This simple comparison overlooks the front office’s incomparable ability to find those diamonds in the rough, low-round picks and undrafted free agents who managed to find their way on the roster and contribute at high levels. The current roster has no shortage of players fitting the profile, including undrafted linebackers Jameel McClain (2008) and Dannell Ellerbe (2009).
But, ultimately, you can’t expect these types to continue enhancing a defense led by a 35-year-old Lewis and a 32-year-old Reed, who deals with neck, shoulder, and hip issues.
(Funny how Mattison’s detractors overlook Lewis, Reed, Kelly Gregg, and former Raven Trevor Pryce being longer in the tooth than they were under Ryan, isn’t it?)
At some point, the aging status quo would no longer be elite, and recent drafts focused heavily on offense have provided few players to help.
Newsome and the front office already realized this when they used two second-round picks on defensive players in April, with no one knowing Kindle’s fate at the time. The defense will be rebuilt, but it may never reach the same dominant level it once held with two future Hall of Famers in their prime, providing a plethora of intangibles in addition to their historic talents.
In the mean time, the Baltimore defense “is what it is” to borrow an expression from a certain former head coach. It’s a good — but no longer elite — defense in need of an infusion of significant young talent, not to mention continued improvement from an offense that’s received the bulk of the attention in April over the last several years.
It starts and ends with the draft.
And after years of reaping the benefits, the Baltimore defense is finally beginning to see how the other side lives.