Ozzie Newsome is generally regarded as one of the NFL's top general managers. This offseason, on the heels of a Super Bowl victory, might wind up as the definitive proof why.
The defending champion Ravens traded Anquan Boldin, released Bernard Pollard and lost Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Ed Reed and Cary Williams to free agency, all following Ray Lewis' retirement. That's six defensive starters, and seven starters in all, removed from the Ravens' postseason starting lineup. (An eighth, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, is also an unrestricted free agent.)
Rather than sound the panic alarm, Newsome stayed the course. He added run-stuffing defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to his team's 3-4, then Sunday plucked Elvis Dumervil off the free-agent market -- just days after Dumervil's restructured deal with Denver fell through in comic fashion.
Baltimore handed Dumervil a five-year deal worth up to $35 million, still shy of the $8 million Dumervil would have earned had he been able to find a fax machine and get his reworked contract over to Denver prior to the Mar. 16 deadline. It is, however, more than Denver reportedly offered to Dumervil to come back: three years and $18 million with $8 million guaranteed, per the Denver Post's Mike Klis.
SI's Peter King reported that Dumervil's deal will cost the Ravens just $2.5 million against the cap in 2012 -- a $1 million base salary plus the prorated portion of a $7.5 million signing bonus.
The Ravens still have substantial work to do in the secondary (paging Kerry Rhodes at safety), but the addition of Dumervil more than makes up for Kruger's departure for Cleveland. Dumervil recorded 11 sacks last season and had a league-high 17 in 2009.
That mark came when Denver was in a 3-4 defense, as opposed to the 4-3 it currently plays. As mentioned above, the Ravens line up in the 3-4, meaning that Dumervil can slot right into Kruger's vacated role as a stand-up outside linebacker.
A 3-4 setup also should help minimize Dumervil's subpar play against the run -- last season, he graded out as Denver's third-worst run defender, per Pro Football Focus; Kruger finished next to last in that category for the Ravens, though his 15 sacks and relentless presence outside helped earn him a monster deal with the Browns.
Dumervil will pair with a now-healthy Terrell Suggs to give Baltimore arguably a better pass-rushing duo than it had in Suggs-Kruger. The signing will also allow the Ravens to continue easing youngster Courtney Upshaw along, as well, rather than force him into the starting lineup. Attrition staggered Baltimore's defense to start the offseason, but it never flustered Newsome. Now, with Dumervil in the fold, the Ravens have the potential to improve on that side of the ball in 2013, even with more than half the starting lineup suiting up elsewhere.