Something that I've seen and heard regularly this season and now offseason is that the Ravens have a bad roster, and that just isn't true. Sure, the team didn't exactly fare all that well in 2015, but that is a far stretch from saying it's a bad roster. In fact, I'll say it's a Super Bowl contending roster even still.
The main issue with the team in 2015 was injuries when it gets boiled down. Missing playmakers on both sides of the ball hurt the team massively when it came time to perform. The depth behind those players on injured reserve weren't used to playing as many snaps as they saw or playing in the roles that they were thrust into, missing out on some big plays. However, that is actually a positive for the 2016 Baltimore Ravens and a huge case for what I think is the best roster in the division.
The team was generally unchanged from 2014 to 2015. Of course, a lot was made of the loss of Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee in the offseason. Ngata wasn't missed much as Brandon Williams filled his shoes to one of the best PFF rankings we've seen at that position in quite a long time. McPhee was missed to a point, but I'll contend that the loss of Terrell Suggs in the first game would have forced McPhee into different roles and would have had offenses key in on him to help negate him. He still would have produced more than a guy like Courtney Upshaw did, but not to the effect that everyone would assume given his 2014 performance.
Given that the roster didn't really change much and this was a team that had two leads against the New England Patriots in the postseason, it was a team that was clearly pushing for the Super Bowl in 2015. They brought in a veteran quarterback to back up Flacco in the case that he missed a game or two, and they got back most of a hurt secondary that gave up those two leads to the Patriots. They even added a wide receiver through the draft that had the basic skill set to replace departing Torrey Smith, with the upside that with a little coaching could be a playmaker in more ways that Smith had been in his time with the Ravens.
So with health on their side and an offense that was improving, this was one of the favorite picks for Super Bowl winner during the offseason for good reason. And then injuries happened, yet again.
Jimmy Smith clearly wasn't fully healthy from his LinsFranc injury and was missing several steps and his confidence. Defensive backs Will Davis, Julian Wilson and Matt Elam would go down with season ending injuries. While none of them were expected to start, they were all expected to add quality depth that allowed the Ravens secondary to mix things up. Then the loss of linebacker Terrell Suggs happened in the first week of the season, taking away a good portion of the league's best pass rush duo from 2014 and making a weakened secondary look even worse. Even with all of those hiccups, by the end of the season the defense was playing better than any in the league. Having shut down receivers like Antonio Brown and A.J. Green as well as harassing quarterbacks with a suddenly electric pass rush, a defense made up of second and third stringers were showing that they had the stuff necessary to perform.
On offense, the Ravens somehow finished the season as the eighth ranked defense by yards, despite playing four separate quarterbacks, losing their top two running backs, two offensive linemen (center and left tackle), and missing out on six wide receivers including Steve Smith Sr and rookie Breshad Perriman. Out of that came players like rookie Javorius Allen, wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Jeremy Butler and even rookie tight ends Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. All were players that no one expected much out of in the offseason, if they would even see the field at all. Yet, the offense full of misfit toys banded together to surprise teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before all the injuries occurred, the offense was regularly putting up 30 or more points a game. In the first half of the season, the Ravens averaged just about 23.75 points per game, something that would have put them in a tie for 12th place in the league had the pace continued.
So with the 2015 season ending and the 2016 season upcoming, why isn't this a roster that is just as capable, if not more so, of contending for a Super Bowl? It's certainly one that showed it had the defensive strength in 2014 with a proper pass rush and a secondary that by the end of the 2015 season was one of the league's best suddenly. It was one that put up tons of points and yards, despite too many injuries to name.
Now added to it is the proven ability of it's no-name players. The guys like Kamar Aiken and Jeremy Butler. The throwaways like Shareece Wright and Will Davis. With the guys that would have never been on the field without these injuries getting valuable playing time and showcasing their skills being added to healthy typical starters, the Ravens have a battle tested team at just about every position, and at every depth. Now, a Super Bowl winning coaching staff can utilize the entire roster for their strengths, when most teams haven't seen a third of their roster play any meaningful snaps yet.
To make things even better, the Ravens get the sixth pick in the first round of April's NFL Draft. That is a spot reserves for players that will immediately contribute, even possibly start in some cases. Expected to be one of the teams with the most picks, having a high spot should only add multiple playmakers to a roster that I've outlined as being solid already. The rich somehow get richer in this case.
I'm not saying the Ravens will absolutely win the Super Bowl in 2016. We don't know what this offseason will bring us in guys getting cut or guys getting brought on. What I can say is that right now, if the Ravens are healthy, there is no reason that they aren't contending for a Super Bowl with the roster they have this second.