The Baltimore Ravens lost a big chunk of significant contributors from their Super Bowl XLVII winning team over the past two days, with perhaps more to come in the near future.
The list of names headed out of Baltimore over the past two days could be the basis for one of the better units in the league if they all were staying together. Combined with the retirement of Ray Lewis, the Ravens will go into the 2013 NFL season without OLB Paul Kruger, ILB Dannell Ellerbe and are expected to lose CB Cary Williams and perhaps even Ed Reed.
Offensively, WR Anquan Boldin was traded and FB Vonta Leach could be a salary cap casualty as well. Center Matt Birk has retired and LT Bryant McKinnie has made it clear that money will determine where he plays in 2013. It's tough to repeat as Super Bowl Champions in the NFL and the salary cap is a huge reason why rosters have to be overhauled based purely on finances.
However, before fans decide to form a posse and head up to the Ravens Training Complex in Owings Mills, understand that their hands were tied not only by their own financial status, but also by the much deeper pockets of other teams that lured their former players out of town.
Paul Kruger signed a $40 million deal with the Cleveland Browns, who had among the most cap space available in the league. His deal, which will give him over $20 million guaranteed, was a ridiculous amount for a part-time player who could not earn a full-time starting position and benefited from the presence of Terrell Suggs drawing opponent's attention, a luxury he will not have in Cleveland.
Dannell Ellerbe was the one player the Ravens hoped to retain and while they knew he would be bribed with big bucks from other teams, no one expected him to get the five-year, $35 million deal the Miami Dolphins shoved in front of him, making him an offer he just couldn't refuse.
Yesterday, once it was obvious that Anquan Boldin would not agree to re-structure his $6 million contract for 2013, theRavens had the choice of either trading him or releasing him. The trade to the San Francisco 49ers gave the Ravens the bare minimum in return, but more than the team would have gotten had they just let him go.
Even though QB Joe Flacco's $120.6 million record-setting deal will only count $6.8 million against the 2013 salary cap, the front office had to look at at least years two and three in determining how to spend their available cap space, resulting in the recent purge.
It has been understood from he beginning that the team would not try to re-sign CB Cary Williams, who was conspicuously unsigned today, although it should only be a mere informality until he is signed shortly by another team. Free safety Ed Reed is another story. He has said he prefers to stay here but with the recent exodus of defensive starters, the team could decide this may be the time to cut ties with the past and move onto the youth movement that this team is facing headed into the 2013 season.
Make no bones about it, the Ravens are far from done as contenders to win the AFC North and compete for another Lombardi Trophy. There are still a lot of solid NFL veterans out there that would fit well into the Ravens scheme and the NFL Draft offers intriguing possibilities with the team holding double-digit draft picks that could allow them to either trade up or down in the first round to grab a targeted player or accumulate more picks to restock the pond.