Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NFL season. This team-by-team preview details why your favorite franchise might have to start looking forward to next year — and highlights at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: we’ll talk about why the defending Super Bowl Champions don’t have a chance at repeating.
The Baltimore Ravens committed the cardinal offseason sin. When you win the Super Bowl, you do everything that you can to keep your core intact for at least one more year. You don’t let Dannell Ellerbe go in the same year that Ray Lewis is retiring. You don’t let Paul Kruger or Ed Reed or Bernard Pollard go. And most importantly, you don’t let your most reliable wide receiver go.
After losing Anquan Boldin to the 49ers and Dennis Pitta to a fractured hip, the Ravens’ receiving corps is looking pretty depleted right now.
Torrey Smith is now the Ravens’ number one wide receiver on the depth chart. He’s really good … at disappearing for multiple games at a time while managing to have a good overall season. In eight of the Ravens’ sixteen regular season games last year, Smith caught two or fewer passes. He was mediocre in two of the Ravens’ four postseason games. Smith was a great complement to Anquan Boldin, but he isn’t ready to be the team’s primary target.
So who else do they have to back up Smith? Jacoby Jones will be starting opposite him. Yes, that Jacoby Jones, the guy who had 51 receptions, 562 yards, and three touchdowns in the best of his six seasons in the NFL. The guy who caught 30 passes for 406 yards and just one touchdown for the Ravens last year. And after Jones? Tandon Doss and David Reed. Who? Exactly.
Ed Dickson is actually a solid tight end and showed flashes of being good in 2011, but fell behind the superior Dennis Pitta on the depth chart last season. Pitta was one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets before his season-ending injury, so Flacco will have to try and rekindle some chemistry with Dickson. But that’s the least of the Ravens’ problems.
The biggest issue for Baltimore is the fact that they made Joe Flacco the highest paid player in the history of the NFL.
I mean, seriously, look at how dumb his mustache is. Ever since the day that his new contract was announced, I’ve been convinced that I’m living in a dream and the world isn’t real. Nothing seems right anymore. Up is down and left is right.
I don’t want to get too detailed about why his contract is complete horse shit and letting solid players walk so that they could meet Joe Flacco’s absurdly high demands was a terrible idea. Instead, I’ll just give you a list — in no particular order — of quarterbacks that I’d rather have as my team’s starting quarterback than Joe Flacco:
1. Tom Brady
2. Drew Brees
3. Aaron Rodgers
4. Peyton Manning
5. Eli Manning
6. Tony Romo
7. Matt Ryan
8. Robert Griffin III
9. Ben Roethlisberger
10. Andrew Luck
11. Russell Wilson
12. Colin Kaepernick
13. Cam Newton
14. Philip Rivers
I know, I know. Wilson, Kaep, Luck, and RGIII are too young. Rivers is too old. Big Ben gets injured too much. But Flacco is a mediocre quarterback and he has a stupid mustache and I would take each and every one of those guys over him for those two reasons alone.
Why you might not be screwed: The Ravens somehow managed to improve their defense this offseason despite the Flacco contract. They lost Lewis, Reed, Pollard, Ellerbe, and Kruger. But they signed Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Chris Canty, and Marcus Spears. Their first two draft picks were safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown, both of whom should see playing time this season. Oh, Lardarius Webb is coming back too. The Ravens defense got younger and it got better. They also don’t have any murderers on the team for the first time in a long time, so that’s really good.
Actual season prediction: 10-6, second in the AFC North behind the Bengals with a wild-card playoff spot. They might win a playoff game or two, but they won’t be repeating this year.
Photos via Getty Images and ESPN