Ozzie Newsome has created one of the most consistent rosters in the NFL ever since they solidified the QB position with Joe Flacco. This may be late seeing as the Super Bowl was quite some time ago, but let’s take a look at how the Ravens championship team was created, much like we did with the Giants after the World Series.
Balance. Not the first word that many are going to think of for the Baltimore Ravens run to the Super Bowl. They were seen as a balanced offense during the season, when they stumbled up and down to a surprising 10-6 record after starting 9-2. Most people believed that they were losing steam at the wrong time and either wouldn’t make the playoffs or would quickly be bounced in their first game. Newsome had used balanced techniques to build a Super Bowl winning roster though, and was able to survive some very serious injuries that happen to every team, every year.
Before getting into the roster, we have to remember the huge risk that head coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome took when they decided, after a week 14 loss (yes…week 14), to send OC Cam Cameron packing because of his overly conservative play calling and installed Jim Caldwell as the new OC. This risk that the coach and GM surely decided on together was unprecedented because no team in recent memory could possibly be successful after a fundamental offensive change with just weeks to go before the playoffs. It turned out to be the turning point because Jim Caldwell let Joe Flacco loose with the deep ball and they rode that new philosophy all the way to the Super Bowl. Of course, Caldwell may also have jacked up Flacco’s price, but I think Owner Steve Bisciotti is happy to have the Lombardi Trophy anyway.
Now, back to the balance that was present only in the GM office after Cam Cameron’s dismissal. Of all the players that made even ONE start during the season for the Super Bowl winning Ravens, only 10 were not originally drafted or signed as UFA’s by the Ravens. Forty players started at least 1 game for the Ravens that year, and only 10 were not originally of Baltimore and Ozzie Newsome. Ray Lewis being the only exception because he was drafted waaayyy back in 1996, however, Newsome was part of the front office when he was drafted.
The Ravens made several savvy trades and free agent signings over the past few years to put them in the position they are in now, they didn’t rely on the overpriced free agent market, nor did they waste future assets in trades. Newsome built the roster through the draft and added the pieces he needed where it was appropriate. The most notable ones definitely being the duo of playoff hero WR’s, Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones. Newsome lured Jones, an unreliable deep threat, from the Houston Texans in the summer of 2012 with a miniscule 2-year, $7 million contract offer. Jones went on to become the hero of the Ravens win over the Denver Broncos and took advantage of bad tackling to score a long TD against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. Boldin, on the other hand, was traded from the Arizona Cardinals in 2010. Newsome not only got the future over the middle tough guy that decided to show up in the playoffs, but he got him for a pittance. Draft picks are hoarded in the NFL, but Newsome traded away 3rd and 4th picks for Bolding and a 5th round pick. Again, a steal for a WR that may have underperformed under Cam Cameron, but once the offense opened up to Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith, Boldin had all the room he wanted to play like a TE/WR hybrid in the middle.
The Ravens needed the depth that Ozzie Newsome built over the years to make their run to New Orleans after huge injuries to Terrell Suggs, started the season on the PUP list because of an achilles injury, Lardarius Webb, starting CB put on IR in week 7 due to a torn ACL, and of course Ray Lewis, put on IR in week 7 for a torn triceps. I won’t go into detail about the “amazing comeback” of Ray Lewis, but he made it back in week 16 from an injury that usually takes players at least 4 months to get “healthy” and don’t usually fully recover for a full year. But, even with the injury, the depth that Newsome built was paramount. Rookie Courtney Upshaw and Dannell Ellerbe stepped in admirably for Lewis, while Corey Graham, free agent from the Chicago Bears, and Jimmy Smith filled in for Lardarius Webb.
Many will be quick to dismiss the building of the roster in favor of more sexy reasons for the Lombardi Trophy being shipped to Baltimore. The firing of Cam Cameron, the rise of Jim Caldwell and the explosion of Joe Flacco and his WRs. It is important to remember the consistency with which this roster has performed despite the turnover that is present on every NFL roster. Ozzie Newsome had everything to do with all of the reasons that the championship runs through Baltimore next season. The balance and savvy of Ozzie Newsome will continue to be an under appreciated but absolutely vital part of the future of the Ravens.
He has his work cut out for him with the need to sign Joe Flacco to a big money contract and then attempt to bring back his impact players for a title defense. Good luck Ozzie, you’re gonna need it to keep building this roster now that the Ravens players may be feeling the disease of more.