My neighbor is worried about his beloved Baltimore Ravens.
“We don’t have any players left!”
It’s natural to fret about injuries and trades in the off-season — as a New England Patriots fan, I certainly am — but Ravens fans have it bad this summer, especially when it comes to linebackers. Aging, battered star Ray Lewis retired after their Super Bowl victory this year. Three weeks ago, following an arrest for disorderly conduct, 23-year-old Rolando McClain abruptly retired from the NFL. Their two best inside linebackers are out with injuries: promising rookie Arthur Brown is recovering from hernia surgery, and linchpin veteran Jameel McClain is still nursing a dangerous spinal contusion in his neck.
So, as my neighbor points out, who’s left? The Ravens have tried to fill the massive gaps in their defensive line with Daryl Smith. Smith is such a productive player it’s a surprise no one has picked him up sooner; he’s passed the hundred-tackle mark every year for the past seven seasons and is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ all-time best tackler.
On the other hand, Smith is 31 years old and missed half of last season with a groin injury, raising concerns that the Ravens have just added another fragile, beat-up linebacker to their roster. Then, there’s the matter of simple arithmetic: it’s not clear how the Ravens think one smart free agent hire will make up for two key retirements and two more questionable injuries. Come fall, I’m expecting a lot of somber conversations with my neighbor about how the Ravens’ tissue-paper defense might not get them to the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl repeat.
You can contact Sarah Rasher on Twitter @pas_dechat