The Carolina Panthers aren’t the only team in the NFL that is going through a youth movement on the defensive side of the ball. After fielding the league’s No.1 total defense last season, the Baltimore Ravens are following in the Panthers’ footsteps and are purging a lot of the key veteran members of their defense this offseason.
New Ravens’ General Manager Eric DeCosta knew that he would be faced with some tough decisions to make in his first offseason succeeding Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome in terms of which players to resign, retain, release or walk in free agency.
In his introductory press conference, he expressed that one of the organization’s biggest regrets was their inability to keep homegrown ascending talent in Baltimore after developing them for four or five years because of the hefty salaries that were allocated elsewhere to veteran players.
This offseason the only money that he has shelled out has been to players that they drafted or signed as undrafted free agents to ensure that their budding young nucleus on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense, intact for the foreseeable future.
They made defensive back Tavon Young, a former fourth-round pick in 2016, the highest paid nickel corner in the league, that is before Justin Coleman’s new deal with the Detroit Lions becomes official, with a three-year extension.
They also made Nick Boyle, a fifth-round pick from 2015, the highest paid blocking tight end in the league before he could reach unrestricted free agency. He was expected to garner plenty of interest as he was viewed by some as the best tight end that was scheduled to hit the open market.
They placed second-round tenders on a pair of undrafted defenders that have been key contributors and have blossomed into rising stars since signing with and making the team as undrafted free agents in 2016.
In the last week the Ravens have said goodbye to two of their best defensive players and team leaders when they released free safety Eric Weddle last Tuesday and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who played out the final year of his deal last season, has agreed to terms with another team.
Both players are headed home to the states in which they grew up in as Weddle, who grew up in a suburb just outside of LA, signed with the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams just three days after his release. While his deal can’t be made official until Wednesday when the new league year formally starts, Suggs, who grew up and attended college in Arizona, has agreed in principle to sign with the Arizona Cardinals.
Weddle is widely recognized as one of the smartest players not just safeties in the league, was the captain of Baltimore’s secondary and made the Pro Bowl in all three of his seasons with the Ravens since he signed with the team in 2016.
The man that is famously referred to as “T-Sizzle”, who is a former Defensive Player of the Year, seven-time Pro Bowler, one of the smartest defenders in the league, the NFL’s active sack leader with 132.5 and still appears to have plenty left in the tank after a seven-sack season in 2018.
The departure of these two seasoned defensive stalwarts who are pillars in not just the locker room but in the Baltimore, community will be felt severely and maybe even reflected in the team’s defensive rankings next season. There’s no substitute for on-field intelligence and leadership and Sizzle’s exodus from Baltimore after 16 years signifies the end of an era as he was the last remaining holdover from the “Reign of Ray Lewis” era and changing of the guard to next generation of the Ravens’ defense.
In order to ensure that the next generation of great Raven’s defenders can uphold the mantle of stellar play and dominance, they will need to make sure they do whatever it takes to retain fifth-year middle linebacker, CJ Mosley. He made four Pro Bowls in his first five years and will be one of the most sought-after free agents if he does indeed hit the open market on Wednesday.