The Baltimore Ravens made history when they parted ways with seven starters from their Super Bowl-winning team (and that number could grow to nine if offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu aren't re-signed). Just don't say "the Ravens are history," at least not when general manager Ozzie Newsome is in the room.
In what is typically an uneventful pre-draft news conference, Newsome showed his competitive side when asked about the major overhaul of his team.
"We like our football team this year," Newsome said in his first comments since losing the likes of safety Ed Reed, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe last month. "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."
Since I was the blogger who predicted the Ravens wouldn't make the playoffs last season, I thought it was wise that I kept quiet this time. In fairness, the Ravens didn't look like a playoff team after linebacker Ray Lewis retired, Boldin was traded, Reed signed with the Texans, safety Bernard Pollard was cut and young players like Ellerbe, cornerback Cary Williams and linebacker Paul Kruger got big deals elsewhere.
But the Ravens were rewarded for their patience. They got lucky in picking up pass rusher Elvis Dumervil after a fax debacle unexpectedly made him a free agent. They got great value in adding a couple of veteran starters in safety Michael Huff and inside linebacker Rolando McClain. And they addressed a weak defensive line by signing Chris Canty and Marcus Spears.
The unspoken theme for the Ravens was not to overextend themselves. Baltimore could've re-signed Reed and matched the contracts for Ellerbe, Kruger and Williams. But it would've come at a cost that the Ravens were unwilling to make.
"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," Newsome said. "If you don’t make tough decisions this year, then it will be tougher to keep those guys in years to come.”