Super Bowl XLVII has a lot of great storylines that are sure to be played out over the next two weeks leading up to the game. Perhaps the most talked about will be that two brothers are coaching against each other, but one has to deal with the departure of Ray Lewis once the clock hits double zeros. The Patriots and Broncos fans could now get their "Ray's Retirement Party" countdown clock set for February 3rd. If they did they would actually be right this time no matter the outcome.
Longform: Ray Lewis, American
Ray Lewis has meant the world to the Ravens franchise. He's the OG Raven, the original Raven. He's been elected to play in 13 Pro Bowls, seven first team All Pro, and a two time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He's the only member of the 40 sacks / 30 interceptions club. His game is so versatile that he impacted both the rush and the pass. I felt the Ravens season slipping away once Lewis was declared out for the season with a torn triceps injury. However, Ray Lewis shows that willpower can get you through anything. He was able to comeback this season because he never lost faith. Since his return the Ravens have grown stronger as a team.
Once Super Bowl XLVII is over, so is an era of Ravens football. Ray Lewis is the Baltimore Ravens. No one can truly ever replace what Ray Lewis has done for this franchise and city, but the Ravens organization will have to try. What's hard to judge about whether the Ravens can replace Ray Lewis is that he leaves two voids. One being his production on the field. Lewis is a once-in-a-generation player and seeing that he is the only member of the 40/30 club proves this. The second void he leaves is in the locker room. As we all know, Ray Lewis is an emotional guy. The intensity he brings on the field to each and every game cannot be matched. He's the Ravens leader and everyone on the team looks up to him. Someone else is going to have to take over this role.
As of now the Ravens carry one other true ILB and that's Dannell Ellerbe. Ellerbe has had a breakout season with the Ravens this year. He has 92 tackles and 4.5 sacks this year. That's very good for an inside linebacker. Production-wise maybe Ellerbe can take over the reigns from Ray Lewis at ILB. However, the Ravens organization needs to show trust in Ellerbe and sign him this off-season.
Ryan Mink reports that Ellerbe wants to stay a Raven in his article here.
Ellerbe said he would like to stay in Baltimore this offseason.
"I know the defense, I love the city, I know people here, I have a good relationship with coaches, I know the playbook. Everything that I could possibly want is here," Ellerbe said.
"But it’s a business. It’s not up to me. If it was up to me, I’d be here."
The other ILB that has potential to be coupled with Ellerbe next season is Jameel McClain who signed a 3 year contract last off-season. McClain was sent to injured reserve earlier in the season. That is why he's not on the active roster.
Who will be the next leader of the Baltimore Ravens? While I have a feeling it could be Ed Reed I have a stronger feeling it will be Terrell Suggs. To me I always say Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs' mentor. Suggs is definitely already a leader in the Ravens locker room. Just not to the degree that Ray Lewis is. For the past few years I'm sure Suggs has learned a few things from Lewis about being a great leader. Possibly even with his own twist. Sizzle certainly can open his mouth when he feels like it. Ray can too, but they have different swaggers.
The Ravens are in good shape for replacing Ray Lewis. While the team does need to address inside linebacker in the draft, I feel they're set with Ellerbe for years to come. That's if the Ravens decide to retain him, which they probably will. As far as leaders go this Ravens team has many of them. The main one ready to take the reigns from Ray Lewis though is Terrell Suggs.