With the Baltimore Ravens no different than most other NFL teams, they will have to make certain personnel decisions between re-signing their own players or looking at free agency and/or the NFL Draft to fill out their roster. The salary cap will force teams to make decisions that they otherwise would not choose to make on their own. Team chemistry is a huge factor to success, which is why we constantly see good players go to other teams and suddenly seem to be very average at best.
Case in point: The Ravens drafted a pair of safeties in the 2008 NFL Draft, Tom Zbikowski (Notre Dame) and Haruki Nakamura (Cincinnati). Zbikowski was a strong safety in college while Nakamura played free safety. On the Ravens, both have played in specific packages, not necessarily in their collegiate positions.
Zbi filled in for Ed Reed at free safety when Ed was out for the first six games in 2010. Ruki comes in on passing situations and can frequently be seen blitzing the QB from the blind side. Both guys are solid tacklers seemingly without regard for their bodies, which led to Nakamura breaking his ankle in the 2010 season and Zbikowski sustaining a concussion this year.
But which of these two veterans would you choose to keep if you could only pick one to remain on the Ravens roster in 2012? Check out their stats after the 'Jump.'
2011: 14 games / 23 tackles / 1 sack
Career: 80 tackles / 1 sack / 4 passes defensed / 2 INTs
2011: 15 games / 12 tackles / 2 passes defensed
Career: 52 tackles / 3 passes defensed
As you can plainly see, neither guy made a huge impact last year, mostly due to both starting safeties Ed Reed and newcomer Bernard Pollard remaining healthy and productive. Reed is the best free safety in the game and Pollard has proved to be among, if not the hardest hitting strong safety and a much better pass defender than previously expected.
That leaves both Zbikowski and Nakamura's roles to be in nickel and dime packages, as well as Special Teams. However, both are also key insurance policies for Reed and Pollard. Both know the Ravens defensive scheme and are a key part of that chemistry mentioned earlier. In the event of an injury, either should be able to step in and take the place of the starter without the defense missing too much of a beat.
There is not a huge difference between the two and while Zbi has had more of a chance to prove himself in a starting role than Ruki, he has not seemed to as good as he was a couple of years ago. Tommy returned kickoffs last year and always appeared to run right up into the middle of coverage without proving to be any sort of threat in the return game. Haruki never got any prolonged playing time, but seems to play faster and more reckless
It will all come down to a "feeling" as selecting either won't be the difference between the Ravens success and failure. Many fans think either could start for many NFL teams, and the one not retained by the teams could end up following former Ravens defensive coordinator and now head coach of the Indianapolis Colts Chuck Pagano.
Which do you think the Ravens should re-sign? Vote in the poll above and leave your reasoning in the comment section below.