This offseason we had alot of turnover. Whether it was cuts for money reasons, letting people walk because they weren't good fits, or the team looking to upgrade, we have an abnormal amount of new faces. I feel that every change was for the better, and many of them were very necessary. Ozzie drafted many of the replacements a year ahead so those players are somewhat seasoned and familiar with the playbook. After being the 5th oldest team last year, we had a major influx of youth and now are the 13th youngest team in the league, despite oldies but goodies in Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Matt Birk.
Now for a look at our outgoing players vs. their replacements:
Fullback: In- Vonta Leach, Out- Leron McClain
We decided to spend some money on a real run blocker, and since McClain was looking for a RB job, we let him walk and signed the best FB on the market. FYI, no one wanted McClain as a RB, so it was the right move.
On talent alone, this would be a push. McGahee is a bit younger, but Williams took a few years off mid-career so he is still fresher than most 34 year olds. If the money were equal, this would be a slight edge to the outgoing Willis, But since we saved a few million in cap space, Ricky is definitely a better move.
While we will all miss Mason, we upgraded at WR2. Evans is younger, under contract at a reasonable price for 2 years, and most importantly, a better complement to Boldin as a deep threat.Also, his release will force Flacco to start spreading the ball around instead of turning to his safety blanket all the time. In the other WR spots, we traded some old, ineffective players for young intriguing players with upside. It might take them a few games to get acclimated, but overall there is alot of excitement about the youngsters.
This is really a tough one to call, but I think anything is better than Gaither. We couldn't keep him around, fool me once etc... Gaither has not shown a good attitude, durability, nor the work ethic to be a star, although he has the build and has shown flashes. He is young, which was the downside of letting him walk. However, we have a short window with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and McKinnie was the best guy out there. He is a recent pro-bowler, and while he has had some disciplinary issues in the past, they were a while ago and he will likely be on his best behavior since it is a short deal. It is not a big risk, with only 1 million guaranteed, but it is definitely worthwhile
Nothing to talk about here. Gurode is a 4 time pro-bowler who can start for us if need be. Chester is a scrub unworthy of a starting job. Gurode is making up to 3 million. Chester? 4 million! Thank you god for failing Rabach on his physical.
Backup Guard/Tackle: In- Mark LeVoir, Out- Oniel Cousins
Cousins was a bust. LeVoir can start and play at a high level if he is needed.
This is the one major downgrade, but I think we will really not miss Heap this year. He is getting older, and statistically his blocking was not that good. I think the young guys will be very involved in the passing game and after a few games we will be used to yelling DIIIIIICKSON! instead of HEAP!
Starting Nose Tackle: In- Terrence Cody, Out-Kelly Gregg
Gregg was a hard worker, and we all loved him for it. Always under the radar, he was the epitome of a Raven. Unfortunately, his cap number was high and we had already drafted him replacement, Mt. Cody. Cody is a higher upside player, especially in the run game. We will see several highlight reel plays from him this year. However we will miss Gregg's consistency, but hopefully McKinney can fill that role when he is on the field as Cody's backup.
While we all love Wilson, and he played well for us, he took his game down the road to Washington. Jimmy Smith has more potential, size and upside. In the short term there is a slight possibility we will miss Wilson. But I doubt it.
I loved this move when it happened, and I still love it. Landry was way overrated, and he wanted a big payday. we got Pollard for less than half the money the Jags blew on Landry.They are the same age, and were drafted the same year. They both have the same weakness- pass coverage. But I think even in that area Pollard has the advantage. Pollard has the ability to lay the big hit, something the Ravens covet. I believe big things lie ahead for Bernard Pollard.
Bottom line: We all need to bow to the wizard of Oz. The totality of this offseason is a work of art, with only 1 big time contract given out. Without the acquisitions of Evans, Gurode, and McKinnie, we all had concerns about our offensive line, and the inexperience of our wide receiver group. Now we have a stud #2 receiver and 2 former pro-bowlers on the line. While it might take a few games for the offensive line to get in sync, this is the best group we could have gotten with our cap situation. We spent up to a total of 13 or so million on these 3 players, with McKinnie and Evans under contract for next year too. Filing out the roster with these bargain proven veterans gives us a soliid team to compete with the Steelers for the division, despite deciding to jettison some of our older statesman in Mason, Heap and Gregg in favor of our 2nd year players in Dickson, Pitta and Cody. The reason the Eagles were able to afford to spend so much money in free agency is because they have a total of 23 rookies and 2nd year players contributing each week. That left them with money to chase Asaomaugha, Babin, VY, etc. We are in a solid position also, although we have more big contracts, because our big contracts are mostly given to young studs like Yanda, Suggs, Boldin, and soon to be Ngata. Once we release Foxworth, Birks contract is up, we will add Flacco, Ray Rice, and Ben Grubbs to that list. And we will still be in good shape with all our young guns. And eventually Ray and Ed Reed will have to retire, so that will clear more money to sign our own long-term.
In conclusion, with all the players Ozzie brought in, we can contend this year while letting our young players develop at DE, DT, OLB, CB, and WR. Meanwhile, Ozzie can concentrate next years draft on finding Ray's replacement, and if he feels we need to, finding a stud LT, C, and/or FS. Props to Ozzie. He is a Wizard!