Last spring, the Ravens had perhaps their busiest offseason in recent history. After the Super Bowl, the Ravens said goodbye to veteran leaders in Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Matt Birk. They traded away their top wide receiver in Anquan Boldin. And they overhauled their defense in a flurry of offseason moves.
Since the Ravens looked listless in their final two losses, finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs, it is convenient to say now that the offseason was a bust. But some of their moves turned out to be good ones.
So as we wait for this offseason to get under way, let’s take a look back at some of the tough decisions the team made last spring. I brought my red pen along to hand out some grades for Ozzie Newsome and Co.
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Parting ways with Ed Reed: B-. The Ravens chose to not re-sign Reed in free agency. He signed with the Houston Texans and was released in November. He actually played better for the New York Jets down the stretch, but was clearly past his prime. Still, the Ravens really could have used his leadership this season.
Letting Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe walk: A. The Ravens knew they couldn’t get in the same financial stratosphere as the teams that were pursuing these two postseason heroes. Both players got big paydays, but Kruger had just 4.5 sacks in Cleveland and Ellerbe was average at best in his first year in Miami.
Trading Anquan Boldin: C. On the surface, this may look like a bad deal today. Boldin, who had 1,179 receiving yards this season, is currently playing in the playoffs for the San Francisco 49ers. The Ravens, who sorely missed his clutch plays and fiery leadership, are home watching him on television. But the money they saved by trading Boldin away allowed the Ravens to sign Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty. If those guys hadn’t delivered, this deal would look a lot worse.
Signing Elvis Dumervil: B+. Landing Dumervil after that bizarre fax fiasco in Denver was the luckiest -- and the best -- addition the team made this offseason. Dumervil was one of the NFL’s most efficient pass rushers before an ankle injury in the second half of the season slowed him to a halt. He finished with 9.5 sacks.
Cutting Bernard Pollard: B. Pollard was a good guy and a reporter’s dream, and the Ravens missed his physicality on the back end. But his replacement, James Ihedigbo, did just fine -- and did it for less money, too.
Signing Chris Canty: C+. Canty was solid but unspectacular. He had just two sacks, but he helped improve their run defense after a disappointing 2012 season.
Trading for A.Q. Shipley: C-. The Ravens traded a conditional draft pick to the Indianapolis Colts so Shipley could compete for the center job with Gino Gradkowski. He lost that battle in training camp, but ended up playing a big role anyway. Sure, he struggled at left guard, but the Ravens could have done worse there.
Signing Michael Huff: F. The starting free safety in Week 1, Huff was benched after one just game, made no impact on special teams and was released in October.
Signing Marcus Spears: F. Spears, well-liked in the locker room, was expected to provide depth on the defensive line. But the team decided to cut him in October.
Re-signing Bryant McKinnie: D-. After his solid playoff performance, McKinnie, not exactly known for his reliability, was re-signed, partly because the Ravens could not afford a better option. He was a bust, though. The only thing keeping this from being an F is that the Ravens were able to trade him for a pick.
Signing Daryl Smith: B. The Ravens grabbed Smith out of the bargain bin in June, signing him to an inexpensive one-year deal. The veteran started 16 games at middle linebacker and only sat out a handful of snaps over the course of the season. He led the team in tackles and filled the stat sheet up in many other ways.
Bringing in Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley: D. After Dennis Pitta got hurt and neither Tandon Doss nor Deonte Thompson stepped up this summer, the Ravens brought in this pair of past-their-prime veterans. Clark was not very productive but made a few plays and Stokley couldn’t stay healthy long enough to make any.