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Casserly: Ravens Still Super Bowl Contender


The first week of free agency wasn't kind to the Ravens.

They lost linebacker Paul Kruger, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams to higher bidders. Safety Bernard Pollard was surprisingly cut. They also traded away top receiver Anquan Boldin after he reportedly refused to take a pay cut.

Add those losses to the fact that the Ravens also have to make up for the retirements of linebacker Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk.

It's been an offseason of transition for the defending Super Bowl champs. But even though the Ravens have undergone a bit of a makeover by already losing eight players who started at least one game last season, they still have the foundation in place to be back in the hunt for another Lombardi Trophy.

When asked if the Ravens are still Super Bowl contenders, NFL Network analyst and former Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly said, "Yeah, I think so.

"You can't panic. What you have here is about a 600-page book and you're on page four right now.  That's it."

Much tends to get made of the first few days of free agency, where teams make splashes by signing big-name players to lucrative contracts. Teams like the Ravens usually aren't the top spenders in free agency, and that can create some initial concern amongst the fan base.

"People need to be patient," Casserly said. "Opening day is a long way away, and I think they'll find a solution there with the combination of the draft and veteran free agents."

In looking at the losses the Ravens endured, Casserly pointed to the fact that they have players waiting in the wings at a number of those positions. The Ravens have been one of the NFL's best teams at drafting and developing young talent, which has made them able to withstand the losses of players like Todd Heap, Jarret Johnson, Derrick Mason and Ben Grubbs.

They will have to continue that trend again next season.

"The Ravens have done a good job under Ozzie Newsome in continually planning for the future," Casserly said. "Paul Kruger leaves, you've got Courtney Upshaw taking his place. Cary Williams leaves, you drafted Jimmy Smith at the corner position, so he takes his place."

Casserly did point to inside linebacker and safety as areas where the Ravens have to improve before next season. They will likely explore the draft as an opportunity to bring in young talent at those positions, but could also use the secondary wave of free agency to bring in cost-efficient players like they've done in the past with wide receiver Jacoby Jones and cornerback Corey Graham.

"The market will work itself out in time because big-money teams are going to be out of it," Casserly said about free agency. "Now you're going to have a lot of players on the market searching for jobs, and Baltimore is an attractive destination because you know you're going to have a winning team."

Time is still very much on the Ravens'side, especially with next months' draft featuring a deep crop of inside linebackers and safeties.

The Ravens still have a good young corps on offense led by franchise quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice, and the defense has proven starters like linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Casserly expects them to be right back in the hunt for another AFC North title and chance to make a run in the playoffs.

"They are going to be a better team in six months than they are today," Casserly said.

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