Less than two months after winning the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens have let the six of the most important defensive players on last year’s team go.
Here’s who they’ve lost:
- Ed Reed, safety (left, signed with Houston)
- Bernard Pollard, safety (cut, signed with Tennessee)
- Paul Kruger, pass rusher (left, signed with Cleveland)
- Dannell Ellerbe, linebacker (left, signed with Miami)
- Cary Williams, corner (left, signed with Philly)
- Ray Lewis, linebacker (retired)
There’s a small-scale reason that each specific player was let go. Reed’s play has been slipping. Pollard is old. And Kruger/Ellerbe/Williams all wanted long-term contracts.
But the more large-scale reason why the Ravens didn’t care about keeping that title-winning unit together is this — they weren’t actually that good last year.
According to Football Outsiders data, Baltimore had the 19th-ranked defence in the league, the 13th-ranked passing defence, and the 26th-ranked rushing defence. Even when the defence was at its best in the playoffs, it still gave up 30+ points to the 49ers and Broncos.
So if Baltimore got sentimental and tried to keep everyone, they would have had to overpay and ruin its cap space for a defence that was average-at-best statistically.
Instead, they let all those guys walk, and now they’re rebuilding their defence after most of the NFL has blown its cap space.
They’ve already signed Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil to replace Kruger and safety Michael Huff to replace Reed. And they’ll probably land a few more discount guys before going defensive-heavy in next month’s NFL Draft.
It’s smart, and it requires a lot confidence from the front office.
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