Next Man Up

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: Paul Kruger #99 of the Baltimore Ravens rouses the crowd during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 35-7. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

As usual the Baltimore Ravens are content to sit back and watch as other teams over spend for high priced free agents. Not only have the Ravens not made any signings so far this free agent season, they have lost three key starters from last season. For most teams this would be reason to panic but most of us Ravens fans know that this is just more reason to get excited about the young players that can now step up into bigger roles with the team in 2012.

While teams like the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins are forced to over pay for players to want to come there and play, the better teams can sit back and trust in the draft and their own in house player development. While many teams are willing to mortgage their future for the mere chance of winning soon, here in Baltimore this team has been so well constructed that we can win now and still be set up nicely for years to come. This comes from years of underspending and letting players walk in free agency because they anticipate their needs years in advance. Ozzie Newsome does not freak out and over pay because he knows how to navigate a salary cap.

Let's take a look at who we have lost over the last two seasons and see how the Ravens have been prepared for their departure.

Last year the team lost Willis McGahee, Derrick Mason, Le'Ron McClain,Todd Heap and Dawan Landry. Baltimore was well prepared for the loss of Heap with two bright young replacements in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. The Ravens answered the loss of Mason with Torrey Smith in last seasons draft as well. McGahee, McClain and Landry on the other hand had to be replaced via free agency. Baltimore brought in Bernard Pollard and Vonta Leach from Houston and Ricky Williams from Miami.

Every one of these players was an upgrade over their replacement. Except maybe Williams, who did an excellent job all the same. Where is the lesson here? Don't freak out Ravens fans! Last season everyone lost it when all of these players were cut but now looking back I wouldn't take any of the former players over the ones who replaced them last season... Except McGahee. Although I was very happy with Ricky, I think Willis holds the edge in this one.

So, this season we have lost Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding and Benn Grubbs. It seems Baltimore has anticipated the loss of their defensive starters for some time. They have a few young talented players hungry to step up into the staring roles. The most likely replacement for Johnson would be Paul Kruger with Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan having an outside shot.

The loss of Cory Redding will give more playing time to second year stand out Pernell McPhee and defensive tackle Arthur Jones, McPhee being the better pass rushing option and Jones being the better run stuffer. Both players have learned under Redding and are ready for starting roles in the NFL.

The biggest loss by far has to be Grubbs however. Not only is Grubbs a standout player at his position, he is also young and can still get better. This loss also hurts because the Ravens are not deep at his position and there is no clear replacement currently on the roster. The team is said to be meeting with free agent guard Evan Mathis from the Eagles. If he can stay healthy he can be a very effective replacement but that is a big if. There has also been some talk of moving tackle Jah Reid to guard but it does not seem the Ravens wish to go that route as they brought in Mathis quickly and seem to want to fix this problem as soon as possible.

Whatever the case may be Ravens fans should have confidence that the team knows exactly what they are doing. I'm sure their thinking is a good year or two ahead of ours on all these types of issues and they have back up plans for their back up plans. We may lose more players but who cares, there is no trophy for winning the off season. The only thing that counts is who wins the most games and that is when it is our turn to look good. It's "next man up" time and like momma always said, "football is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get."

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