Baltimore Ravens defense: The beat goes on

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 24: Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens motions to the crowd during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 24: Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens motions to the crowd during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

For the Baltimore Ravens defense, the names and faces may change, but the results remain the same.

The Baltimore Ravens are often gutted in free agency on defense year after year; but it really doesn’t seem to affect their performance on that side of the ball. In fact, retirement and coaching changes don’t seem to matter much either.

Since the 2003 season, the Ravens defense has had only one season in which it has failed to finish inside the top 12 in total defense. Oddly enough, the only season that they did not rank in the top 12 was their Super Bowl season in 2012 where they finished the year ranked 17th overall. Go figure!

The team has achieved an average ranking of 6.5 over the last 16 seasons despite consistently having issues retaining players when the free agency period begins. The Ravens defensive players being plucked in the offseason is a tale as old as the Baltimore Ravens. As is the consistency of the Ravens ability to not miss a beat after it occurs.

When Ray Lewis retired after the 2012 season many in Baltimore were concerned that the defense would not be able to live up to the impossibly high standards set by Lewis over his illustrious career. When fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame member Ed Reed left in free agency in the same summer, panic began to set in. The Ravens finished 12th in total defense the next season, a five slot improvement over the prior year.

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The Baltimore Ravens have had plenty of other household names depart the defense over the years as well.  Free agency claimed Ed Hartwell, Jarret Johnson, Bart Scott, Adalius Thomas, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee in a list that goes on and on. All of these players flourished in Baltimore and got paid elsewhere leaving holes in the Ravens defense that seemed difficult to fill. Most of these players have not lived up to the level of their next contract either.

It’s not just limited to payers either. Defensive coordinators have been a consistent point of change for the Ravens as well. If you want to be a head coach in the National Football League, being the man in charge of the Ravens defense is usually a good place to start.

Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan, and Chuck Pagano have all departed from the Ravens for head coaching jobs. With another big season in Baltimore, Wink Martindale could be doing the very same thing. But the success of the break ups have long been in the Ravens favor on this front as well as those prior departing coaches have a record of 248-268 record in their first stops as head coaches.

The list of players grew this week as the Ravens have parted ways with Eric Weddle via cut and lost Za’Darius Smith, C.J. Mosley, and Terrell Suggs in the first moments of free agency. The panic began to set in as Ravens nation saw their number one ranked defense disappearing before their very eyes. Many even began to phone in the 2019 season just one day into the free agency tampering period.

Have we not seen this movie before Ravens fans? Players often chase the money and in each of these situations, money became the main issue in their departure from the Ravens. Weddle’s cap hit became too much to swallow for the Ravens and Smith, Mosley, and Suggs were all overpaid in departing for the Packers, Jets, and Cardinals respectively.

But why the panic? I understand that Suggs was a career Raven who had become a hometown hero and fan favorite. Suggs will turn 37 in October and had his worst season since 2009 when playing 10+ games tallying just seven sacks on the season including 1.5 sacks after week seven. It also seems like Suggs wanted to leave for Arizona as well. Shed a tear if you must, but an upgrade can be had there.

Mosley was given big bucks to join the Jets in free agency. He is a liability in pass coverage and is a relative non factor in rushing the passer. Run-stuffing inside linebackers that don’t cover well aren’t irreplaceable. And for the contract he got, that was an easy pass for the Ravens.

Smith cashed in on his career season in his contract year picking up 8.5 sacks. Prior to last season, few around the league even knew who Za’Darius Smith was as he had tallied just ten sacks in his first three seasons,and was rewarded handsomely with a deal from the Packers. The price to pay was deemed not worth it for the Ravens and thankfully so.

As far as Weddle, the Ravens got to work as the initial wave of free agency subsided picking up the best Safety on the market in former Seahawk, Earl Thomas. Thomas is an immediate upgrade from Weddle and is a natural free safety/ball hawk type safety that the Ravens have been yearning for in the past few years. Thomas comes with injury concerns having broken his leg last season, but he is undoubtedly a better player than Weddle.

The additions likely will not stop here as the Ravens will lend up in the bargain hunting process to fill the spots vacated by the other departing players. It obviously is not ideal that the Ravens are looking to fill three more holes in their defense and the possibility that Brent Urban departs could become a reality as well.

Next. Remaining free agent targets for the Ravens. dark

But no matter who leaves, it doesn’t seem to affect the Baltimore Ravens defense over the years. This won’t be any different.