After making the postseason four straight seasons, but failing to reach a Super Bowl in that time — the question many are wondering — is has the window closed for the Baltimore Ravens?
For guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, who are not getting any younger, they may only have one more year or so to get to a Super Bowl. But, owner Steve Bisciotti believes the window is wide open for his franchise.
“I don’t see age as being a window closing, not when you have a franchise quarterback coming up that’s entering his fifth year,” Bisciotti said, via The Baltimore Sun. “We got great contributions this year from three of our seven draft picks, and I know that we are very excited about the other ones. We didn’t know what we got in Pernell McPhee, and we’re really excited about Jah Reid. We’re still very excited about Tandon Doss and Anthony Allen and Chykie Brown. And LaQuan [Williams], who wasn’t drafted. We’ve got some contributors that we’re going to count on and that fill a lot of holes for us. What Jimmy Smith and Pernell andTorrey [Smith] did for us this year is spot on. We think we can get some of that out of the other four.”
Lewis, who is returning for a 17th NFL season, will be 37 in May. Reed will turn 34 during the first month of the next season. Now, whether the greatest ball-hawk of this generation will be back with the Ravens or opt for retirement is still up in the air.
But Bisciotti has his own beliefs that the aging of this Baltimore defense is completely false. He says if you take away the ages of Lewis and Reed from the formula — not that they won’t be on the roster in the near future — the Ravens would have one of the league’s youngest defensive units.
“Some of the national guys have written some articles recently [questioning the age of the Ravens defense],” Bisciotti said. “If you replace [Lewis and Reed] with two 22-year-old guys, you’ve just picked up 14 years. Divided by 11 starters, that’s a year-and-a-half difference. So, if you want to get younger, we can replace those two with two 22-year-olds and get down to being one of the youngest defenses in the league.”
“That’s clearly not our intention,” Bisciotti added.
Even Bisciotti understands at some point Lewis and Reed will have to be replaced, somehow, someway. He sees All-Pro talents like Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata and 2011 first-round draft choice Jimmy Smith as their replacements in terms of impact.
Clearly, the Ravens won’t leave Lewis’ and Reed’s positions empty, so they do need to start looking for long-term replacements for those two, sooner rather than later. But when they fly off into the sunset, it is a fact that Suggs and Ngata will have to be the leaders on the defense in their absence, and they are well-suited to do so.