens.
Last season, the Ravens insisted they weren't defending their Super Bowl title because it was a different team. A year later, the Ravens are a shadow of that Super Bowl team.