Not so fast. All along, Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome had a plan, one that perhaps no one else had any inkling of. Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams, Bernard Pollard and finally Ed Reed left the squad and most people, fans or not,were writing the Ravens obituary for the 2013 season and beyond.
The new $120 million contract of QB Joe Flacco had the team handcuffed and they would have to rally around his strong arm and pray he could put up 40 points every week because the "new" Ravens defense would probably give up between 39 and 41.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The Ravens signed perhaps the #1 free agent on the market (Elvis Dumervil), shocking the football world and especially the Denver Broncos. Only a few days later, they dipped into the remaining free agent pool and convinced perhaps the best secondary player (Michael Huff) to sign an extremely affordable contract.
Add these two solid veterans to defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears and dare we entertain the notion that the 2013 Baltimore Ravens defense could be superior to the one we saw for the majority of the 2012 regular season?
Blasphemy you respond? But wait, the 2012 version of the Ravens defense was exceptionally mediocre, 17th in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game. They "improved" to 12th in the league in the most important defensive category of all, points allowed. They were 17th in passing yards allowed per game and 20th in rushing yards allowed per contest.
The points is, as etched in stone the Ravens reputation has been over the past dozen years, it was merely pedestrian in the 2012 season and GM Ozzie Newsome knew he had to change that as soon as the season ended. Ray Lewis made it a lot easier for him by retiring, and Kruger, Ellerbe and Williams priced themselves out of the team's price range. Subtract the two safeties through whatever conspiracy theories you want and you will see a lot of new names on this defense when the 2013 season kicks off in September, on the road of course.
The change is far from finished, as there are still some bargain basement deals out there, as well as the NFL Draft and the period officially known as the June cut-down date, but affectionately known around Baltimore as "Ozzie's time."
There is every reason to believe that while the history and legacy of those who have left the defensive side of the ballare names that shall be spoken in Hall of Fame tones, the 2013 unit may very well prove to the superior to the one that stepped up big-time in the post season and made that valiant goal-line stand that will forever be remembered in Ravens folklore.
As for the future, it is far from dim now and could very well be a surprisingly interesting bright spot in 2013.