After losing key players like Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson, and Cory Redding, among others, last year, the Ravens signed some under-the-radar guys and went on to win the Super Bowl. The team can only hope they are lucky enough for a similar result in 2013.
This year, the Ravens didn't even really try to pursue Paul Kruger, the type of young player they would usually lock up to a long-term deal. Kruger said that he really wanted to be back in Baltimore, but the chance at a huge payday was too much to turn down and he signed with the division rival Cleveland Browns for five years and $40 million.
The Ravens expected a major bidding war for Kruger and didn't feel he was worth that type of money considering he really isn't much more than a situational pass rusher. It's hard to blame them for letting him go.
Dannell Ellerbe was the Ravens' priority in free agency, and the team felt good about their chances of re-signing him. The Miami Dolphins swooped in with a five-year, $35 million offer, flooring analysts and sending Ellerbe packing for South Beach.
The team is also expected to lose Cary Williams. The Ravens would like to bring him back as well, but he will likely get a big deal elsewhere and the team has other options at cornerback. Lardarius Webb should be back next season, Corey Graham and Chykie Brown played well in 2012 and the team still has high hopes for Jimmy Smith.
Ed Reed is also a free agent, but the Ravens feel good about their chances of keeping him in Baltimore for the rest of his NFL career. That said, rumors are flying that Reed is close to signing with the 49ers, and the Patriots and Colts are also viable options.
Left tackle is also a concern, but the Ravens seem confident they can re-sign Bryant McKinnie to a reasonable deal. Well, that was until McKinnie came out and said he already gave the Ravens a discount on his services last year and now it's time to pay up. The left tackle market is actually littered with options, so McKinnie's asking price may well come down before too long.
Not only will the Ravens take major hits in free agency, but they also might be forced to release some quality players to create more financial flexibility. The team already released Bobbie Williams, who isn't considered a significant loss and could always be brought back at a later time and cheaper price.
There has been a lot of talk about the team giving Anquan Boldin an ultimatum to take a pay cut or be released, and Vonta Leach is also on the chopping block. Jameel McClain could also be a cap casualty as he tries to fight back from an injury, but the team's lack of depth, talent and experience at linebacker might ultimately save him from free agency.
The Ravens really can't afford to lose a guy like Boldin, who is a tremendous leader in the locker room and was a huge part of the team's Super Bowl run. He still has at least a few good years left and is a key part of the offense. Similar things could be said about Leach, but the Ravens are transitioning away from a fullback in their offense and he already is off the field more than he is on it.
For the Ravens to once again win the AFC North and maybe even be Super Bowl contender, they are going to have to draft really well, find some bargain bin guys in free agency and get some players to step up after struggling last year. Guys like Terrell Suggs and Webb should finally be 100 percent, and Courtney Upshaw and Jimmy Smith will have another year under their belt.
The team will get some help along the defensive line from Chris Canty, who became the first free agent from another team to sign with the Ravens. He received a three-year deal worth $8 million, which is a great deal for a player that might fit well in the Ravens' defensive system.
James Ihedigbo, Ramon Harewood, Morgan Cox and David Reed have been re-signed while Dennis Pitta, Arthur Jones and Ed Dickson all received tenders. Ihedigbo is a solid role player who could be considered insurance should Ed Reed land elsewhere. David Reed could be in the mix for playing time as the slot receiver depending upon whether or not the Ravens sign an impact wideout in free agency.