The Baltimore Ravens won their second Super Bowl since 2000 on the back of pure emotion and apparent destiny. But now the attention turns to, can they do it again without Ray Lewis? And the answer to that is a resounding YES! The Ravens will absolutely miss the leadership that Ray Lewis provided on the field and in the locker room, but they have as much if not more playoff experience than any other team in the NFL and their confidence will be through the roof.
The Ravens have a few players they need to take care of before they can think about repeating though. First and foremost they must get Joe Flacco under contract without using the Franchise tag. If the Ravens use the franchise tag then they will not have enough cap space to resign players like Dannell Ellerbe and Ed Reed. Ellerbe filled in for Ray Lewis for half of the season and did a more than suitable job. Ellerbe should keep getting with more playing time and more responsibility in practice. Meanwhile Ed Reed has been the Ray Lewis of the Ravens secondary and if he is allowed to walk away in free agency it could have a devastating effect on the team. Cary Williams is another secondary player that the Ravens need back if they want to have a chance at a title defense. However, I believe that the Ravens will resign Reed, Ellerbe, and Williams, as well as lock Joe Flacco up in a long term contract. The big free agents that the Ravens are going to need to let go is Edge Rusher Paul Kruger and Bryant McKinnie. Kruger racked up 9 sacks last season and is just entering his prime. Bryant McKinnie is one of the best offensive lineman in the league but will be 34 next season and unless he is willing to take a big hometown pay cut he will be let go. The Ravens are going to have to let them both go if they want to keep some other key free agents. The Ravens will need to draft a pass rusher to fill in for Kruger and may have to shift a few players around on the line to fill in for McKinnie.
Now assuming all of this happens lets talk football for the Ravens without Ray Lewis.
The Ravens have always been known for their devastating defense and smash mouth style of football, but their identity could soon change. The Ravens have one of the most talented offenses in the NFL and they are just going to get better. Joe Flacco has definitely climbed into the elite category of NFL quarterbacks and he should be there to stay. Torrey Smith is turning into one of the best deep threats in the NFL and he’s only 24 years old. Anquan Boldin still has a few years of being a dominant possession receiver left in him and will be Joe Flacco’s security blanket once again in 2013. Don’t forget about one of the best running backs in the NFL in Ray Rice. Ray Rice can do it all, he can run up the middle, on the edge, or catch it out of the backfield with the best of them. Look for the Ravens offense to get even better next year and be mentioned along side the Saints, Packers, and Patriots for best offenses in the league.
Now let’s talk about what will happen to the defense without Ray Lewis back there leading them. The Ravens defense will still be a very talented group and they will all have a chip on their shoulder to prove that they can succeed without Lewis getting all of the credit. The secondary shouldn’t see any drop off with Ed Reed still leading by example. The front seven is what will suffer the most from Ray’s retirement, but they are still an extremely talented group. Any front seven that includes Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata is going to be dangerous. They will definitely see some drop off but the offenses improvement should make up for the defense. Ed Reed and the defense should make their fair share of big plays to give the offense a chance to win.
At the end of the day the Ravens will have an uphill climb without Ray Lewis, and some veterans will have to prove that they can be successful without him leading them. If they can get to playoffs, I like their chances to defend their title in 2013.
Written By: Kyle Newton
I am a Senior at the University of South Florida, producer for NBC Sports Tampa, and head editor of 110sportztalk.com
Follow me on twitter @NewtSports for all of the days sports news and rumors, as well as sports debate and jokes!