Ozzie Newsome is considered by many to be one of the best — if not the best — general managers in the NFL. This offseason, following a second Super Bowl victory during the past 12 seasons, might confirm why Newsome is perhaps the best team builder in the NFL.
The reigning Super Bowl champions traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin, released strong safety Bernard Pollard, lost linebackers Paul Kruger (Cleveland Browns) and Dannell Ellerbe (Miami Dolphins), cornerback Cary Williams (Philadelphia Eagles) and free safety Ed Reed (Houston Texans) in free agency, all following the retirements of center Matt Birk and middle linebacker Ray Lewis. That’s six defensive starters — and eight starters overall — gone from Baltimore’s Super Bowl-winning team.
If there’s one thing Ravens fans have learned about Newsome over the years, it’s that he always has a plan. This offseason has been no different. He added a pair of defensive linemen in Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to help improve last season’s 20th-ranked run defense (122.8 yards per game).
As part of Newsome’s plan to rebuild the league’s 17th-ranked defense, he snagged defensive end Elvis Dumervil off the free-agent market. Dumervil, whose attempt to agree to a restructured deal with the Denver Broncos fell through in bizarre fashion, hit the open market March 16.
Baltimore and Dumervil agreed to a five-year deal for a maximum of $35 million, according to multiple reports. It includes $12 million in guaranteed money and $8.5 million for the 2013 season. His cap hit for the coming season will be just $2.5 million, leaving the Ravens with about $5 million of salary cap space, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun.
The Ravens still have other areas to address on the defensive side of the ball, most notably at safety with the losses of Reed and Pollard, last year’s starters. But the Ravens are moving in the right direction as the addition of Dumervil should be considered a major upgrade over Kruger, who led the team with nine sacks last season.
The 5-foot-11, 260-pound Dumervil, known for his high motor, has averaged the fourth-most sacks per game — .70 — over the past seven seasons among players with at least 40 sacks. He recorded 11 sacks this past season and an NFL-high 17 during the 2009 campaign. His 63.5 career sacks are the seventh-most since entering the NFL in 2006.
As for his predecessor, Kruger — whose five-year deal with the Browns is worth $40 million, which includes $20 million guaranteed — he only registered 15.5 sacks in four seasons with the Ravens. With Terrell Suggs, the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, sidelined for the first six weeks last season, Kruger had just 1.5 sacks. But after Suggs returned, Kruger had 7.5 sacks during the last eight games, which tied him for fifth in the NFL over that span. That’s telling.
Dumervil figures to make the transition to outside linebacker in the Ravens’ 3-4 defensive scheme. The 29-year-old Dumervil is no stranger when it comes to playing in that scheme, though, as he thrived in it when Denver used it from 2009 to 2010.
Though Dumervil is not particularly stout against the run, playing in a 3-4 should help minimize his struggles against the rush. He graded out as the Broncos’ third-worst run defender last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Despite his deficiencies against the run, Dumervil, unlike Kruger, who finished second-to-last in that category for Baltimore, will likely be an every-down linebacker.
The Ravens’ defense (what’s left of it) was scrutinized to begin the offseason, but Newsome stayed the course. All of the sudden, with Dumervil in the mix, Baltimore has the possibility of getting better on that side of the ball in the coming season — even with six new starters suiting up.