Keep calm and trust Ozzie

March 15, 2013

I love my fellow Ravens fans, really, I do.

But my God do we have one of the most Chicken Little fanbases with some of the shortest memories I’ve ever seen.

All anyone can talk about in the Ravens Nation Army these days is of how our Super Bowl championship club has been gutted.

Anquan Boldin – Gone to San Fran

Ray Lewis – Gone to the former NFL player retirement home known as ESPN

Paul Kruger – Gone to the Factory of Sadness aka Cleveland

Bernard Pollard – Gone

Dannell Ellerbe – Gone to Miami

Cary Williams – Gone to the Illadelph

Ed Reed – Possibly gone after being wined and dined by the Houston Texans.

This has caused a great deal of our fanbase to lose their collective minds. Why, you even have some claiming they will search for a new team if (when?) Reed bolts for Houston. Talk about Chicken Littles. I mean, before last year, I would get it if you walked away from the Orioles. They looked hopeless and had been astoundingly inept under the tyrannical reign of error of one Peter G. Angelos, Esquire for 14 years.

On the other hand, the Ravens just won the damn world championship a month and half ago!

You’re jumping ship after the team just won the Super Bowl!?! All I can say is, don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out.

Yes, the Ravens just lost a lot of players. It happens. The Ravens are successful. Other, not as successful teams are willing to throw loads of dollars at our players for pieces of that success. There’s a salary cap so we can’t keep everyone.

Did this franchise not survive the losses of Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg, Dawan Landry, Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee a few years ago?

Did this franchise not only survive, but also win a championship after losing Ben Grubbs, Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura and Jarrett Johnson last year?

Keep calm, know your role, shut your mouth and trust the Wiz. Not to keep crapping on the fanbase, but the amateur GMs out there in Ravens Nation are positively infuriating these days.

Yes, it sucks to lose a guy like Anquan Boldin, who was a force in the postseason. He was a leader in the locker room and a go-to guy on third down. He was also 31 years old and set to make $6 million as basically a third tight end. Yes, I would have loved to see Q in purple and black next year, but clearly, management thought he was overpaid, asked him to take a paycut, he refused, management was going to release him and decided to get something back (a sixth round pick) for the 49ers to take him.

Of course, that doesn’t stop the fanbase from whining, “Oh who will Joe Flacco throw to now that Q is gone?” Forgetting of course they said the same thing when Mason and Heap were jettisoned. We got over that, didn’t we?

Kruger and Williams were never coming back, having become too expensive for the Ravens cap situation.

Kruger in particular is your #1 choice in this year’s “Which Ravens defender will get big $ somewhere else and be a huge bust?” pool.  I like Kruger, he was terrific in the second half of the season, but he’s a situational pass rusher who was invisible earlier this past season when the team handed him Jarrett Johnson’s old spot. He took off after Terrell Suggs returned and Courtney Upshaw was moved to the left outside linebacker spot, which freed Kruger from edge run-stopping duties and emphasized his pass-rushing ability.

Pollard's release was mystifying at first. He didn’t save the team that much cap space, he was a guy seemingly born to play for the Ravens and he was the league’s #1 Patriot Killer.

He was also, apparently, a locker room lawyer who was partly behind the well-documented mutiny against John Harbaugh after a blowout loss to Houston and also allegedly chewed out rookie linebacker Josh Bynes in front of the whole team after a December loss to the Redskins. The Ravens do not suffer locker room lawyers lightly. For an example, see Mason, who was released not long after he got into a shouting match with Joe Flacco on the sidelines in Carolina.

Reed was also a part of the October mutiny, and Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun got to speculating that Harbaugh was purging the locker room of its more outspoken members, making it “his team.” I don’t buy that theory, mainly because Ozzie and Steve Bisciotti also have a say in this and if they thought Pollard was worth keeping, they would have told Harbs to suck it up and cope.

If Reed comes back after being given the Prince Hakeem of Zmunda treatment by Houston (the Texans have done everything but throw rose petals at his feet and have a harem of women bathe him in order to get Reed to sign) and resigns with the Ravens, it would prove my point.

And while the thought of Ed Reed as a Houston Texan is unbelievably depressing, keep in mind he’s a 34-year old safety who can’t tackle anymore. Even if he is the best free safety of the past 25 years, if not ever, and he’s the 2nd-most iconic player in the history of this franchise, he’s not worth backing up a Brinks truck for anymore either.

Ellerbe was a guy the Ravens probably wanted to keep, but the Dolphins tossed some Freeway Ricky Ross money at him and he couldn’t say no. I like Ellerbe too, but he’s not a $7 million a year player.

Again, keep calm and trust Ozzie. The man’s been doing this job very well for a long time. The team’s goal, clearly, is to get younger and faster on defense while getting leaner against the salary cap. And it’s not like the Ravens were breaking up one of the great Ravens defenses. Fans seem to forget this was the same unit that was decidedly mediocre this year, giving up yards in chunks.

The Ravens have never ever, like ever, been big free agency players. Ozzie does not seek offseason championships but, you know, actual championships. He picks up players who can fit a niche, who play hard and who aren’t head cases from loser organizations. In other words, he signs guys who can fill a role and play the Ravens kind of way. Think Corey Graham and Jacoby Jones.

Chris Canty, who signed on Day 1 of free agency, is a perfect example: a versatile player who can play multiple positions on the D-line and has played for winning programs.  Ozzie doesn’t chase the Albert Haynesworth’s of the world. If the Ravens dole out big money deals,typically it’s to guys the team has drafted and developed and who only know one way to play: the Ravens way.

So how will they make up for all the losses? Twelve draft picks this year is a start to fill gaps on defense, at wideout or left tackle. A player like LSU's Kevin Minter or Georgia's Alec Ogletree could be there at ILB when the Ravens pick 32nd, as could a safety like South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger, who fits the Ravens mold to a T. Players already on the roster like Tandon Doss and Bynes will get first crack at being next man up at receiver and inside backer, respectively. A healthy Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown make up for Williams, and James Ihedigbo was resigned to take Pollard's role at less money and with less trouble in the locker room.

There could be some stopgap veteran signings, likeJames Harrison, who could fill Kruger’s role as a situational rush linebacker. While Harrison is neither younger nor faster, he does fill a niche. Remember, Graham was signed to play special teams and turned out to be a godsend at corner after Lardarius Webb and Smith went down.

In the end, Ravens fans on the ledge need to just chill the F out. With nine playoff appearances in 12 years, four AFC North titles and two Lombardi trophies, I’d say Ozzie has earned some latitude on this.

  • Ryan Mavity has been a reporter with the Cape Gazette since February 2007. He covers the city of Rehoboth Beach, Baltimore Ravens football and Delaware State University football. He lives in Georgetown with his wife, Rachel and their son, Alex.

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