Nevermore: Saying Goodbye to an Era in Baltimore

Last week, in less than 72 hours, the Baltimore Ravens said goodbye to four of their most important defensive stalwarts. It started with Eric Weddle being released by the team to clear over 7.5 million in cap space. In the 2018 campaign, Weddle had a down year as he performed below his usual excellence while being present for 98.2 percent of Baltimore’s defensive snaps last season (via Spotrac). At the age of 34, I can understand this move to an extent as letting Weddle go frees up the opportunity for a DeShon Elliott to earn some significant playing time after being injured for the entirety of his rookie season. Drafted in the sixth round and widely regarded as a sleeper pick, Elliott was showing flashes of excellence in camp before a broken forearm ended his 2018 campaign.

The next move I don’t see much of a problem either. Terrell Suggs is 38 years old, and though he is showing few signs of slowing down, his defensive snap count has decreased drastically. On the back half of last season, Suggs was virtually a non-factor for the league’s No. 1 defense as other younger and more athletic players stepped up to take snaps away from Sizzle.

Drafted in 2003, Suggs will be going into his 17th season next year as an Arizona Cardinal, playing on a contract that is unspecified at this moment, but we know the amount was such that Baltimore was unwilling to match the deal. I see no problem with Suggs going back to his roots in Phoenix and retiring from football the same place he started. It will be extremely challenging seeing Suggs wearing a red football jersey after seeing him in the black and purple for just about as long as I’ve been a fan.

The same day news broke that Terrell Suggs was leaving Baltimore, talks had emerged that the Ravens had “upped their offer” to C.J. Mosley, but the money amount was still significantly less than the offer placed by the New York Jets. That morning, news broke that Mosley will be joining the Jets on a five-year, $85 million contract. The guaranteed sum of the contract has not yet been reported, but the annual salary comes out to about seventeen million dollars per year.

Mosley is only 26 years old and has made four Pro Bowls in his first six seasons in the league. I have his jersey and I have absolutely no intention of selling, throwing away, or burning it. Mosley was well on his way to achieving the status of the supposed successor to Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis.

I loved having C.J. in Baltimore, but I would have been flabbergasted if Baltimore paid a linebacker $17 million per year, especially one who has well-documented trouble covering big-bodied receivers

The next one really hurts. After letting the three main captains of their defense walk, they let go of beloved PFF darling Za’Darius Smith. The Green Bay Packers announced early Tuesday morning that they intend to sign Smith to an extended contract. This one stings because Smith is a walking example of Ozzie Newsome’s draft excellence. Drafted with the No. 122 pick in 2015 and hailing from the University of Kentucky, expectations weren’t through the roof for Smith, but he didn’t disappoint. Working his way through the ranks and seeing photocopies of himself walk in free agency, *cough Pernell McPhee cough* Smith made his most valuable impact last season, leading the Ravens with 8.5 sacks and racking up 24 tackles for a loss.

Everyone knew Smith was going to be expecting a huge payday this offseason. What I wasn’t expecting was for both Mosley and Smith to walk in free agency, along with Weddle and Suggs. I hope Eric DeCosta knows what he’s doing, because letting go of four of the most popular players who have played on the team in the franchise’s existence in one offseason is ballsy, to say the least. I hope they are planning to make a run at somebody in free agency, or else fans will be coming for his head come next season.

UPDATE: As of March 15th, the Baltimore Ravens have officially signed S Earl Thomas III to a four-year, $55 million dollar contract. This move surely will bolster the defense that was left with more holes after tampering than swiss cheese.

-Ben

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