If there was an anti-aging cream that morphed the human body into an indestructible, death resistant war machine, it still wouldn’t be able to save the Ravens. That’s because the rival Steelers would have consumed it all already, hoarding it in their deep yellow steel lair.
One of the NFL’s elite teams plays its football in Baltimore, and Ravens fans enjoyed a ride last year during the regular season that led to 12 wins, and the AFC North division crown. The fun then concluded in nightmare fashion when a disastrously painful shank ended a season that had no business ending, and the Ravens were robbed of a Super Bowl berth.
Maybe they were robbed of a little more than that too, as with every year that ticks by, they’re losing a little more of their youth.
Oh sure, there’s youth in key spots. Ray Rice is young, Torrey Smith displayed the elite athleticism we expected when he was drafted in the second round last year, and although he was wildly inconsistent, Joe Flacco still has plenty of time to grow.
But at key positions, time isn’t Baltimore’s friend. Center Matt Birk is 35, and he flirted with retirement. Ray Lewis won’t even talk about retirement, but he’ll have to soon enough because he’s 36. Ed Reed drank too much children’s cough syrup, and thinks that even though he’s 33 and has missed 10 games since 2009, he can still play for up to five more years. Even Terrell Suggs, the anchor of Baltimore’s feared defense, isn’t exactly young anymore at 29.
That’s some rough birth certificate math there, so surely this year’s draft will plant the seeds for a youth movement with early picks to eventually replace key, aging assets, right? If I keep asking questions (maybe even four of them), Bruce Raffel of Baltimore Beat Down will answer me eventually.
1. Birk was re-signed, but he’s aging and almost retired. Peter Konz should be available late in the first round, and he could eventually replace Birk, while also filling the void left by Ben Grubbs temporarily. Will the ravens go in that direction?
Personally, I like Konz a lot, and the Ravens think he can start right away at LG, and then move to center after Birk retires. However, if a top guard is there when the Ravens pick, I’d be happy with that too.
2. Speaking of aging, Lewis immediately said that he’s not retiring after Baltimore’s AFC title game loss. But he’s 36, and behind him is Brendon Ayanbadejo, who’s 35. Will father time force the selection of a linebacker early?
It Depends on if the right guy (Dont’a Hightower?) is there when they pick, although a lot of mock drafts have the Steelers taking Hightower with the 24th pick. Lewis has at least another year left in him, and the Ravens also have a young Jameel McClain next to him at inside linebacker. So even if an ILB isn’t drafted early, Baltimore is set for at least one more year there.
3. Ricky Williams retired, so is the search on in the later rounds for a capable backup who can be developed under Ray Rice?
I still expect the Ravens to sign a veteran free agent RB either before or after the draft. However, the team is seemingly confident that second-year RB Anthony Allen can fill the void left by Ricky’s retirement.
4. Any other specific names on your wishlist?
I believe this team is a Super Bowl contender and only needs depth aside from perhaps a starter at LG, so as we say in Baltimore, “In Oz We Trust!”