The 2013 offseason sure was the wild west wasn't it? The Baltimore Ravens were coming off their second Super Bowl Championship in their short history. It was one of the most memorable journeys to a championship by any major sports team in recent memory. They were hated for it by the general public, but that just made it a little bit better. The 2012 team was a true underdog.
Going into the following offseason, Ozzie knew he had a lot of decisions to make. One of them was locking up his franchise quarterback, Joe Flacco. He did just that, signing him to a 6-year, $120 million contract. Ozzie had locked up his guy, the first franchise quarterback in Ravens history.
Then things went nuts.
Shortly after the Ravens locked up Flacco, the team traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a sixth round pick to the San Francisco 49ers. The list of free agent names, including cuts, would soon follow and the defense would proceed to take massive hits.
On the first day of free agency, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger departed the Ravens and signed massive contracts- Ellerbe with the Miami Dolphins for five years worth $35 million, while Kruger signed with the Cleveland Browns for five years and a total of $40 million. Hard hitting safety Bernard Pollard was released the next day, and wound up signing a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. The following day later, cornerback Cary Williams followed suit and signed a three-year, $17 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. A week later, the greatest ball hawking safety of all time bid farewell to Baltimore, as Ed Reed left and signed a three-year contract worth $15 million with the Houston Texans.
Including Ray Lewis, that's six key defensive starters and contributors from the Super Bowl team that were now no longer members of the Baltimore Ravens. Many wondered why Ozzie would decide to gut a Super Bowl team and not pay some of these players, including those that were young and looked like they can be starters for years to come. Of course, the national media had a field day and began pointing the finger at Joe Flacco for his franchise quarterback sized deal, a trend that continues to this day for some reason. I don't know, maybe they were bored. Many expected players like Kruger, Ellerbe and even Ed Reed to be key contributors for their new teams.
Three years have passed and that could not be further from the truth. On Monday morning, the Cleveland Browns released Paul Kruger, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Kruger reached 11 sacks in 2014, but only recorded 4.5 in 2013 and 2.5 last year. He was supposed to be a key force and a ferocious pass rusher for the Browns, but many forget that in Kruger's break out year in 2012, he only had just 1.5 sacks during Terrell Suggs's absence after he tore his Achilles. It wasn't until Suggs returned and offenses started to focus more on him that Kruger took advantage and was a beast throughout the regular season and in the playoffs. Kruger was one of several Ravens from that 2013 free agent class that busted on a new team, and in fact was the most succesful of the group.
- Dannell Ellerbe only played two seasons with the Dolphins and was traded to the New Orleans Saints.
- Bernard Pollard played for the Titans for two seasons before being released and did not play at all in 2015.
- Cary Williams played just two season with the Eagles and was cut after the 2014 season. He signed a three-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks worth $18 million, with $7 million guaranteed. He wouldn't complete the first year of the deal, as he was released by the Seahawks on December 7th, 2015. Williams signed a one-year deal with the Washington Redskins on January 5th, 2016.
- Ed Reed did not last even half the 2013 season with the Houston Texans. He struggled mightily and was benched for backup safety Shiloh Keo. The Texans released Reed and he soon signed with the New York Jets for the remainder of the 2013 season. He spent the entire 2014 season out of football and finally retired last year, signing a one day contract to retire as a Baltimore Raven.
The fact that virtually none of these departures, aside from Boldin via trade, panned out for their teams is alarming. Not one free agent departure, not even Ed Reed, stood out for their respective new teams. Paul Kruger's release was the last shoe to drop and further proof that Ozzie Newsome, who isn't perfect, knows what he's doing. The 2013 offseason was a roller-coaster ride full of twists and turns with players going left and right. The media bashing the Ravens for their decision making was unreal then and is even more unreal now.
Then again, the media will just say its Flacco's fault. It always seem like it is.