Ravens roundup: Defense could face major rebuilding in offseason
|01.16.13 at 1:39 pm ET|
The retiring Ray Lewis has grabbed the headlines, but the Ravens couldn’t have made it this far without the contributions of the rest of their defense. However, this postseason could be the last time linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams suit up for Baltimore, as all three are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Depending on how contract negotiations go with quarterback Joe Flacco, whose rookie contract expires after this season, it could be hard for the Ravens to retain even one of that trio.
Kruger had a career-high nine sacks in the regular season and has 2½ more in the playoffs. His skill set could land him an offer in the $35 million to $40 million range that the Ravens likely can’t match.
“Paul’s setting himself up for the future,” Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard said. “I think he has a good shot at breaking the bank because this league, this team, we want pass rushers. We want guys who can rush the quarterback and Paul is a heck of a guy to do that.”
Ellerbe had 89 tackles and 4½ sacks this season, setting himself up to step into Lewis’ place as the latter retires.
Williams rejected a three-year, $15 million contract extension offer from the Ravens before the season, and he looks ready to test the free agent market after 75 tackles, four interceptions and 17 pass deflections.
FLACCO’S AGENT CONSIDERS QB ‘ELITE’
In the wake of two dominant performances against the Broncos and Colts, Flacco has established himself — at least in the mind of his agent, Joe Linta – as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
“I’ve been the one putting him on a pedestal saying Joe’s a top-five, elite quarterback, and he’s proving it,” Linta told The Baltimore Sun. “He’s in the rarified air of having already won seven playoff games in his short career. He’s really demonstrating that he’s one of the top guys out there.”
Flacco has reached three AFC championship games in his five-year career and is 7-4 in the postseason, although he has not yet won a Super Bowl. Against Denver and Indianapolis in the last two weeks, he completed 30-of-57 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
While he’s had an impressive postseason, Flacco’s 2012 regular-season performance doesn’t quite support Linta’s claim that he’s one of the five best quarterbacks in the league. He’s outside the top 10 in passing yards per game (16th), touchdowns (15th), quarterback rating (12th) and completion percentage (19th).
Of course, it’s nothing unusual for an agent to talk up a client who’s heading into contract negotiations. Flacco’s rookie contract expires at the end of this year, and Linta may be dreaming of landing him something resembling the five-year, $100 million contract Drew Brees recently signed to stay with the Saints.
RAVENS-THEMED PASTRIES A BIG HIT IN BALTIMORE
Greater Baltimore bakeries are filling up with Ravens fans in search of purple-and-black pastries, and plenty of stores are obliging. La Cakerie in Towson, Md., doubled its usual weekend sales last weekend as the Ravens beat the Broncos, offering novelty cupcakes with names like “Bye-Bye Bronco,” “Gotta Ngata Nougat,” and “Coach John Heathbar.”
“By Friday and Saturday we want to have whole store tricked out in purple stuff,” said owner and lead baker Jason Hisley.
Mary Alice Yetskey, the owner of Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes, said she also expects more orders for the store’s $250 “top tier” Ravens-themed cakes this week. She said sales of those cakes are up about 50 percent since the start of the postseason.
PASSIONATE RAVENS FAN AN INTERNET SENSATION
Some people get excited when their favorite team makes a big play. Some people, like this Ravens fan during last week’s win over the Broncos, let out hysterical, high-pitched screams for a few minutes in front of their children every time their team makes a big play.
These videos beg the questions: does this man’s family film him during every Ravens game, or at least every postseason game, in the hopes that something like this will happen? If not, what are the chances that they would start filming right before Ray Rice‘s game-tying touchdown?
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