Roster turnover is an unavoidable aspect of the NFL. Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Peter Boulware, players who wore one team’s jersey for their entire career, are a rarity in the age of free agency and the salary cap.
Over the last several years, the Baltimore Ravens have had to make more then their fair share of difficult player retention choices. A handful of former Ravens are still playing at a high level, but the majority of the front office’s decisions have been spot on.
After signing a $92 million contract extension, Tyrod Taylor has led the Bills to a 3-2 record this season, and has seven total touchdowns. Matt Schaub is serving as the Falcons backup, his leadership in the meeting room is undoubtedly the reason Matt Ryan is playing at an MVP level.
Two former Ravens preseason darlings have caught on at running back. Bobby Rainey has averaged 70 all-purpose yards for the Giants over the last two games. Fitz Touissant was a minor contributor for the Steelers during Le’Veon Bell’s absence.
Anquan Boldin, still performing in his 14th season, has 25 receptions and two touchdowns as the Lions third receiver. Catching passes from Blaine Gabbert in Chip Kelly’s offense was never going to suit Torrey Smith, but he has less than ten catches through five games. As ineffective as ever, tight end Ed Dickson has three catches for the Panthers.
The Ravens biggest loss last offseason was Kelechi Osemele, who has bolstered a Raiders offensive line that has allowed the least sacks in the NFL and paved the way for an average of 5-yards per rush attempt. Michael Oher has missed the last two games at left tackle for the Panthers with a concussion, while Jah Reid has started one game at guard for the Chiefs. Surprisingly, A.Q. Shipley has started all five games at center for the Cardinals, and blocked adequately enough to help one of the better rushing attacks in the league
Soon enough, Haloti Ngata will return to Baltimore for his Ring of Honor ceremony, but Ozzie Newsome clearly made the right decision by trading away the best defensive tackle in team history. Haloti cannot provide the impact plays as consistently as he was able to in his prime, he has eight tackles along with one and a half sacks for the Lions this year. Arthur Jones has been a colossal bust for Indianapolis, he has started three games for them since they signed him to a $33 million contract in 2014. Paul Kruger latched on with the Saints after the Browns released him, he has a half sack to his name this season. The Bears got their money’s worth on Pernell McPhee last season, he ranked near the top of the NFL in terms of quarterback pressures. However, McPhee is currently on the physically-unable-to-perform list due to a preexisting knee issue that the Ravens were aware of when he departed.
Courtney Upshaw is the second string defensive tackle for the Falcons, and has made a very limited impact so far this season. The Ravens may have uncharacteristically given up too early on 2013 draft pick John Simon. Simon has posted 24 tackles with two and a half sacks and a forced fumble in a rotational role at outside linebacker for the Texans this season. Daryl Smith has brought stability to the Buccaneers linebacking corps, while his tackle totals have not been impressive, he did corral an interception in Week 5. Danelle Ellerbe has yet to suit up for the Saints this season because of a quad injury.
The Broncos scheme has brought out the best in Darian Stewart. Stewart is the starting free safety for the league’s #3 pass defense. Terrance Brooks, Rashaan Melvin and Brynden Trawick are hanging on to roster spots in the NFL, providing depth for the Eagles, Colts and Raiders respectively. Finally, Corey Graham has produced 17 tackles, three passes defensed, one sack and one interception as the Bills starting free safety.
Three years after the unexpected post Super Bowl trade of Anquan Boldin, that move remains a head scratcher. Boldin can still play, brought a necessary toughness and had helped the offense finally reach their potential in the playoffs immediately before the Ravens moved him. McPhee may have singlehandedly facilitated a improvement in the Ravens record in 2015, but his knee made a large contract guarantee risky. A case can be made that the Ravens should have done more to retain Osemele and Graham, but their positions make it unlikely they would have dramatically altered the course of the team. Taylor’s dual-threat ability is a nice weapon in the regular season, but he is not a consistent enough passer to win in the playoffs.
If there is a talent deficiency on the 2016 Ravens roster, it is more attributable to the front office’s drafting, salary cap management and player development from the coaches. Overall, the Ravens decisions on the majority of these players has proven wise.