Finally, Kyle Boller has a receiver who can give him some help. Pressure is
also off of tight end Todd Heap, who will certainly benefit from the presence of
Mason. The young receivers will also gain a great teacher in Mason who will show
them the intricacies of the game.
The Ravens botched negotiations with Gary Baxter and lost him to the Cleveland Browns, a seemingly disastrous development that looked like it would put the Ravens in a tough position. Instead of a big loss, it turned into an enormous gain when Ozzie Newsome signed stud cornerback Samari Rolle to virtually the same contract Baxter received from the Browns. Instead of overpaying for a player who had one good year and really struggled this past season, the Ravens picked up one of the best in the business and now posses arguably the best secondary in football. Rolle and Chris McCalister along with Ed Reed and maybe even Deion Sanders? Wow. Good luck to every quarterback in the NFL not named Kyle Boller.
This will allow defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to be even more aggressive with his blitzes since Rolle and McCalister can more than hold their own in single coverage. The constant pressure on the quarterback will cause sacks, and even more importantly, fumbles and interceptions.
Nope, not done yet. The Ravens said adios to Bennie Anderson and signed Keydrick Vincent. Not only is he a significant upgrade at the right guard position, Vincent's former team was the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. A Ravens addition plus a Steeler's subtraction makes for a big move toward reclaiming the AFC North Title.
The Ravens lost linebacker Ed Hartwell, a key player in the team's 3-4 defense the past few years. However, this allows the Ravens to save money and to switch back to the 4-3. Hartwell was very unhappy with Ray Lewis getting all the media attention, and I suspect he was a major, if the not the major, contributor to chemistry problems last season. Possibly a case of addition by subtraction.
The other big loss was Casey Rabach, but the Ravens didn't have a choice here. They already invested a lot of money in Mike Flynn, and there was no way they could afford to keep Rabach around. Rabach would have provided great depth to the offensive line, but Flynn was a solid performer before his injury last season and should return to his former level of play.
The next focus becomes the NFL draft, an area where the Ravens have excelled since their inaugural season. This draft is particularly important for a few reasons. It will give the Ravens a chance to add an impact player to their team with their first round pick and also add additional depth to the team. It will also be interesting to see how the Ravens do this year in the draft without the aid of Scouting Director Phil Savage, who is now the General Manager in Cleveland. A good draft would show life will be just fine without Savage and that Ozzie is more than capable of running the team without his services.
The draft is definitely important, but make no mistake about it, the Ravens have made a huge splash with their free agent acquisitions and have gone a long way toward putting themselves in a position to make a run at the Super Bowl.
Not making the playoffs and not being a Super Bowl contender is unacceptable for this organization, and they have made that crystal clear this off-season.
Steve deClue is a Ravens fan and journalism major at the University of