Baltimore Offseason Full Of Surprises
By Cian Fahey
The Baltimore Ravens shocked the world when they won the Super Bowl back in February, but since then, general manager Ozzie Newsome has set about shocking them with his off-season moves.
Joe Flacco's difficult contract negotiations proved to be quick and beneficial for the Ravens, opposed to long-lasting and crippling like Drew Brees' had been for the New Orleans Saints 12 months previous. Yet, the money spared for Flacco didn't go where it was expected to. Nobody expected the Ravens to re-sign Cary Williams, Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, but similarly, nobody expected them to lose every single one of their free agents. Furthermore, the money saved on Flacco should have allowed them to keep key players such as Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard, but Boldin was traded and Pollard was released.
Instead of searching out for obvious replacements in free agency, Newsome initially fortified a defensive line that didn't appear to need fortifying. Marcus Spears and Chris Canty should prove to be excellent additions, but they definitely came out of left field. The Ravens' first real big name free agent signing was a surprise free agent, nevermind a surprise signing. Elvis Dumervil was released because of a mix-up with a fax machine with the Denver Broncos, before he signed with the Ravens. Dumervil preceded the addition of two former Oakland Raiders' first round draft picks, Michael Huff and Rolando McClain.
Considering his track record this off-season, it will be no surprise if Newsome decides to go with another unexpected move in the draft.
As an examination of multiple mock drafts showed previously, the favorites for the Ravens' first pick in the draft are primarily on the defensive side of the ball. Kevin Minter and Manti Te'o received the most attention. Even though those mock drafts didn't consider the addition of McClain, his signing shouldn't afffect their blueprint. As well as the two linebackers, draft experts also expect the Ravens to consider drafting strong safety Matt Elam, a natural replacement for Bernard Pollard, or a defensive end who would represent great value in Cornellius Carradine.
One draft expert, CBS' Pete Prisco, gave the Ravens a wide receiver in his mock draft, Tennessee Wide Receiver Justin Hunter. Wide receiver makes a lot of sense for the Ravens, but if they are looking to replace Anquan Boldin, a different prospect may be a better fit.
Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins may have played his college career somewhat in the shadow of Sammy Watkins, but he is still one of the top receiving prospects in this draft. By sheer coincidence, Hopkins best comparison coming out appears to be Boldin. He is a very physically gifted receiver who imposes himself on games. He has his consistency issues and needs to redefine his routes in certain situations, but from a sheer physical perspective, Hopkins has the same explosive ability as Boldin had when he was younger as well as the ability to be a tough possession receiver over the middle.
The Ravens could go in a variety of different directions in the draft, but having retooled their offense in free agency, they may be more inclined to look at taking an offensive player. Hopkins may not be the top-rated player for draft experts, but he does fit the exact role that Boldin is departing and Flacco has proven he can develop a chemistry with that type of receiver.